20 February 2015
Why New Zealand could well be the World Cup Favourites
Co-hosts produce the performance of the tournament so far to brush aside England in less than 46 overs of dominance in Wellington
After the attacking performance against England in Wellington, a move to tournament favourite might be one New Zealand is comfortable with.
But after the Black Caps’ dominant performances against Sri Lanka, Scotland and most recently, England, there’s no place to hide.
Judging by the positive and attacking way Brendon McCullum’s boys decimated England at Wellington on Friday, a move to tournament favouritism might be one they are comfortable with.
Here’s why New Zealand could well deserve to be called the World Cup favourite:
The World Cup is just three matches old for New Zealand but already the partnership of Trent Boult and Tim Southee has signalled itself as a serious rival to South Africa and Australia when it comes to the title of best opening attack in ODI cricket.
While it took 12 overs at Hagley Oval against Sri Lanka for New Zealand to make a breakthrough – which came thanks to the spin of Daniel Vettori – the Black Caps’ seamers have been the story of the second and third matches.
When Boult tore through Scotland, leaving the Associate team shell-shocked at 4-12, the talk started about just how damaging New Zealand’s attack could be during the tournament.
But given Scotland’s lower-ranked status, it was almost possible to underrate the quicks’ fiery performance at Dunedin.
There was no questioning their bowling at Wellington. New Zealand – and in particular Southee – was sent in to bat on a pitch that looked set for runs.
Southee bowled with control, was the only bowler to find any real swing and his seven wickets were well deserved. His 7-33 was not only his best ODI performance, it was New Zealand’s best.
Add in the serious pace of Adam Milne, who is the fastest bowler at the World Cup to date, the expert spin of veteran Daniel Vettori, and Corey Anderson’s considerable talent, and McCullum has plenty of options up his sleeve on any wicket.
Never mind quick Mitchell McClenaghan and Kyle Mills waiting in the wings.
The Black Caps skipper is at the peak of his powers and his leadership is playing a huge role in New Zealand’s success.
Not only is he leading the way with the bat – his World Cup record fifty just the latest highlight in his purple patch of form – his decision making in the field is positive and clever.
A ruthless captain, McCullum attacked relentlessly against Sri Lanka, Scotland and England. Against England, he started with three slips, finished with four and his bowling changes were inspired, particularly when bringing Southee and Boult back to clean up the England tail.
Plenty has already been said about McCullum’s record breaking innings and plenty more will be said. It is worth noting that the record he broke for fastest World Cup fifty was actually his own record, set against Canada in 2007.
Thanks to New Zealand’s bowling, their batsmen were not left with much of a job to do on Friday and McCullum more than took care of it.
But had McCullum failed, there would have been no end of in-form Black Caps stepping up. Kane Williamson’s form over the last 12 months has been outstanding. Since January 2014 he has scored 10 fifties and three centuries in ODIs.
Corey Anderson until recently held the world record for fastest 100 ton and already has two fifties in 2015, while Luke Ronchi smashed an unbeaten 170 from 99 balls last month.
Likewise, Grant Elliot has averaged 57.33 since being recalled to the one-day team in January after more than a year’s absence, Martin Guptill,has two fifties for 2015 already and Ross Taylor is averaging 45.13 for the year.
The Black Caps believe they can win and win big. They chased fast runs against Scotland and stumbled, losing seven wickets chasing 143.
A less confident team, faced with a near identical situation just three days later, might have taken it a little easier chasing England’s 123.
Not New Zealand. It blasted the runs it needed in just 12.2 overs and its brand of aggressive, positive cricket is pleasing more than just New Zealand fans.
Its confidence increases ten-fold when it is playing at home and given all of the Black Caps matches will be played on New Zealand soil - including their massive match against Australia at Auckland’s Eden Park next weekend - until the final (should they make it), the Black Caps have a big advantage over their opponents.
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