Cricket: Black Caps, White Ferns poised for greatness

By David Leggat

Both teams are playing impressive cricket as final looms in world T20 championships.
Ish Sodhi (right) was again outstanding for New Zealand.  Photo / AP
Ish Sodhi (right) was again outstanding for New Zealand. Photo / AP

What price New Zealand winning two world cricket titles on the same day next week?

It's never wise to get too far ahead of events, but given what's transpired so far at the concurrent world T20 championships in India it's a reasonable point to consider.

First the women. They crunched Australia in their key pool game in Nagpur, emulating the men from a few days earlier in putting a squeeze on with slower bowlers before getting the runs required at a decent clip.

They are playing impressive cricket, fielding assertively - Sophie Devine's splendid diving catch at long on against Australia a case in point - and with captain Suzie Bates the runaway leading batsman in the championship, 142 runs at 47 with a 116.39 strike rate, and tidy spin bowling look as good as any team at this point.

The men are three from three and have now won in distinctly different conditions.

Underpinning the work of the batsmen and bowlers, New Zealand are fielding impressively. Corey Anderson's above the head grab on the long-off fence to dismiss Shahid Afridi yesterday effectively shut the door on Pakistan, who came up 22 runs short, but had threatened to topple New Zealand through the first half of their chase for an imposing 180.

Yesterday's win was notable for the fact New Zealand's bowlers once more had to earn their money. The first two games were played on (cue understatement) spin-friendly pitches in Nagpur and Dharamsala. Yesterday Mohali produced a good batting strip and little turn.

Left arm spinner Mitchell Santner went for 15 in the first over; Anderson for nine in the second, Santner another nine in his second and Mitch McClenaghan's first went for 18. At the end of the power play, with lefthander Sharjeel Khan flying, Pakistan were already 11 ahead of New Zealand on comparative run rates.

It was not until the 11th over of Pakistan's chase that New Zealand's same-time total nosed ahead. But the way the bowlers stuck to the task impressed.

Santner got through his rough start to finish with two for 29; legspinner Ish Sodhi was again outstanding, with one for 25 from his four while speedster Adam Milne, the ideal counterpoint to the slow men, took two for 26, conceding just five, then seven runs from overs 18 and 20.

The key phase was overs eight to 12, when New Zealand conceded just 20 runs, Santner, Grant Elliott and Sodhi putting a squeeze on as Pakistan subsided from 76 for one to 96 for two.

"We didn't bowl particularly well up front and were able to pull it back through tight bowling and good fielding," opener Martin Guptill said.

"We've got another game in a couple of days (against Bangladesh in Kolkata on Saturday night) and can work on things we didn't do so well and put them right."

He had high praise for Santner and Sodhi.

"They are going really well at the moment. They have great changes of pace and are using variations when they need to. Mitch didn't get off to a great start tonight, he was a bit down on himself. But he came back and showed what a quality bowler he is, and a pivotal one for us, as is Ish."

Guptill's 80 off 48 balls was just the tonic New Zealand needed to put up a strong total, after Kane Williamson had won his third toss in as many matches at the tournament.

He struck the ball cleanly, and his stands with Williamson (62 in 7.2 overs) and Anderson (52 in 34 balls) enabled New Zealand to take down a decent Pakistani attack.

Guptill is striking at 162.33 in the tournament. Only Bangladesh's Tamim Iqbal, with 267 including the qualifying tournament, Mohammad Shahzad with 194 (ditto) and England's Joe Root (131) have scored more than Guptill's 125 at 41.66.

Ross Taylor's unbeaten 36 off 23 balls was an ideal full stop on the innings.

New Zealand have three games to play, starting with Bangladesh who are out of semifinal contention unless they beat India early today.

Much has gone well for New Zealand, who have mastered difficult conditions. Whisper it, but they have positioned themselves well to make a big run for an inaugural world T20 crown.

Spinning away

• Mitchell Santner: 8 wickets at 8.75, economy rate 5.83

• Ish Sodhi: 5 wkts at 11.4; economy rate 4.75

• Only Bangladesh spinner Shakib al Hasan, with 9 wickets at 12.22 has more wickets than Santner.

- NZ Herald

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