By Niall Anderson in London
The Black Caps were forced to go down to the wire to fend off a ferocious Bangladesh comeback in their tense two-wicket World Cup victory today, but their task would have been much tougher if not for one significant factor.
The Black Caps produced a stellar fielding performance in the first innings at The Oval in London – a performance that was a major influence in giving them the breathing room they eventually needed to cling on to victory.
On a wicket where 270 would have likely been a par total, the Black Caps managed to restrict Bangladesh to only 244. Part of that difference can be linked to the runs saved while fielding, with the Black Caps making several superb stops in the outfield to pile the pressure on Bangladesh, who struggled to score boundaries during crucial periods.
The lack of a rhyming catchphrase doesn't help their cause, but the Black Caps fielding philosophy is far more encompassing than simply "catches win matches", and it showed. Martin Guptill was unsurprisingly excellent in saving runs in the infield, the Black Caps bowlers also got in on the action on the boundary rope to restrict the flow of runs from their colleagues.
Matt Henry, Colin de Grandhomme, Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson all cut off potential boundaries in their fielding positions fine of the wicket, while in general, the Black Caps were remarkably quick off the mark, turning twos into singles, and frustrating the Bangladesh batsmen.
Two lengthy spells went by without a boundary – 52 balls from the eighth over to the 17th, and 34 balls from the 38th over – with the massive Bangladesh fan contingent regularly roaring for shots, only for the noise to quickly morph into a whimper as they saw a New Zealand player race around to restrict a boundary.
The only minor blemishes would be rough to even call misfields, with Jimmy Neesham unable to stop two runs from a spanked drive, Henry failing to track down a ball at third man, and Boult not quite managing to haul in what would have been a remarkable catch on the boundary.
They were well made up for by Guptill's run-out – being alert to some calamitous running from Shakib Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim - while Tom Latham took a fine catch to dismiss Shakib, standing up to the bowling of de Grandhomme and holding on to an edge.
It followed a similarly excellent display in the field their opener against Sri Lanka in Cardiff, and Mitchell Santner believed their fielding was a key part of how the Black Caps battled back after Bangladesh had set a solid platform at 110-2.
"We obviously pride ourselves on our fielding, it's something everyone can control, and I think we did a pretty good job to restrict them to . It was a pretty good surface, pretty flat, they built their partnerships through the middle, but the way we fielded and caught was a testament to the way we fought back."
Henry agreed, arguing it helped the bowlers take wickets later in the innings.
"The fielding was outstanding once again – Guppy was brilliant and saved a lot of runs, and I think that's a strength of our side – it creates a lot of pressure when those balls are getting stopped – potential boundary balls or twos and threes are getting cut down to dots, it's huge for pressure.
"We were able to create pressure that eventually led to wickets."
Sure - catches win matches, but those who field, yield.
Fine, fine. The catchphrase needs improvement. But right now, the Black Caps' fielding can't get much better.