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The Roar


Is NZ's World Cup success a myth?

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Roar Guru
16th May, 2019

New Zealand have made it to the semi-finals of the World Cup seven out of 11 times.

For a small nation, like they do in most sports they compete in, they tend to punch above their weight.

But despite the seven semi-finals, the Kiwis have only made it to one final, and were easily beaten on the final day of the 2015 World Cup in Melbourne four years ago.

Have New Zealand – despite their apparent success at the World Cup – ever really been a threat? Or are they just big-hearted cricketers who push the bigger nations as far as they can?

A look at New Zealand’s history makes for quite impressive reading in some parts, with a few disappointments along the way.

In 1975, the side were blown away by the might of the West Indies. Bernard Julien took 4/27 as the Windies won by five wickets with just under 20 overs to spare. A respectable semi-final was where New Zealand had started their World Cup journey.

In 1979, the Black Caps beat Sri Lanka and India to book a semi-final berth against England.

NZ weren’t without their chances, and had England at 4/98 before Graham Gooch (71 off 84 balls) and Derek Randall (42* off 50 balls) got their team to a competitive 8/221.

John Wright’s slow 69 off 137 got New Zealand to within 14 runs when the final over started, but by the time it ended they were still nine runs short. A close call but another semi-final exit for New Zealand.


NZ started the 1983 World Cup in fine form. They were three from four and looked good to get out of their group, needing only a win against Sri Lanka or Pakistan to advance once again into the semi-finals.

However, back-to-back losses meant New Zealand failed to get out of the group stage for the first time in three tournaments.

Richard Hadlee

Richard Hadlee was NZ’s great hope during the 1980s. (Credit: Simon Bruty /Allsport)

In 1987, they were bit-part players compared to India and Australia, with their two wins coming against Zimbabwe.

India and Australia dominated this group as the 1987 World Cup became the only time New Zealand had failed to make any real impression at the tournament. They were eliminated with two wins and four losses in what was the first time the World Cup had been held outside of England.

It’s no secret 1992 was New Zealand’s big chance of becoming national heroes and achieving World Cup success.

They were on familiar territory, and had devised a strategy that was innovative and successful. Mark Greatbatch made quick runs, captain Martin Crowe steered the ship and Dipak Patel opened the bowling.

New Zealand had been the stand-out team all tournament. They won their first seven matches to finish the top of the nine teams.


However, tournament sport often falls back to hitting form at the right time – and in 1992, Pakistan had won one of their first five before hitting a real purple patch.

Rameez Raja made 119* in a comfortable chase against New Zealand that helped Pakistan in to the finals. Then only three days later, going from Christchurch to Auckland, Pakistan broke the hosts’ hearts when Inzamam-ul-Haq produced a brilliant half-century.

Not only did New Zealand get a Pakistan team peaking at the right time, it was the only time ul-Haq had passed 50 in an otherwise poor tournament for the then-rookie. The best team in the tournament was out once again at the semi-final stage.

In a poorly structured 1996 World Cup, where all the top eight teams were virtually assured a quarter-finals berth at the start of the tournament, New Zealand came up against cross-Tasman rivals Australia in the last eight.

In early trouble at 3/44, Chris Harris would play the innings of his cricketing life. Going into the match, his ODI record of 85 runs at 10.63 against Australia meant the opposition had little fear of him. In nine innings against Australia, he hadn’t passed 20 once. Harris would make a brilliant 130 off 124 balls, something very few people were expecting.

However, NZ would come up against Mark Waugh in the middle of a hot streak. He had made two centuries in the four matches to that point and another ton would knock out the Kiwis with an epic run chase.

After knocking off some big scalps in India and Australia, New Zealand featured in another semi-final in 1999. Once again it was against Pakistan, the team that had spoiled the party seven years prior.

This time it was a clinical Pakistan who knocked out New Zealand, chasing 242 with the loss of only one wicket. An opening stand of 194 between Saeed Anwar (113*) and Wajahatullah Wasti (84) meant the match never reached any great heights.


In 2003, there was a bit of revenge for Australia and India as their wins over New Zealand in the super six stage prevented them from progressing to the semi-finals.

The Black Caps were very good in the 2007 World Cup, coasting through their group and winning five from seven matches at the super eight stage to make it to their fifth semi. But an 81-run loss at the hands of Sri Lanka meant that their tournament had ended as it had in their previous four semi-final appearances.

At the 2011 World Cup, New Zealand finished fourth in their group. They met a South African team who had finished first on the other side of the draw.

With South Africa looking the goods at 2/108 in pursuit of 222, Tim Southee’s dismissal of Jacques Kallis would prompt Jacob Oram (4/39) and Nathan McCullum (3/24) to be New Zealand heroes, as the Proteas lost 8/64 for a superb win.

However, they were never in the hunt against Sri Lanka, once again falling in the semi-finals. New Zealand’s top six batsmen didn’t kick on after making starts. All six of them made scores between 13 and 57, meaning their 217 was going to be difficult to defend.

Sri Lanka had one or two nervous moments after going from 1/160 to 5/185, but ultimately won the match by five wickets, sending the New Zealanders home the match before the final for the sixth time.

Australian batsman Aaron Finch walks after he is bowled by New Zealand’s Tim Southee

The two hosts locked horns in 2015. (AP Photo Ross Setford)

In 2015, New Zealand were outstanding on home soil, winning all eight matches played in their home country. They defeated Australia on their way to finishing first in their group.


Martin Guptill produced the World Cup’s highest ever score (237*) in the big win over the West Indies, which got the Kiwis to a familiar spot: the World Cup semi-finals.

The Kiwis’ barren run at this stage would end in dramatic scenes, when Grant Elliott dispatched Dale Steyn into an ecstatic crowd. They were finally into the final!

In the final against Australia, they were forced to play catch-up from the opening over, when their best batsman Brendon McCullum was bowled by Mitchell Starc.

New Zealand continues to be a nation that gets the best out of themselves when they turn up to World Cups. They have had some great tournaments, especially when on familiar territory in home conditions.

Have they got close to winning it? The 1979, 1992 and 2015 events were when they got closest, but they haven’t quite risen to the occasion when it has mattered most.


Have the Kiwis been a World Cup success story, or has their lack of big-game victories meant they fall short of what cricket fans would consider a true success?