Cricket: Wright turns focus to semifinal

JP Duminy of South Africa bowled by Nathan McCullum of New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images
JP Duminy of South Africa bowled by Nathan McCullum of New Zealand. Photo / Getty Images

New Zealand cricket coach John Wright has already put the Black Caps' 49-run World Cup quarterfinal win over South Africa behind him.

Not that he wasn't happy with the upset win, but New Zealand's upcoming clash with Sri Lanka on Tuesday evening (NZT) is now demanding his focus.

Wright is looking to take the positives out of the quarterfinal win and build on them as the Black Caps seek to turn around their 112-run loss in pool play against Sri Lanka.

"We enjoyed the victory, but we've got to move on," Wright said yesterday. "We start again tomorrow, but we'll take this game and see where we get to. We're always looking to improve."

Although the bowling and fielding were superb against South Africa, the Black Caps had to dig deep at the batting crease after winning the toss and opting to bat.

They limped to what looked to be a below-par score of 221 for eight after a solid partnership of 114 between Jesse Ryder (83) and Ross Taylor (43) as South Africa tormented them with a mixture of spin and extreme pace.

The heavily favoured South Africans looked to be cruising to victory at 121 for three before the wheels fell off and they were all out for 172 in the 44th over.

An improved batting performance against Sri Lanka would be crucial, Wright said.

"We have to bat well, that's the key for us. I think the boys are learning, you need those wickets in hand going into the last overs and you set those targets.

"We'll look inwards and focus very much on trying to get better as a unit."

Wright described the Black Caps' efforts with the ball as "outstanding" after they struggled to build an total worth defending.

"We sort of scrapped and got as many runs as we could, which gave us a chance," he said. "Any side in big games, no matter who it is, if you get early wickets there's always going to be pressure."

Wright wasn't too upset with an on-field confrontation involving captain Daniel Vettori, drinks carrier Kyle Mills and South African batsman Francois du Plessis midway through the South African innings.

All three players were fined by match referee Roshan Mahanama for breaching the ICC's code of conduct relating to inappropriate and deliberate physical contact between players.

"It was reasonably interesting viewing," a laconic Wright said. "There was a lot at stake; South Africa-New Zealand fixtures in whatever sport, there's always going to be a bit of that sort of thing going on.
"It happened, it was dealt with."

Sri Lanka's semifinal spot was assured with a superb all-round effort from Tillakaratne Dilshan, who had to be helped out of the park afterwards, suffering from exhaustion.

The 34-year-old part-time spinner responded to new ball role by removing rival skipper Andrew Strauss in the eighth over to draw the first blood in the quarterfinal.

When the 1996 champions returned to chase down a 230-run target, Dilshan (108 not out) helped himself to his second century of the tournament, as did his opening partner Upul Tharanga (102 not out), against England's jaded attack to complete an easy 10-wicket victory.

- NZPA

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