By Niall Anderson at Chester-le-Street

The Black Caps openers were meant to possess the key to a good start at the Cricket World Cup, but instead, the only thing they've manage to open is Pandora's Box.

Between Martin Guptill, Colin Munro and Henry Nicholls, the New Zealand openers have mustered just one pivotal partnership in eight games – Guptill and Munro's 137-run stand in their first-up win over Sri Lanka.

Since then, there have been two partnerships of middling success – 35 and 29 runs - and the rest of the returns have been dismal – 12, 5, 2, 0 and 0. All up, the Black Caps openers have scored 299 runs – the worst at the Cup by a significant margin.


Pakistan – having played one game less than New Zealand – are the next-worst, having produced 378 runs from their openers, while at the other end of the scale, Australia's opening pair of Aaron Finch and David Warner have compiled 1020 runs between them.

Add in four golden ducks, and the failure to set a satisfactory platform has piled pressure on the middle order, who have failed to cope in the Black Caps' two recent heavy defeats.

Henry Nicholls and Martin Guptill haven't been amongst the runs as an opening pair. Photo / Getty
Henry Nicholls and Martin Guptill haven't been amongst the runs as an opening pair. Photo / Getty

Black Caps coach Gary Stead recognised that the openers "have had a tough tournament", but also believes that they just need a bit of luck to go their way.

"We're working very hard in the nets, but at the end of the day sometimes you need a bit of lady luck as well. If you take yesterday, for example, Henry Nicholls had an lbw that he possibly should have reviewed, it showed it was missing, and Martin Guptill was caught down the legside off a glove. Little things like that can turn the game, especially when it's your top order.

"If we get a little bit of luck going our way, and they continue to be really positive in their mindset around how they're going to play, then it doesn't really matter what's happened in the past."

While Nicholls has had the unenviable task of being thrown into games against Australia and England for his World Cup introduction, more was expected from Guptill, who hasn't found his form on the trickier-than-expected English wickets.

However, Stead is talking up his experienced opener for a big performance in the semifinal at Old Trafford on Tuesday.

"Martin's played a lot of cricket that he doesn't need me telling him what to do all the time. What Martin needs is the ability to go out there and express himself on the game – stick his chest out and play the game that we know he's capable of. He's a fine player, he's scored many centuries for New Zealand, and I'm sure he's got another one just around the corner for us as well.


"We know he's capable of getting a double hundred, he can do that in the semifinal and all of a sudden we won't be talking about form or anything like that."

Martin Guptill has struggled for runs at the World Cup. Photo / Photosport
Martin Guptill has struggled for runs at the World Cup. Photo / Photosport

It looks as if Nicholls and Guptill will be the pairing picked for the semifinal – Tom Latham confirmed that there had been no discussions about him opening the batting – and captain Kane Williamson is hoping the pair can play with freedom and produce for the team.

"Batting has a number of different challenges and adapting to conditions is one. Often when you haven't spent time in the middle you're looking to feel good and I think on a lot of these surfaces that's been something that's been very difficult to do, even when you have had time in the middle.

"So removing a lot of those thoughts and perhaps bringing that mindset back to "What can I do for the team?" rather than "How can I feel good?" - that is something that is really important within our environment.

"Trying to get that freedom from the batting line-up is what's really important. If we get on a surface that is a good one – go out there and take it on."

Having been continuously locked up by opposition bowlers, playing with freedom might be easier said than done for the Black Caps openers – but perhaps, as Stead suggests, all they need is a bit of luck.

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':