Pressure on experienced Blackcaps duo

Australia are in the perfect position to snare victory in Brisbane today, but for a New Zealand perspective, a lot of pressure is on the current partnership of captain Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor – two of the most experienced heads in the squad.

A win is possible for the Blackcaps, but unlikely.

A lot will need to go Brendon McCullum’s way, including the weather potentially, but seeing out a day of cricket with seven wickets left in the shed has been done many times before, despite the general feeling that this Blackaps side isn’t up to the task.

It seems that a lot of the Blackcaps chances of holding on for a draw rest on the partnership between Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor.

Sure, Jimmy Neesham and BJ Watling can certainly bat long periods of time, but after them, the resistance in the batting order to an Australian bowling attack featuring the likes of Mitchell Starc and Mitchell Johnson is fairly weak.

Many would say that Australia must take wickets early in the opening session to be confident of victory. This is potentially wrong, both Taylor and McCullum are batsmen who can get set and get out quickly in all forms of the game.

Quite simply, this match will go down to the wire until the last half hour of the day, and if New Zealand has wickets in the shed at that point, they will go a long way to securing the draw.

McCullum shouldn’t go out to the crease today with the mindset of winning, he has to reign himself in and bat time.

Guptill’s test selection thoroughly deserved

Martin Guptill’s return to test cricket will, and should be watched with great interest during the upcoming English tour.

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Guptill has been absent from the test arena for the past couple of seasons.

The Blackcaps selectors have experimented with Hamish Rutherford, Peter Fulton, and Tom Latham as the top of the order.

All of those batsmen performed well, but Blackcaps coach Mike Hesson says that Guptill can cover a “variety” of batting positions in the test matches.

In his test career, Guptill has two centuries with a highest score of 189 and an average just under 30.

Being the leading run scorer in the Cricket World Cup was always going to begin conversations on Guptill’s return to test cricket, and the Blackcaps selectors haven’t waited on making a decision that some of Guptill’s critics would call a gamble.

While Guptill is clearly a much better batsman in ODI cricket, his career is still young in the test arena and this is an opportunity that the Blackcaps opener has never been in a better position to take advantage of.

CWC 15: Blackcaps on the verge of history

The Blackcaps will take to the field tomorrow with an entire nation behind them as they fight, once again, to win a Cricket World Cup semi final.

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It was in Auckland back in 1992 that New Zealand batted first and set a modest total against Pakistan, only to see their effort come to nothing as the visitors chased the runs down to advance to Melbourne, and eventually win the tournament that year.

Semi finals are something of a sore spot for the Blackcaps from an historical perspective, and if the pressure becomes too much, history will repeat itself very quickly.

South Africa is a side full of dangerous players in every position.

Led at the top by two superb opening batsmen in the form of Quinton de Kock and Hashim Amla, the strength with the bat goes through arguably the world crickets toughest middle order with AB de Villiers and JP Duminy, and the explosive talent of David Miller as well.

Miller is a batsmen who if allowed to settle could smash 100 runs in a handful of over’s on a ground as tiny as Eden Park.

On the bowling front is one of the games best pace bowlers, Dale Steyn,

Steyn’s brilliance is backed up by spin bowler Imran Tahir, one of the leading wicket takers in the world cup so far.

It isn’t as if the Blackcaps haven’t performed well against teams with some seriously good cricketers either.

Australia, Sri Lanka, and England for that matter were no mugs and players like David Warner, Kumar Sangakarra, and Eoin Morgan don’t usually miss fire to often.

This Blackcaps unit hasn’t fluked their way to a semi final at this world cup – they have got there through some brilliant cricket especially with the ball.

The news of Adam Milne’s tournament-ending injury is a big blow for the Blackcaps in terms of a pace standpoint, a factor that could well have undone the likes of AB de Villiers early on.

Wether it is Mitchell McClenaghan or Matt Henry, the replacement for Milne goes into Eden Park with the ability to be just as potent with the white ball.

Runs will come easily at such a small ground with such powerful batsmen on both sides, but as the game against Australia proved for the Blackcaps, with strong bowling even the most powerful of batting line ups can be torn apart in good batting conditions.

