5 New Zealand Players Who Stand Between India & the WC Final
Here’s a look at the five New Zealand cricketers who might give Team India a tough time at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
India and New Zealand will be playing each other in the first semi-final of the World Cup on Tuesday, 9 July. Both sides have taken a completely different route to the semis.
While India booked their place in the knockouts with a match in hand, New Zealand spent some nervy moments before edging fifth-placed Pakistan out, courtesy superior net-run rate.
When the tournament had started, the New Zealand unit certainly looked better. They notched up 5 wins in 6 matches, after the game against India got washed out. With the openers struggling, it was skipper Kane Williamson who was the batting mainstay while the Kiwi bowlers exceeded expectations.
With three back-to-back losses at the end of their league campaign, the New Zealand side might have lost their sting, but they are still potent enough to spoil India’s chances.
Here’s a look at the five New Zealand cricketers who might give Team India a tough time when the two sides square off at Old Trafford on Tuesday:
1) Kane Williamson
New Zealand’s success in the World Cup has somehow been directly proportional to Kane Williamson’s form with the bat, which again suggests the obvious – how important the skipper is for his side.
After a great start to the tournament, both New Zealand and Williamson hit a roadblock against Pakistan, Australia and England. But with 481 runs from seven innings at an average of 96.20, the Kiwi skipper can never be written off.
Prior to the slump, Williamson was having a great World Cup. He scored two centuries and a fifty. Even in the warm-up matches against India and West Indies he scored 67 and 85 respectively.
Interestingly, Williamson has maintained an average above 90 all throughout the tournament. With Kiwi openers failing in every single match of the tournament, Williamson has been facing the new ball practically in every game. So, in that regard to maintain such an astronomical average show how much control he has over his game. And Team India surely have a reason to isolate him as their number one threat.
The familiarity with Indian bowlers, courtesy his IPL stints since 2015, will also be something that would be at the back of the mind of the Indian team management.
2) Jimmy Neesham
New Zealand’s most impactful player in the World Cup, Jimmy Neesham has lived up to the tag of an all-rounder with 11 wickets and 251 runs from 8 outings.
Only New Zealander to take a five-wicket haul in the tournament till now, Neesham has proved to be more than handy with the ball for his side.
Apart from his fifer against an inexperienced Afghanistan batting line-up. Neesham has had good outings against Australia (2/28) and England (2/41).
As far his batting is concerned, Neesham’s strength lies in taking the attack to the bowler. But in this competition, he has shown more maturity and has batted with more responsibility. His innings of 97 not out against Pakistan might have come in the losing cause but it was fine example of his temperament as a batsman.
So, India have more than one reason to be wary of Neesham, who is surely making the rich lineage of Kiwi all-rounders proud.
3) Trent Boult
The wrecker-in-chief against India in the warm-up match, Trent Boult’s World Cup campaign can easily be divided into two halves.
In his first three match against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, Boult accounted for only three wickets. In fact, he went wicketless against the Afghans.
But after the washout against India in the league stage, Boult has comeback stronger and has been more of his usual devastating self with the ball.
Despite the drop in New Zealand’s form, Boult has been a regular with his wickets. He accounted for 14 wickets in his next five games, including a hat-trick against Australia.
Both openers – Rohit Sharma and KL Rahul – should be cautious of Boult at the top of the innings, especially the in-swinging delivery which can rap them on the pad. In the warm-up game, Boult had cleaned up the Indian top-order, including Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and KL Rahul
His record against India is also something the side should take into account.
In the 12 matches he has played against India, Boult’s tally stands at 22 wickets at an average of 24.90 and an impressive economy of 4.74. Out of the 22 wickets, 12 off them came earlier this year in the five-match ODI series in New Zealand. His has a best of 5/21 against India.
4) Lockie Ferguson
After a disastrous IPL, nobody expected Lockie Ferguson to feature in the top five wicket taker’s list in the World Cup.
But with 17 wickets from seven outings, Ferguson sits pretty at the number three position on the bowler’s list. Right from his first match of the World Cup, Ferguson has been consistent with his wickets. He had at least one wicket to his name in all the eight games his side was involved in.
Pace has been the forte of Ferguson and the English pitches have assisted him well. Bowling at 150 kmph, Ferguson’s pace and bounce at the start of the innings might be troublesome for the Indian batsmen, who need to tread carefully while dealing with him.
The last time when the two sides met during the warm-up matches Ferguson had to be content with only one wicket.
So, on Tuesday, if India are successful is giving no wickets to Boult and Ferguson at the start, they can look forward to playing the final on Sunday.
5) Ross Taylor
The most experienced player in the squad, Ross Taylor is yet to make his presence felt in the competition. And what better time than the semi-finals.
Ross Taylor has had a mixed World Cup with couple of fifties and few starts. But we all know what Taylor is capable of. With Williamson he has forged a partnership in the middle which has most of the time taken the attack to the opposition despite New Zealand losing early wickets.
Another factor that makes Taylor such a dangerous customer against India is his past record against them. In the 31 matches he has played vs India; Taylor has scored 1115 runs at an average of 41.37. He has scored two centuries with couple of nineties.
In the warm-up match against India, the New Zealander scored a 71 to register a comfortable a 6-wicket victory for his side.
The Indian side would love to see his back as soon as possible.
Footnote: Beware of Martin Guptill
It is true that Guptill is yet to shine with the bat in the competition, but in no way the Indian team would take the mercurial opener lightly. Quite capable of taking a game away from India in matter of few overs, the Indian side would always remind themselves that the last edition of the World Cup saw Guptill score 237 off 163 balls in a single match – the highest score in a World Cup.
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