Unstoppable New Zealand - The best side of the World Cup so far
A good start in any major tournament is critical as it sets the tone for the rest of the campaign. New Zealand in this World cup have been quick out of the blocks. Coming into the tournament with the weight of expectations from a partisan home crowd, the Kiwis have been on fire, winning all three matches with considerable ease and virtually sealing their place in the knockout stages. The current edition of the World cup is only ten days old and yet it is fair to say that Brendon McCullum’s side have been the standout team so far.
The Black Caps started off the tournament brilliantly by clearly outplaying the Lankan Lions, a side that has often been their nemesis, in all departments. This was followed by a decent win against minnows Scotland. The All Blacks then ruthlessly thrashed England in their third game.
Batting firing on all cylinders
Traditionally, abject batting has let down New Zealand in major competitions. But their current line-up is full of match winners who can win a game on their own on any given day. One can say that this is one of the most balanced and strongest batting line ups in the competition.
In the opening game against Srilanka, the batting unit had a field day as they notched up a total in excess of 300. This was largely due to the rollicking start given by their skipper and Martin Guptill. Later in that game, Corey Anderson flexed his muscles and scored a belligerent half century to leave the opposition demoralised.
Despite the mini collapse against Scotland, it is fair to say that it was just an aberration and that their batting line up is too strong to allow an encore.
I think that their performance against England is probably one of their most dominant performances ever. Mercurial skipper Brendon McCullum went hammer and tongs from the word go and he raced to the fastest fifty in world cup history. His whirlwind thrill-a-minute innings has well and truly lit up this world cup.
With almost every batsman in good form, the Kiwis go into the match against their trans-Tasman rivals Australia with a lot of confidence and self-belief.
Bowling too hot to handle
The Kiwi pace battery has been a treat to watch as they have bundled out each opposition that they have faced so far. More than the wickets that they have garnered, it was heartening to see the hostility, swing and control of the pacemen as these are attributes that have largely been absent in this era.
Tim Southee has led the bowling attack admirably and has been the wrecker-in chief by snaring 11 wickets so far. He was on fire against the England as he claimed seven wickets and thus claiming the best bowling figures for his country. Interestingly five of the seven wickets he got were either bowled or caught behind the stumps. This is testimony to the probing off stump lines bowled by the speedster.
Others such as left-arm seamer Trent Boult and tearaway Adam Milne have ably supported Southee. The bowling all-rounders’ Corey Anderson and Grant Elliot have been decent too. Veteran left arm spinner Daniel Vettori has bowled well and he continues to thrill us with his guile and command over his craft.
Tougher challenges lie ahead
There is no doubt that the Black caps have played some excellent cricket so far but there is still a long way to go in the competition. Next up for Mike Hesson’s side is a mouth-watering clash against Australia on 28th of February at Eden Park, Auckland.
However, the bigger challenge in front of New Zealand is to notch up wins in knockout matches. It is here that most of the Kiwi sides of the past have faltered and even surrendered meekly. It will also be exciting to see how the Kiwis chase a target when playing against a top quality side. Another thing is that they must guard against complacency which might have set in especially after comprehensively defeating England.
New Zealand have played with authority and renewed “zeal” in the tournament. So it is fair to say (on current form) that the World Cup perhaps offers New Zealand a once in a lifetime chance to win a maiden World Cup.