It also means New Zealand can now be considered clear favourites to top the pool, which would bring with it a quarter-final tie against the fourth-ranked side in the other half of the draw. There is plenty of water still to go under the bridge in the other pool but whoever ends up in that fourth spot will not relish a trip to Wellington for that encounter.
The fact the Black Caps have now played a big match in front of such a massive and expectant crowd will also serve a purpose because when it comes to the knock-out stages the players will now know what to expect and hopefully be able to handle it accordingly. That is important because I detected some nerves early on, but the players will be more attuned to that environment next time.
What the match also demonstrated to me is that Eden Park is a bowl-first ground in this World Cup. Why? Because the short, straight boundaries make you believe if you bat first that you need a massive score given the modern players’ ability to hit the ball so cleanly so often.
But what that means is you can go too hard too early, something Australia’s batsmen were guilty of, and rather than their middle order looking to sit in when wickets began to go down, too many of the their batsmen went looking for run-scoring opportunities before getting set.
If you bowl first in Auckland
you get two bites at the cherry: you have the chance to put pressure on the opposition and even if they do score a huge total, you can still redeem yourselves with the bat knowing that if one player comes off you are still in with a chance of chasing down virtually any score.
Have we seen the Black Caps a month ahead of their World Cup coronation? Maybe, and as Martin Crowe said when presented with his ICC Cricket Hall of Fame cap
during an emotional ceremony at the dinner break we, as New Zealanders, can “dare to dream.”
But there is still a long, long way to go and after the nervy conclusion to today’s game, McCullum and his players, while happy to come out on top, will know that better than anyone else.