By Niall Anderson in Nottingham

Sri Lanka – check. Bangladesh – check. Afghanistan – check.

Job done for the Black Caps in the first phase of the Cricket World Cup, but now the real challenge begins.

Had they not started 3-0, it would have been a fairly dispiriting forecast for their Cup chances. Afghanistan and Sri Lanka are comfortably the worst two sides in the tournament, while Bangladesh are a side all teams with title aspirations should be good enough to topple.

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The manner in which they claimed those victories has been impressive – brief Bangladesh wobbles aside – and the bowling unit has been clinical, barely allowing the opposition batsmen the upper hand.

But it's one thing to dismiss the Thirimanne's and Mithun's of the cricket world and quite another to remove Kohli, Smith and Buttler – and that's the danger that is approaching for New Zealand in the next 23 days.

India, South Africa, West Indies, Pakistan, Australia, England. It doesn't get any tougher than those six sides, and the Black Caps will need to at least snag two – possibly three – wins to be secure of a semifinal spot.

The Black Caps' huddle. Photo / Photosport
The Black Caps' huddle. Photo / Photosport

To underline the difficulty of the task ahead, the Black Caps are only significantly favoured to take out one of those games – listed as $1.57 favourites against Pakistan. The clashes against the West Indies ($1.81) and South Africa ($1.90) are seen as tight battles, while New Zealand are currently installed as considerable underdogs against England ($3.57), and decent outsiders against India ($2.61) and Australia ($2.58).

Their simplest path to the semifinals would seem to be via winning three of their next four games, and avoiding the potential need – and pressure – to get a result against Australia or England.

For now though, it's only speculation, and the Black Caps are rightly pleased with the position they've put themselves in at the top of Cup ladder.

"It's been a nice start to the tournament - I think the way we've gone about things has been pretty convincing," offered Tom Latham.

"It's important we try to keep going a step further every time in each facet of the game, and raise the bar a little bit."

Jimmy Neesham revealed that their three-from-three start was a specific goal the Black Caps had set to start the tournament, but realises the need to now be at their best.

"Now the main games – the really challenging games - start coming pretty thick and fast, so I think we've put ourselves in a pretty good position to move forward in the tournament."

It's a position which will only get stronger as their rivals drop games or get impacted by the rain, with the Black Caps having given themselves a rather handy buffer going into the tournament's decisive stage.

Where we'll get to see what they're truly made of.

The Alternative Commentary Collective are podcasting their way through the World Cup. Known for their unconventional sports analysis and off-kilter banter, the ACC have come to ask the tough questions. Here's the latest episode of 'The Agenda':
WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT