Five things we learned from the Black Caps' victory over Bangladesh.
Not a new notion but concerning for what's to come. Any of the Black Caps' remaining opposition would do well to follow Bangladesh's lead and play at least two spinners from here on in. At The Oval, New Zealand lost six wickets to spin. The whole top six, in fact. This aspect alone almost cost them the match. Even good players of spin came unstuck. Kane Williamson became bogged down and got out in frustration, not getting to the pitch and chipping to deep midwicket. Tom Latham, too, lost his head attempting to heavy a half tracker out of the park. This weekend at Tauton on what's expected to be a turning pitch the Black Caps will contemplate the daunting prospect of facing Afghanistan's lethal leg spinner, Rashid Khan. It's enough to cause a few sleepless night between now and then.
When this man is in form, anything seems possible for New Zealand. Before being strangled down the leg side Taylor, in his 400th international, hit nine boundaries in his 82. It was a fluent knock – his half century coming off 40 balls – after arriving at the crease with New Zealand 55-2. When he departed New Zealand needed 54 off 69 balls and yet, in another sign of his importance, it quickly became very difficult. Taylor's running between the wickets with Kane Williamson remains a major issue, though. How New Zealand's batting lynchpins cannot solve this fractured area is baffling. Maybe there are simply too many mental scars to overcome. That said, in isolation at least, both appear in good touch and that is a positive sign.
Impressive thus far, even on this slow track. Ferguson hit the crease hard to trouble Bangladesh with pace and clear short pitch tactics. After four overs Ferguson had 1-7, and Williamson should arguably have kept him going. Final figures of 1-40 from 10 overs don't reveal Ferguson's true influence. Grasped the match by the scruff of the neck just when New Zealand needed him to stand up. Long may his point of difference continue to ruffle.
Need more from the allrounder. With the ball Neesham was a liability in this match. Kane Williamson gave him two overs, in separate spells, and he was unconvincing in both. Neesham's second over went for 17 runs after being spanked for three successive boundaries and throwing in a wide. That it came right after Ferguson and Colin de Grandhomme put the brakes on Bangladesh made it all the more frustrating. All pressure relieved, just like that. The worry is Neesham looked there to hit. Other teams will make the same assessment and target him accordingly. Can Williamson trust him to hit reliable line and lengths? At this stage the answer is no. Neesham's 25 from 33 with the bat was far more assured, though he should have seen the match through rather than holing out to long off with 27 still required, leaving Mitchell Santner to guide New Zealand home. If Colin Munro is retained at the top Neesham risks losing his spot at six to a fit-again Henry Nicholls.
Not the time to panic
The hidden reason why Black Caps beat Bangladesh
Dylan Cleaver: Cricket World Cup power rankings
Holding your nerve is better than the alternative. It was a very near thing but the main takeaway is the Black Caps got there in the end. Two wickets, two runs, the margin matters not. The result does. The scrap for semifinal spots promises to be fierce and fraught. Right now at least, New Zealand sits better than other touted contenders England, Pakistan and slumping South Africa. Sure tougher opposition await and much improvement is needed but provided New Zealand gets over Afghanistan this weekend to go three-from-three, that will be an envious position. It should, in theory, accommodate the odd slip up, and potentially allow them to play with greater freedom than had they dropped one of these opening matches. Tight victories, particularly in a World Cup atmosphere such as this where Bangladesh fans owned the airwaves, tends to breed character. Next time New Zealand, or Santner for instance, find themselves in a similar situation they should have the belief and confidence to pull another result from the fire. Still, a little more clinical composure would not go astray.