In a cricket match there is often a turning point where a game is won before it is won. Jimmy Neesham's crack of 27 off 11 balls was just such a turning point in the World Cup semi-final against England.
But for the average spectator it is difficult to assess the state of the run chase and the prospects of winning without the graphic "worm". The "worm" tells you all this at a glance.
New Zealand is bombarded daily with vaccination numbers. But I find they do not really help. Sure, they are rising, but for most people they are just numbers.
They don't give us a simple measure of our progress. They don't tell us whether we will reach the mark and, if so, when.
What we need is a vaccination "worm".
How would this work? We compare ourselves with the best in the world and, using the "worm", see how we stack up. Portugal is the gold standard, currently sitting at over 98 per cent full vaccination under a rollout managed by a retired naval officer. In fact, they are done. They are no longer reporting numbers.
The blue solid curve in the graphic shows Portugal's vaccination growth throughout this year. The black curve shows our own progress. We may be roughly three months behind Portugal in our rollout, but the two curves are very similar in shape – and that is the key indicator to assess progress.
If their progress is delayed on the time axis by 11 weeks, as shown by the dashed blue curve, then the two curves are practically identical.
If we continue to track Portugal like this, then it is clear that we will indeed reach the 90 per cent target (shown by the dashed red line) and we will do so by November 28. Mike Hosking may yet have to concede in his bet against Stuart Nash.
At first, I thought the target of 90 per cent full vaccination of eligible Kiwis was simply not possible. There seemed to be just too many vocal anti-vaxxers, too many disengaged from "the system" and too many numbed from living in impoverished circumstances – economically, socially, emotionally and mentally.
It seems I was not alone. A recent poll shows as many as 60 per cent of Kiwis believe we will not reach this target by the end of the year. And until we do, we remain in limbo as a nation itching to get moving again.
Our vaccination "worm" shows we can get there soon. I find this kind of comparison extremely helpful. It certainly convinced me of the likelihood of success. Clearly, some regions will be ahead of the target while others will lag. Almost certainly not all DHB regions will make the grade but we can overall.
However, things are not as rosy as they look. The recent rapid rise in the curve due to our "vaxathon" on October 16 is evident but so also is the subsequent slowdown. Little by little we are falling off the pace set by Portugal.
The reason for this can be found in the "worm" for first vaccinations. Over the past few weeks we have drastically slackened the "run race" to a dawdle. In contrast, at the same point, Portugal began sprinting to the finish line – at more than three times our current rate.
It would be helpful to know exactly what they did to get that last boost because the current dawdle is beginning to show in our full vaccinations. And it will soon worsen. By now we cannot hope to be world leaders – we will only reach about 92-93 per cent full vaccination.
If we wish to do better, then the next two weeks are crucial. Perhaps as we start to fall behind this will jog us into renewed action.
It's sobering to note that that 11 weeks delay in our rollout compared with Portugal is about the same duration as our current lockdown. How different things might have been if, along with Portugal, we had been "at the front of the queue" as we were once promised.
A final point to remember. That 90 per cent oasis, almost within reach, is in fact a shifting mirage.
For the vaccinated, the proffered immunity falls with time. Double vaccination may initially give around 95 per cent immunity but in four months this falls to around 55 per cent –according to Pfizer.
Booster shots will be rolled out and, in due course, we will likely be given a new target of 90 per cent booster vaccination, with regular updates to our certificates.
That's a reminder that the 90 per cent target is not the end of the journey but rather just an important milestone. It's achievable and imminent. We might have been late starters but, as the saying goes, the worm has definitely turned. Now let's keep going.
• Jeff Tallon is a physicist at Victoria University of Wellington. Covid vaccination data from Ourworldindata and the NZ Ministry of Health.