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ICC World Cup 2019 | Perennial Underdogs New Zealand Hunt For Elusive Glory

Ashish Pant |May 20, 2019, 6:25 PM IST
ICC World Cup 2019 | Perennial Underdogs New Zealand Hunt For Elusive Glory

New Zealand have been the perennial underdogs at the grandest stage of all and it is a tag that they quite enjoy. Sans any pressure of expectations, the Blackcaps have often flown under the radar and come up trumps - six semi-finals and one final out of a total of eleven editions at the World Cup, bearing strong testimony to the statement.

That said, not having a single World Cup trophy in the kitty despite getting so close on numerous occasions is bound to sting and the Kiwis will desperately be hoping to finish one step ahead than where they did in 2015.

The Blackcaps tick most boxes in terms of team combination as they head to England. Trent Boult and Tim Southee make for one of the fiercest opening bowling combinations in world cricket at the moment while the likes of Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry can generate the extra pace needed in the middle overs. Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner will bear the spin-bowling duties and in Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme, New Zealand have two excellent limited-overs all-rounders.

(Twitter/ ICC) (Twitter/ ICC)

On the batting front, Martin Guptill and Colin Munro form a formidable opening unit and with captain Kane Williamson slotted to come in at No.3 followed by old warhorse Ross Taylor, Tom Latham and Henry Nicholls, write off New Zealand at you own peril!

New Zealand have had a good run in 50-overs cricket in the last one year having won eight of their 14 matches. Three of their first four games at the World Cup will be against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and India - teams they have come up against in the past 12 months. Having faced the three sides recently is bound to keep New Zealand in good stead going into the marquee event.

We list down the squad build-up and what can be expected from New Zealand in the coming month-and-a-half.

In-form Openers

Martin Guptill ever since back from a back injury has been in impressive touch. He has slammed three centuries in 10 One-Day Internationals in the last 12 months, scoring 464 runs at an average of 51.55. The same though can't be said about his opening partner Colin Munro who has had an indifferent last year. He was dropped from the team for the first two ODIs against Bangladesh earlier in February and hasn't always been a certain starter when in the side. But he has recorded his highest score of 87 in the last year and has of late looked in pretty decent nick. Come the world stage, Munro will be an important cog in the Blackcaps lineup and they will need him to get the side off to a fiery start.

(Twitter) (Twitter)

Henry Nicholls has also been considered for the opening role recently and in case New Zealand decide to go with another bowling option the left-hander might come in for Munro at the top.

An Immovable No 3

There is little doubt that Kane Williamson is one of the best batsmen going around in the cricketing circuit. An absolute key player for New Zealand, Williamson's form with the bat will go a long way in deciding New Zealand's eventual outcome. This is his first 50-over World Cup as captain and how the 28-year-old handles the pressure of captaincy and at the same time ensures the runs keep flowing remains to be seen. He certainly has delivered to date, averaging 46.68 in 65 ODIs as captain, which is higher than his career average of 45.90.

Williamson hasn't been in the best of form of late missing plenty of games in the lead upto the World Cup due to injuries. He has played just 12 ODIs in the last 12 months with moderate success but it is these big tournaments which gets the best out of players such as Williamson and he will be relishing the chance to go out and lead his side to a first-ever title.

Ross Taylor and the Rest

The one area where New Zealand might look a tad vulnerable is their middle-order. All-rounders Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme have both been in and out of the side a fair bit in recent times while Tom Latham's finger injury has further thrown a spanner in New Zealand's works. Latham's injury status remains unclear and should he not get fit in time, that will mean the uncapped Tom Blundell making his ODI debut.

In such a circumstance, a lot will ride on the shoulders of Ross Taylor who seems to have found a second wind to his career in the last 12 months. The 35-year-old has plundered 759 runs in 14 matches since May 2018 which includes six half-centuries and a ton. He has looked solid against pretty good bowling attacks and New Zealand will want to bank on his experience and form to take them through.

Spin Concerns

Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner are both excellent spinners in their own rights but with not a lot of game time behind them coupled with their limited variations might mean New Zealand find themselves slightly short in the spin department. Sodhi hasn't been a certain starter for the Blackcaps in the past while Santner is coming back from a lengthy injury break. There are expectations that as the tournament progresses, the surfaces in England are likely to get drier and that is where New Zealand might rue a top-quality tweaker in their arsenal.

(AFP) (AFP)

The Irresistible Pace Quartet

If Southee and Boult don't get you, Ferguson will. If Ferguson doesn't get you, Henry will. New Zealand have for the longest time been blessed with pace bowling riches. Their fast bowlers were top-notch at the 2015 World Cup in Australia and in what will be favourable English conditions for pacers, a lot will be expected from them.

It is no secret that Boult and Southee feed off each other's energy. They are going into the World Cup in pretty decent form and will be keen on bringing all their experience into play up front with the new ball.

(Twitter/ICC) (Twitter/ICC)

Ferguson and Henry will provide the pace in the middle overs while the likes of Neesham and de Grandhomme will also come in when needed. While New Zealand's batting is a force to reckon with, in conditions where the ball is expected to swing a bit and there will be bounce on offer, the fast bowling is unit is one which Williamson will be relying upon to get him out of jail.

Squad: Kane Williamson (capt), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Tom Latham, Colin Munro, Jimmy Neesham, Henry Nicholls, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor

Fixtures:

June 1 - New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Cardiff

June 6 - Bangladesh v New Zealand, The Oval

June 9 - Afghanistan v New Zealand, Taunton

June 13 - India v New Zealand, Trent Bridge

June 19 - New Zealand v South Africa, Edgbaston

June 23 - West Indies v New Zealand, Old Trafford

June 26 - New Zealand v Pakistan, Edgbaston

June 30 - New Zealand v Australia, Lord's

July 3 - England v New Zealand, Chester-le-Street

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Cricket World Cup Points Table

Pos Team P W L T/NR PTS NRR
1
AUS
7 6 1 0 12 +0.90
2
NZ
6 5 0 1 11 +1.30
3
IND
5 4 0 1 9 +0.80
4
ENG
7 4 3 0 8 +1.05
5
BAN
7 3 3 1 7 -0.13
6
SL
6 2 2 2 6 -1.11
7
PAK
6 2 3 1 5 -1.26
8
WI
6 1 4 1 3 +0.19
9
SA
7 1 5 1 3 -0.32
10
AFG
7 0 7 0 0 -1.63

Team Rankings

Rank Team Points Rating
1 India 3631 113
2 New Zealand 2547 111
3 South Africa 2917 108
4 England 3663 105
5 Australia 2640 98
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 England 5720 124
2 India 5990 122
3 New Zealand 4121 114
4 South Africa 4674 111
5 Australia 4805 109
see more
Rank Team Points Rating
1 Pakistan 7365 283
2 England 4253 266
3 South Africa 4196 262
4 Australia 5471 261
5 India 7273 260
see more