By Niall Anderson in Manchester

The Black Caps will be exploring any advantage possible ahead of the knockout stage of the Cricket World Cup, but their search would be well advised to avoid the history books.

New Zealand have progressed into the semifinals of the 2019 edition, where they will play India on Tuesday, but they'll need to accomplish a feat unprecedented in 44 years of Cup cricket if captain Kane Williamson is to raise the trophy aloft at Lord's in eight days.

The Black Caps are coming into the semifinals on the back of three straight losses, with their batsmen failing to deliver in disappointing performances against Pakistan, Australia and England to conclude the group stage.


They're the first team to make a World Cup knockout stage having lost their prior three games, which says plenty on its own about how difficult their task will be, especially against an Indian side who have lost just once all tournament.

However, underlining that is the fact that history does not take kindly to sides that enter the World Cup knockout stages having lost their previous game.

Kane Williamson has his eye on the Cricket World Cup. Photo / Photosport
Kane Williamson has his eye on the Cricket World Cup. Photo / Photosport

On 16 occasions a team has come into the knockout stage of the World Cup off the back of a loss – and none of those sides have ever won the World Cup.

Those 16 outfits produced a 4-12 record in their first World Cup knockout game, with only three of the teams – 1975 Australia, 1992 England and 1996 Australia – making the finale.

There, none of those sides could get over the line, meaning the Black Caps will have to be the first side in World Cup history to overcome a pre-knockout loss – and a historic streak of losses at that.

Add in the specifics of New Zealand's defeats – two of which came against fellow semifinalists, while they didn't even play against India due to a washout – and a Black Caps title would go down as one of the World Cup's greatest turnarounds.

Black Caps coach Gary Stead is adamant improvements are necessary, but optimistic his side can turn the tables.

"We haven't played our best cricket, but we've also played some very good cricket at times. We just need to try and put a complete performance together.


"If we want to be the best, we've got to show that we can stand up and find a way and fight against these guys as well. I have no doubts the capabilities are there in our side.

"From here, anything can happen when you're two games away."

Stead is right – anything could happen. But 44 years of history suggests a Black Caps World Cup triumph is unlikely to be one of them.

Horror History

Teams who entered the knockout stage having lost their previous game:


Australia – Won semifinal, lost in final


Pakistan – Lost in semifinal
New Zealand – Lost in semifinal


Pakistan – Lost in semifinal


New Zealand – Lost in semifinal
England – Won semifinal, lost in final


Australia – Won quarter-final and semifinal, lost in final
England – Lost in quarter-final
New Zealand – Lost in quarter-final


South Africa – Lost in semifinal


Kenya – Lost in semifinal


New Zealand – Lost in semifinal


West Indies – Lost in quarter-final
Australia – Lost in quarter-final
New Zealand – Won quarter-final, lost in semifinal


Bangladesh – Lost in quarter-final

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':