Cricket World Cup 2019: Gary Stead happy with New Zealand's underdog status for India clash

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New Zealand head coach Gary Stead.

New Zealand coach Gary Stead hopes Lockie Ferguson can make the difference against India after revealing the pace bowler should be fit for their semi-final clash on Tuesday.

The Black Caps were without their leading wicket-taker in ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019 for their final group-stage game – a 119-run defeat to England at Chester-le-Street.

Ferguson has been a standout performer for New Zealand in the tournament as they finished fourth in the standings, taking 17 wickets to sit joint-third in the table for the most wickets taken.

And after the 28-year-old was rested as a precaution following a hamstring strain, Stead expects him to be back fit and firing for the showdown with India at Old Trafford.

“I absolutely expect Lockie to play. If the last game was a semi-final or final, we probably would have played him, so it was more a precautionary measure not to play him,” he said.

“He definitely had some hamstring tightness and he needed 48 hours for that to settle down. He’s in good shape and barring getting through the next couple of days, then I expect him to play.

“Lockie has been enormous for us. It is his first World Cup as well and I’ve just been delighted that every time he’s come on to bowl, he’s looked like he’s going to make a difference out there.

“Whether that’s through pace, whether that’s through creating pressure for the other person at the other end – he always has been looking likely and hopefully he can do that again against India.”

Stead was also keen to stress his faith in opening batsman Martin Guptill, who has struggled for form after opening the tournament with an unbeaten knock of 73 against Sri Lanka.

“Martin’s got a lot of ODI hundreds and he has been a key player for us in the past. Our job as support staff is to get him in the right frame of mind,” said Stead.

“He’ll go out and express himself and who knows, if he makes 150 in the next game, then we probably won’t be talking about this anymore.

“People go through form slumps and heights all the time. He’s had a tough tournament but there’s nothing from my point of view that suggests that’s going to continue for a long period of time.”

Having lost their last three games of the round-robin stage, New Zealand have been described by some as the weakest of the teams to qualify for the semi-final stage.

But Stead is more than happy to let the Black Caps be considered the underdogs as they attempt to reach their second World Cup final, following their defeat to Australia in the 2015 showpiece.

“We’ve got a couple of afternoons to be ready for India now,” he said.

“I’m just excited about it as India are a quality team and there’s no doubt they’ve got match-winners throughout their line-up.

“I said from the very start, whoever we play, we’re going to have to be somewhere near our very best to beat them but that’s the excitement, that’s the challenge in front of us.

“Hopefully, you’ll see what Kiwis are made of out there and our never-say-die attitude; we will stand up when we need to. There are no second chances now, are there?

“People aren’t expecting us to win and from my point of view, I think that’s a good place to be because if that’s the case, we can go out there and play with some real freedom.”

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Cricket World Cup 2019: India skipper Virat Kohli wants two more centuries from Rohit Sharma

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Kohli speaks ahead of the World Cup semi-final clash.

Virat Kohli is contented with his understated role in India’s batting line-up at the World Cup as he admitted the pressure is constantly on his side ahead of their semi-final showdown against New Zealand.

Kohli is often held up as the gold standard in one-day internationals, with 41 centuries at an average approaching 60 helping him top the format’s ICC batting rankings.

However, he has yet to reach three figures in this tournament, with Rohit Sharma India’s standout performer with the bat so far.

The opener became the first man to register five centuries in a single World Cup campaign, contributing 103 – his third hundred in a row – to help India brush aside Sri Lanka over the weekend and finish top of the group table.

Kohli, though, is happy to defer to his team-mate – now second in the world rankings – saying on the eve of their clash against the Kiwis at Old Trafford: “It’s been a different kind of role that I’ve had to play in this World Cup.

“As the captain of this team, I’ve been open to playing any kind of role that the team wants me to. It’s great that Rohit is scoring so consistently.

“I’ve been very happy with holding one end and letting guys express themselves. I know that I can accelerate in the end. Personal milestones, honestly, is something that no one ever focuses on.

“But I hope he gets two more (hundreds) so that we can win two more games because it’s an outstanding achievement, we’ve never seen anyone get five hundreds in a World Cup.

“World Cup is all the more pressure and he’s just been outstanding. He deserves all the credit and, according to me, he’s at the moment the top ODI player in the world.”

Champions in 2011, India were knocked out at the semi-final stage four years ago, Kohli participating in both campaigns, but they have been tipped by many to go all the way again this time.

With expectation comes an intense level of pressure but Kohli revealed that is par for the course for his side as a result of the cricket obsession in India.

He believes being regularly expected to shoulder the burden – not only for the national team but in high-profile events such as the Indian Premier League – means India will handle the tight moments better than the Black Caps.

He said: “The Indian team always carries a lot of expectation and pressure whenever we play.

“We are quite used to that over the years. We are better equipped to react in these situations because we know what these kind of games and our fan base and the expectations bring.

“I can’t remember the last time I stepped onto the field and thought ‘It doesn’t really matter what happens in this game’.

“For the Indian team there is always full stadiums and people expect you to do well. There’s always pressure, as well as opportunity.”

The team that has batted first at Old Trafford has prevailed in all five matches here at the World Cup, but Kohli said: “We are not worried about the toss. It’s an uncontrollable. You can’t predict what’s going to happen.

“You have to be prepared both ways. We are quite open to that. And if it is a factor, it’s a factor.

“We can’t say if we lose the toss we have no hope. We should believe enough in ourselves as a side to overcome any situation.”

Tuesday’s fixture is not the first time Kohli and New Zealand captain Kane Williamson have gone head-to-head in a World Cup semi-final, having faced off for their countries at Under-19 level in February 2008.

On that occasion, India triumphed – and Kohli even bagged the crucial wicket of Williamson.

However, Kohli said with a smile: “I got Kane’s wicket? Did I? I don’t know if that can happen again.

“I’m sure he remembers and when we meet tomorrow, I’m going to remind him.”

Provided by Press Association Sports

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Cricket World Cup 2019: Kane Williamson show but big question marks over New Zealand

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Williamson has been the vital factor for New Zealand.

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

Pace attack

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.

Lockie Ferguson has had an excellent campaign.

Lockie Ferguson has had an excellent campaign.

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

Misfiring openers

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.

Both Munro and Guptill have been out of form.

Both Munro and Guptill have been out of form.

Rusty middle-order

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.

STAR PERFORMER

Kane Williamson

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.

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