New Zealand are chasing their first T20 World Cup
T20 World Cup

Dark horses no more: Black Caps ready for World Cup glory

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From Cricket World Cups to T20 World Cups to World Test Championships, the Black Caps have been backed to perform at pretty much every ICC event for the past decade but rarely considered the serious contenders for silverware that they should be.

In this year's tournament, however, they will not be coming in under the radar. ICC Men's Cricket World Cup runners up in 2019 and 2015, and semi-finalists at the last ICC Men's T20 World Cup, New Zealand ended a 21-year-wait for success at a men's ICC event with victory over India at the World Test Championship Final. 

That taste of silverware could prove a starting point for success across all formats, particularly given how many members of that Test squad will be involved in the UAE. 

Often revered for their versatility and innovation as a unit, New Zealand come to this year’s tournament as a world-class outfit, boasting depth in the squad and quality in key areas. Beefing up their batting stocks through the emergence of players like Glenn Phillips and Devon Conway, their stocks with the ball could deliver just like they did in Southampton in whites.

New Zealand boast a markedly stronger bowling attack on paper than their squad five years ago, with the likes of Trent Boult and Tim Southee honing their short-form craft, and Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner now able to draw on 57 and 52 T20 international appearances respectively.

Video cwc19 20 Oct 21
Match Highlights: England v New Zealand

In spite of this, it’s tough to gauge New Zealand’s form heading into the tournament, given the cancellation of their series in Pakistan, and a number of players rested for their tour of Bangladesh. The Black Caps were better on balance against Trans-Tasman rivals Australia earlier in the year, and against defending World Cup champions, the West Indies, at the back end of 2020. 

Preparations for the campaign have been far from ideal for Kane Williamson’s men. For those not playing franchise cricket, a training camp in UAE has begun earlier than scheduled, ahead of warm-up matches and their opener on October 26.

New Zealand will begin their campaign against Pakistan, with neither team able to draw on teachings from the five cancelled matches in late September and early October. Factoring in the presence of India in their pair’s group, the match carries extra significance, with the pair potentially battling for a semi-final spot. 

The squad

Squad: Kane Williamson (c), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Lockie Ferguson, Martin Guptill, Kyle Jamieson, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (wk), Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee

Reserves: Adam Milne

Their fixtures

26 Oct – v Pakistan

31 Oct – v India

3 Nov – v B1

5 Nov – v A2

7 Nov – v Afghanistan

Tournament history

Best finish: Semi-finalists (2007 and 2016)

The Black Caps were surprise packets at the inaugural tournament, recovering from an opening match defeat to Sri Lanka in the Group Stage to qualify for the Super 8 phase, where they defeated eventual champions India. Falling to second in the four-team group on net run rate despite the victory, New Zealand were run down by Pakistan in the first semi-final, losing by six wickets in the penultimate over of the match.

New Zealand went unbeaten in a stacked Group 2 during the 2016 campaign, highlighted by a surprise victory over hosts India, winning by 47 runs in a defence of just 126. Beating Australia, Pakistan and Bangladesh, New Zealand’s campaign was thwarted by a rampant England, who chased a target of 154 down with 7 wickets in hand and 17 balls to spare.

Video cwc19 18 Oct 21
Match Highlights: New Zealand v Australia

Look out for

Devon Conway

An all-format revelation for New Zealand in the past 12 months, it was in the game’s shortest international format where Conway first showed his class, compiling 41 off 29 balls with five fours and a six against the West Indies in a successful chase.

Showing his class against the defending World Cup champions again with an unbeaten 65 from 37 balls, Conway has answered every question asked of him thus far, making fifties against all four opponents he has faced. Falling agonisingly short of a century in February against Australia in a knock of 99* from 59 balls, Conway has been dismissed for single figures just twice in 11 innings and lays claim to a strike rate of 151.11.

The left-hander gives the Black Caps a much-needed batting boost, and opposing captains are yet to develop a plan to thwart the 30-year-old.

Key player

Trent Boult

Five years on from their last campaign, Boult has cemented himself as a true three-format bowler, with success in the shortest form (the final feather in the cap). Mostly bowling in the Powerplay, the 32-year-old’s ability to swing the white ball will dictate New Zealand’s success, with the odd death over thrown in for good measure.

Taking a wicket inside every three overs at T20I level, Boult has also developed his run-saving abilities in recent years, with an economy of 8.14 since January 2020, down from 8.64 in the first six years of his international career.

Big match

Pakistan - with India looking the favourites in Group 2 of the Super 12 phase, the Black Caps could be tussling with Pakistan for a final four spot. 

It will be crucial for Kane Williamson’s men to hit the ground running in Sharjah in their tournament opener against Pakistan, who will have already played India. New Zealand lost all three T20Is between the teams in UAE back in late 2018, though the matches were held away from Sharjah, in Dubai and Abu Dhabi. New Zealand have not played a T20I at the venue previously.

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