New Zealand have lived up to their tag of being historic overachievers in the ICC World Cup with the Black Caps now set to become only the third team in history to make four consecutive semi-final appearances.
It has very much been a campaign of two halves for Kane Williamson and his men, who went unbeaten for six games to make a blazing start in the competition. In the end, they just about managed to sneak into the last four on the basis of their superior net run-rate compared to Pakistan.
However, the wheels have started to come off of late with the side arriving in the semi-final on the back of three straight losses against Pakistan, England and Australia.
A maiden World Cup title is now within their sights but the fact that they didn’t beat any of their fellow semi-finalists in the tournament does not augur well for facing India at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
WHAT’S WORKING FOR THEM
A formidable pace attack carried New Zealand in the early stages of the tournament with Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult and Matt Henry all on song with the ball. The bowling has generally been on point for the Kiwis with the 305-8 scored by England being the only instance in which they have conceded more than 300 runs in an innings.
Together, the trio has picked up 42 wickets among themselves while all-rounder James Neesham has chipped in with 11 wickets of his own.
Williamson to the rescue
With the bat, skipper Williamson has remained a class apart with the right-hander racking up 481 runs at an average of nearly 100 with the help of two tons.
The Kiwi stalwart has been at his resilient best and has helped bail his side out of some tricky situations with the openers in horrible form. Neesham has been a substantial contributor in this regard as well with the all-rounder chipping in with 201 runs.
WHERE ARE THEY STILL SUSCEPTIBLE
The opening duo of Colin Munro and Martin Guptill have failed to come to the party for New Zealand with both batsmen struggling for form.
Both the openers are averaging under 25 with the bat in the tournament and have put the team on the backfoot time and time again.
Guptill has scored just 93 runs in his last seven innings while Munro has been continued his poor run in the format. Henry Nicholls has been tried twice in the slot but managed to score just eight runs in total.
While Williamson has been excellent with the bat, the rest of New Zealand’s batting order has plenty of holes with several key batsmen out of form.
The Kiwi skipper himself has contributed with more than 30 per cent of the 1,591 runs scored in total by the team so far. That statistic reflects poorly on the rest of the batting order with the likes of Munro, Guptill and Tom Latham being the biggest culprits.
Even stalwart Ross Taylor has been below par so far with the right-hander yet to really stamp his authority bar two half-centuries. Batting failure was the cause of New Zealand’s defeats against Australia, England and Pakistan and it could cost them again in the business end if Williamson fails to click.
The New Zealand skipper is approaching nearly 500 runs in the campaign and has almost single-handedly dragged the batting unit into the final four.
The 28-year-old has played the anchor role to perfection for the team and the fact that he has scored more than 40 runs in all innings bar one speaks volumes about his incredible consistency.
Williamson has constantly been under early pressure due to New Zealand’s severely misfiring openers but he more often than not passed the test with flying colours. He remains key to the side’s hopes of making a successive appearance in the final but he will need the rest of the batsmen to finally come to the party if New Zealand are to go all the way, which is partially his responsibility as captain.
6️⃣0️⃣0️⃣0️⃣ ODI runs for #KaneWilliamson— Cricket World Cup (@cricketworldcup) June 29, 2019
The Black Caps skipper is the third-fastest to the landmark, after Hashim Amla and #ViratKohli
What a player 👏 #CWC19 | #BACKTHEBLACKCAPS | #NZvAUS pic.twitter.com/tpEVtEURvx
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