How will Daniel Vettori go in what will likely be his last home game for his country?

Brendon McCullum as captain has been brilliant in the last month, but he needs to play an extremely mature role with the bat in this match, regardless of if the Blackcaps bat first or are chasing.

Martin Guptill averages 11 against South Africa, but traditionally performs well at Eden Park.

Based on form, Blackcaps should win and win well.

South Africa have been the talk of the tournament both prior to its beginning and during, but they have stumbled their way to the playoffs before easily taking care of Sri Lanka in the quarters.

But with such an explosive batting and bowling line up with amazing consistency, South Africa in the minds of many are still favourites in this semi final, despite the level of expectation that a packed Eden Park will give to the Blackcaps.

History is meant to be re written, and for both sides tomorrow is opportunity to do so.

But this is the time for the Blackcaps, it has to be now.

CWC 15: Southee brilliance as England implode in Wellington

The Blackcaps have pulled off one of the most dominant performances in CWC history after annihilating England this afternoon in Wellington.

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In a total collapse, England were rolled for just 123 after Tim Southee took career best figures of 7/33.

Not only career best figures, but Southee’s effort with the ball broke another record – the best figures for a New Zealand bowler in ODI cricket.

Middle order Joe Root was the only batsmen to really put up a fight with a score of 46 while the rest of the team proceeded to fall around him.

England captain Eoin Morgan managed to hang around at the crease for a while before getting dismissed for 17 off the bowling of Daniel Vettori.

In the run chase, Brendon McCullum bashed the fastest international half century for a Blackcaps batsmen in ODI cricket.

McCullum smashed eight 4’s and seven 6’s in his knock of 77 which featured a strike rate of over 300 to get New Zealand comfortably on track for victory as the evening break approached.

After McCullum’s dismissal, the crowd boo’d loudly as the umpires signalled the evening break despite the Blackcaps needing just 11 runs for victory.

When play resumed, Martin Guptill was dismissed on 22 as Chris Woakes snuck the ball through to the stumps.

The Blackcaps cruised to an easy 8 wicket victory and are arguably the form team so far at CWC.

CWC 15: Blackcaps down Sri Lanka in opener

The Blackcaps have started their much talked about CWC campaign with a win against Sri Lanka in Christchurch.

All batsmen for the Blackcaps put in respectable efforts and solid totals with the bat but none managed to go on to reach the three figure mark during the process of building a mammoth total.

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Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill got the Blackcaps off to a rocketing start in bowler-friendly conditions.

McCullum smashed three boundaries in as many balls to open his CWC account.

Guptill looked solid, settling himself into his work in usual cautious fashion.

McCullum raced to a half century and as the Blackcaps quickly reached 100 runs for no loss, Sri Lanka went to a familiar opponent for New Zealand in the form of spinner Rangana Herath.

McCullum tried to hit Herath for six down the ground but just held out on the boundary to Jeevan Mendis, departing for a quick fire 65.

Guptill hung around for a while longer before edging to Sangakarra on 49.

Kane Williamson looked nervous and out of shape at the crease for the early part of his innings.

But once Williamson found the fence a couple of times, fortunes quickly changed and suddenly Williamson got the run rate up again and powered past 50 runs.

All batsmen put in healthy contributions apart from Ross Taylor.

Grant Elliot chipped in with 29 and Luke Ronchi finished on 29.

Corey Anderson was the story for the Blackcaps though, batting the side out of a potentially disappointing sub par score situation after all the work at the top of the innings.

Once Anderson neared 50, the middle order power hitter put the foot down in the last period of the innings to bat the Blackcaps past 300, ending with 75 before going out on the last ball of the innings.

The Blackcaps finished on a commanding 331 at Hagley Oval.

Sri Lanka batted aggressively in the reply as Lahiru Thirimanne and Tillakaratne Dilshan put on 67 for the first wicket before Daniel Vettori fooled Dilshan in the air for an easy caught and bowled.

Thirimanne battled on, reaching his half century as the partnership with Kumar Sangakarra built.

