Cricket: Battered and brusied, NZ face hard road

By David Leggat

Just when New Zealand might have thought they would go into the World Cup opener against Kenya tomorrow with an element of feeling better about themselves, along came another dusting from India yesterday.

Before that, some New Zealand players had been talking about momentum.

Back-to-back wins over Pakistan and Ireland, in their previous warmup, seemed to have given them a sense that things were coming right.

They now know the size of the challenge in front of them.

In the nine previous cups, New Zealand have made the semifinals five times, most recently in the Caribbean four years ago.

Getting across that line has proved beyond them. Their best chance was at Eden Park 19 years ago, when Pakistan stole victory from under their noses and went on to topple England in the final.

Once again they should make the quarter-finals, as an absolutely bare minimum. That involves beating Kenya, Zimbabwe and Canada.

From there, they'll want at least one win from the other three group A games against Australia, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.

The point about those games is the higher a team finishes in group play the better their placing for the knockout stage.

Finishing as fourth best qualifier is likely to mean playing India or South Africa for a semifinal spot. Why risk that when with a couple of strong displays New Zealand could finish facing the West Indies, Bangladesh or England, whom they would probably fancy more.

By now New Zealand's key figures are well known: Brendon McCullum, who warmed up encouragingly against India yesterday, the out-of-sorts Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill and runout- prone Jesse Ryder must make runs at the top. No runs, no hope.

Scott Styris and James Franklin have prospered in India before, and must do so again, while Nathan McCullum, captain Dan Vettori and Jacob Oram have the late innings ballast job.

New Zealand's bowlers got a fright yesterday and discovered there's no margin for getting it wrong on batting-friendly pitches.

The likelihood is New Zealand will field teams with about seven bowlers capable of delivering anything from a full complement of 10 overs down to fiddling through a couple in a crisis.

New Zealand are arriving at the cup in poor shape, mentally banged about and not playing particularly smart, or sharp cricket. Right now, once all the leadup information is factored in, making the semifinals would appeal as a notable achievement.

NZ's TOURNAMENT TOP SCORER

$4.25: Ross Taylor

$4.75: Martin Guptill

$5.00: Jesse Ryder, Brendon McCullum

$9.00: Scott Styris

$10.00: James Franklin

$12.00: Jamie How, Kane Williamson

$30.00: Jacob Oram

$50.00: Nathan McCullum

$60.00: Daniel Vettori

$100: Kyle Mills

$200: Tim Southee, Luke Woodcock

$1000: Hamish Bennett

- NZ Herald

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