Before the Cricket World Cup started, I think it’s fair to say most observers and fans thought New Zealand would struggle to win the tournament but reaching the semi finals was certainly achievable.
There wasn’t much dissent about the squad chosen – the odd debate, but it was largely as expected. The fixture list allowed the Blackcaps the opportunity to gets some points on the board in the first couple of weeks; none of the big guns lay in wait early doors and sure enough Sri Lanka, Bangladesh & Afghanistan were dispatched. Looking back, a point in a rained off game against India was a point gained and might well be the reason they reach the semifinals. The wins against South Africa and West Indies could have easily gone the other way and although Pakistan prevailed with only 5 balls remaining, it was far more comfortable than that.
Today’s match was a huge opportunity to show they were capable of winning the whole thing and march into the last four by making a serious statement. I’d been hoping for a while now they would make changes and finally they came, with Munro and Henry making way for Nicholls and Sodhi. It didn’t work, but that’s not the reason they lost. They lost because they didn’t show the killer instinct when the Aussies were 92 for 5 in the 22nd over and because they didn’t attack at the right times during the run chase. The biggest disappointment is that it was also utterly predictable. When Brendon McCullum captained them at the last World Cup, there was belief, innovation, flexibility and he led from the front; he set the tone. Yes, many of us shook our heads when he got bowled by Starc in the first over of the final, but he was fully committed and it just didn’t happen for him that day. Today in particular, there was a lack of conviction and the game drifted away. On the flip side, Australia rallied when they were 5 down and put 107 on for the 6th wicket to help get them to a score which was possibly over par. Finch rotated the bowlers effectively, strangled the Blackcaps and showed just what a good captain he has become.
The Blackcaps are still in the tournament and have a great chance of making the semis. As I said, most of us would have taken that, but when you start off strong people expect you to kick on and show you can win it. At the moment, they seem a very long way off.
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