As the halfway point in the run chase neared, Sri Lanka looked more and more composed, and really looked capable of mounting a series challenge on the target.

But suddenly Trent Boult broke the shackles with a yorker to Thirimanne, sending the wickets out of the ground and breaking the threatening partnership.

Sri Lanka’s champion pairing of Mahela Jayawardene and Kumar Sangakarra were now at the crease together with a further 200 runs required.

Vettori struck again quickly, nicking Jayawardene through to Ronchi for a duck.

This firmly put the Blackcaps on top.

Sri Lankan hearts were broken when Trent Boult delivered another terrific yorker, trapping Sangakarra in front to be given out LBW as replays showed the bat hadn’t made contact with the ball.

Adam Milne took a further two wickets as Sri Lanka capitulated under the growing pressure of the run rate.

Sri Lankan captain Angelo Mathews batted defiantly as the match drew further and further out of reach, putting together a solid 46 before losing his wicket to the bowling of Tim Southee.

Corey Anderson had the final say, getting Herath out, to hand the Blackcaps a comprehensive victory by 98 runs at Hagley Oval.

Aggressive approach needed for Tom Latham as opener

With Brendon McCullum likely to sit out the final ODI against Sri Lanka, Tom Latham is set to get his shot opening the batting alongside Martin Guptill.

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In the test arena, Latham did well opening the batting for the Blackcaps but is yet to prove that he has the stocks to do the same in the shorter form of the game.

With all the conjecture surrounding Martin Guptill at the moment, Latham is going to need to find his runs a lot quicker than he has so far while batting further down the order in this series and his scores haven’t been all that much to write home about.

Latham has mostly batted around the singles with a few boundaries here and there, but a role at the top of the order alongside the typically slow to start Martin Guptill will dictate that Latham needs to come out of the blocks aggressive.

What the Blackcaps don’t need at the top of the order is two batsmen who take 20 balls to find the boundary.

McCullum was always going to be rested at some point during this series.

From the moment Latham was selected in the World Cup squad the possibility of an experiment at the top of the order was always high.

But with just three games to go until the tournament begins, the Blackcaps must field their A side, the side that they intend to go into the World Cup with no later than the second game of the Pakistan series in Napier next week.

Latham won’t open the batting in the opening World Cup game against Sri Lanka on February 14th.

Daniel Vettori also hinted yesterday that the Blackcaps will go into Wellington with two spinners in the starting lineup, with Vettori likely to bat at No.7.

Feared Blackcaps vulnerability shows itself

The Blackcaps were rolled by Sri Lanka in a shocker this afternoon, but despite what happened in Hamilton today cricket fans need to keep a few things in mind.

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Brendon McCullum continued his amazing run of form with the bat, smashing 117 and in the process set the Blackcaps up for a mammoth score in perfect batting conditions at Hamilton’s Seddon Park.

But as many have feared, the vulnerability of the Blackcaps middle order showed itself as the rest of the batsmen around McCullum came and went as soon as most fans could blink an eye.

A dull and boring 34 by the returning Ross Taylor was the only other shot a Blackcaps batsmen fired.

Taylor’s style is to get out of the blocks slow, feel the ball on the bat a bit, and then go hard late in his innings but one can’t help but feel that come World Cup time more aggression may need to be shown, especially if the Blackcaps find themselves with the platform already set and Taylor still at the crease as was the case today.

The rest of the side simply collapsed at Seddon Park where conditions were absolutely perfect for batting.

Four run-outs, three of which occurred in the space of ten balls, and a stumping made for some of the worst reading this Blackcaps ODI batting squad has put to press in several months.

A big surprise today saw Daniel Vettori batting at number five.

Surely Craig McMillan as batting coach placed Vettori there for no other reason than to give the spinner time at the crease, something Vettori has seen very little of in any cricket recently. But it didn’t work, Vettori luckily escaped an LBW decision that looked out in replays only to be run out on moments later.

Vettori and five doesn’t work. It won’t happen again.

Dangerous batsman and one of the best in the team form wise Luke Ronchi was run out without even facing a ball.

