We haven’t seen the best of New Zealand during the 2019 Cricket World Cup, yet they’ve managed to secure a semi-final birth and a golden opportunity to go one better after their World Cup final loss to Australia in 2015.
Securing the fourth spot, the Blackcaps have somewhat flown under the radar for the entire tournament with heavyweights India, hosts England and a resurgent Australia dominating the headlines and the ladder.
New Zealand were quick out of the gates, cruising past Sri Lanka by ten wickets but heavy losses to fellow semi-finalists Australia by 86 runs and England by 119 runs have pundits questioning whether they have a genuine shot at World Cup glory or if they’re just making up the numbers in the final four.
They were awarded one point against India because the match was abandoned due to poor weather. But they can consider themselves fortunate, scraping past Bangladesh by two wickets and the West Indies by just five runs in performances that were far from convincing.
Their two best players, captain Kane Williamson and left-arm quick Trent Boult, have both put in consistent performances throughout the tournament, carrying their inconsistent teammates.
On several occasions Williamson, batting at three, has had to stroll to the crease early in the innings, three times in the first over, due to the constant failings of their opening partnership, stifling their ability to get on the front foot to put pressure on the opposition bowlers and build a strong foundation.
While most have their players have each contributed at some point during the tournament, it hasn’t been often enough both individually and collectively.
If New Zealand are going to have any chance of securing their first World Cup win, Martin Guptill is the key and needs to deliver at the top of the order. He has an average of 42 in one-day internationals which includes 16 centuries, but the only innings of note he’s played in this tournament were the 73 not out against a hapless Sri Lanka in their first match.
Lockie Ferguson has been a fast, aggressive and proved to be a solid foil for Boult, Liam Neesham has shown good signs and we all know what Ross Taylor can do, it’s now time for this team, currently ranked fourth in ODIs, to piece it all together.
They’ve lost their last three games quite convincingly. Their fans will be hoping they’ve got those poor performances out of their system, learned from their mistakes and are due for a win. Although they have zero momentum going into their semi-final match, perhaps those bad losses have come at the perfect time.
At least we know they haven’t peaked yet. They’ve got all the talent from the one to 11, they just need the self-belief and confidence they can win.
The World Cup is no longer a long road for Williamson’s men, they’re now on the home stretch. History for New Zealand is not beyond the realm of possibility. If this Black Caps team plays to their full potential and puts on two clinical and complete performances that we all know they’re capable of, they’ll be World Cup champions.