Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: NZ dig in to defy critics again

It might be a natural team camaraderie passed down the war generations; maybe it's a circle-the-wagons mindset generated by sometimes acerbic public criticism; perhaps it's a Rambo: First Blood "take no prisoners" mentality but the New Zealand cricket team is capable of remarkable turns in fortune in international limited overs tournaments.

Following New Zealand's win over Bangladesh in the World T20 opener, more of the same could eventuate as the team eyes Pakistan tonight.

Pakistan is the team they beat on the same Pallekele ground at the 2011 World Cup 18 months ago, thanks to a 131-run blast from Ross Taylor.

Taylor's innings gave New Zealand momentum then after an early loss to Australia. Brendon McCullum's 123, the highest score in T20 internationals as of Friday, might have the same effect.

New Zealand has made the semifinals in five out of nine international limited overs tournaments (four World Cups/one World T20) since Martin Crowe's side captured the public imagination at home in 1992.

In each of those World Cups they suffered a less than 50 per cent winning record in the three-month lead-up. Yet once the tournament started, the 1992, 1999, 2007 and 2011 editions of the team banded together to pull out a top four result, albeit never making the final. In the case of their one World T20 semifinals appearance in 2007 they had played no T20 international cricket three months out.

The big disappointment remains the 2003 World Cup where the team's form was superb going in. They beat eventual finalists India, coached by John Wright, 5-2 in the home summer build-up.

However, a boycott of the Kenya match due to security reasons (and other top nations' boycotts of Zimbabwe) meant they lost crucial carry-over points and exited at the Super Six stage. So there is no need to panic just yet. If history is a gauge the team could make the semifinals.

The 2011 World Cup on the sub-continent was a good example. New Zealand had lost 11 consecutive ODIs in that part of the world leading into the tournament yet finished as the one semifinalist from outside Asia after a quarter-final win over South Africa in Dhaka.

Andrew Alderson flew to the Twenty20 World Cup in Sri Lanka courtesy of Emirates Airline.

- Herald on Sunday

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