Martin Guptill also failed to get a decent score today.

After stroking two good shots to the boundary and showing some good positive intent, he held out in the field trying to hit the ball over the fielder riding the inner circle. Good intent but a soft dismissal and Guptill now heads into the next game under more pressure.

Tom Latham just pushed the ball around for a few singles before getting out, his first go at the crucial number three position failed today.

Perhaps it is worth giving him another go in that position as Williamson is still out for a couple more games.

The Blackcaps collapsing like they did and in the fashion that they did today made a real mockery of Brendon McCullum’s innings, and as the captain of the side, he more than anyone should be feeling quite disappointed this evening.

Matt Henry also bowled, out of the World Cup squad but still proving himself again but this time not only by taking wickets with the ball but also pitching in some runs with terrific stroke play using the bat.

It was a shocker today, but you’d rather it happened now than in the World Cup next month.

My Thoughts On Cricket’s Big Story

I’ve been relatively silent in expressing my opinions on the big cricket fixing issue that is floating around the news so far, but after reading a particular column by Chris Rattue of the NZ Herald this morning, it  has really gotten my blood boiling about the whole issue.

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I am torn, for many reasons actually. I want to say Lou Vincent is a cheat, but I also want to say that I feel sorry for him, because I know from personal experience that depression is indeed a real thing, and it is bloody tough to deal with as well.

So, for most of this piece I am going to chop and change my mind about things. But here are my views.

I believe that all three cheated. Chris Cairns, Daryl Tuffey, and Lou Vincent. I actually believe in my  heart of hearts that something isn’t quite right there. I am more suspicious of Vincent though, in fact I am almost sold on the fact that he is a cheat.

What makes this so difficult to digest is the fact that those three players were amongst the ones I followed most passionately when I was a kid.

Cairns was the big slogger, Tuffey took the early wickets, and Vincent was that unpredictable entity and you never really knew if he was going to have a good day at the crease or a terrible one.But I do believe that in some way shape or form, all of those men have cheated at some point. Vincent is a certain for me, but I am not so sure about the others, but I predict that they were involved in some sort of match fixing without doubt.

Bear in mind this is all my opinion, and in all honesty I don’t know all the facts, I am just going off on what I have read in the media.

There is no excuse for cheating in professional sport. I don’t care what code you play, where you come from, or how talented, or untalented you are. If you take money to perform badly while representing either your country, state, or even club side, you don’t deserve to play whichever game you are performing in.

But, at the end of the day, no one, not even Chris Rattue of the NZ Herald can question that Lou Vincent is a human being, and one for all accounts who has gone through a real shit ass time throughout his life battling depression. I have been there, when you are depressed there is no color to life, even those awesome things that you love and are passionate about don’t seem to take that darkness away, nothing does, only time can and it is a long, painful process full of restarts, fall downs, and light being taken away just before the end of the tunnel. Vincent has been on a long journey from what I can gather, and I wonder if Chris Rattue stopped to think about what his words would do to the already damaged mental state of Vincent, a man who above all else, wants to be liked and accepted, and somebody who has already lost countless amounts of people in his life due to his battles with depression.

I mean seriously, who the hell names a column which ends with “this cheat deserves jail”.

But, and this is where I agree with the NZ Herald columnist, even something as serious as depression is not an excuse for cheating. If Vincent did indeed cheat, he does deserve all the hate he will get.

And then, if it wasn’t bad enough, now the Brendon McCullum story has hit the media today. McCullum, the captain of the Blackcaps, says he was approached by a “cricket legend” and offered $200,000 to fix a match, or a series of matches. McCullum was approached during the 2008 English tour, when he says some of “international crickets big boys” made the offer. The batting superstar was also approached during the IPL. McCullum denies taking up on the offer, and I don’t for one second believe that he did, but it just seems weird to me that the last line of the Herald article this afternoon reads “I found it really difficult to say no”, a direct quote from McCullum himself.

This will be a story that will no doubt frustrate me immensely. But for now, I have a ton of homework to do.

Regards,

Mike