McCullum’s posting of four slips at one stage was an expression of dominance that must have given England
’s batsmen a real inferiority complex. Tim Southee
bossed the opposition batting and then McCullum applied the finishing touches with as clinical and brutal a display of power hitting as you are likely to see.
The captain was able to play with that freedom because he knew, as did the unfortunate England bowlers, that the pitch was basically a very good one and you do not win too many One-Day Internationals defending 123
But the manner of his batting meant his New Zealand team left the ground feeling like giants while England’s players left well and truly with their tails between their legs.
Incidentally, I do not believe that McCullum’s field settings, with massed ranks of catchers in place, was disrespectful, arrogant or an act of showing off.
True, it was done to make the opponents believe they were being dominated, but if we are seeing dominance asserted in that way rather than through verbal or physical taunts then there is not too much wrong with the game.
And it is one thing to set fields like that; it is quite another to have bowlers to back it up and, in Tim Southee and Trent Boult in particular, McCullum had just the men for the job.
They bowled beautifully and Southee’s second spell was just about as good as it gets. On a pitch that looked pretty flat, to boss the game in the way he did was sensational.
It was an illustration of the confidence he and the whole team are feeling at the moment and that was emphasised by the way McCullum then came out with the bat.
You can criticise England all you like but I hope New Zealand
still gets due recognition for that effort.
It is one to celebrate for not only the team but also the New Zealand fans, and it will further kindle the fire of expectation that has been rising for some time.
You could argue that such increased expectation is not necessarily a good thing as that, in turn, creates pressure, but I do not see it that way. The team is playing with such confidence that as long as they embrace that expectation and channel it as they have been doing to produce confident cricket full of belief then they can feed off it.
I saw that today and it means we are now set for an absolute blockbuster next weekend at Eden Park when Australia comes calling.
The likelihood is that the match will decide top spot in the pool and with the possibility that Ireland could go through from the other pool in fourth spot, then, with no disrespect to the Irish, that is a great incentive for both sides to do well in the Trans-Tasman clash.
The performance against England
put to bed any suggestion of a wobble in New Zealand’s campaign, something that they may have been accused off after losing seven wickets in the chase to overcome Scotland’s modest target in Dunedin a few days earlier.
For the record, I did not subscribe to the view that the Scotland chase was a poor effort. Yes, more wickets were lost than was ideal but what I took from that batting effort was a team-first mentality of players going in and backing themselves to push the accelerator in an attempt to win the match as quickly as possible.
When all is said and done, a win is a win, whether it is by eight wickets, as was the case against England, or three wickets in the Scotland game. You still get the same number of points for both.