By Liam Napier at Chester-le-Street
Five key talking points from the Black Caps' heavy defeat to England at the Cricket World Cup.
From here, the Black Caps have nothing to lose. They will start rank outsiders for the first World Cup semifinal in Manchester, where they remain on course to meet Australia, a worse prospect than India, if only marginally. The attitude for that knockout match must be ditch the past and move on; absorb what lessons they can from the last-gasp win over the West Indies at Old Trafford, their thrashing to Australia at Lord's, and return for a proper crack. Even then it will take a herculean effort.
We haven't yet seen the Black Caps play with any form of real freedom or confidence, not with the bat anyway. Wouldn't it be nice to see Martin Guptill let his hands go, connect with one of his favoured straight sixes? Guptill is one of the world's best white-ball strikers but his struggles since the opening win over Sri Lanka sum up the Black Caps' batting woes. Maybe, just maybe, as underdogs New Zealand will now swing for the fence. They start with a puncher's chance, so why not have a go? Better to have tried and failed than to depart with feelings of "what if?"
Shoe on the other foot, why we should worry:
New Zealand are slumping at the wrong time, having lost their last two games to Australia and England by a combined 205-run margin. Regaining confidence won't be easy. Henry Nicholls should have reviewed his first ball lbw, which replays show bounced over the stumps, but his golden duck is the Black Caps' fourth this tournament – three more than previous in all New Zealand's World Cups combined.
New Zealand's highest score in this tournament is 291, batting first against the West Indies in Manchester, thanks to Kane Williamson's 148, while their highest chase is 244 against Bangladesh, in very near defeat. More will be needed to get over the line against Australia. Some of New Zealand's batting struggles can be attributed to losing the influential toss on difficult surfaces, but that alone does not excuse repeated failures.
Lockie Ferguson huge loss:
Thankfully, New Zealand's most potent strike bowler at this tournament will be back for the semifinal. Williamson described Ferguson's hamstring as minor, giving him the all clear to return on Tuesday. His presence completely changes the dynamic of the Black Caps' attack. Ferguson has 17 wickets thus far, second only to Mitchell Starc. His pace and bounce have troubled the world's best, particularly through the middle stages. In tandem with Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Jimmy Neesham, he offers Williamson a different dimension. After a disappointing return against England, with 1-70 from nine overs, experienced seamer Tim Southee is certain to miss out.
Jimmy Neesham the surprise package:
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With 201 runs – at an average of 40 – and 11 wickets at 18, Neesham has exceeded expectations. He is wayward at times yet often finds ways to take wickets, even from bad balls. With bat or ball there is now a sense he will make something happen. With a better platform to work from, who knows what he could achieve in a free-hit capacity.
More Mitchell Santner wickets would be nice:
Ben Stokes holing out to Matt Henry at mid on reduced England to 248-5, and probably stopped the hosts pushing through to 350. It was also Santner's first wicket for 36 overs – a concerning spell for New Zealand's first-choice spinner. Santner has bowled without luck at times, especially against Pakistan on Edgbaston's turning pitch, and had catches dropped by the likes of Tom Latham, but would no doubt like more scalps.