Heroes fall at last hurdle with nation behind them

It wasn’t the result New Zealand was hoping for, but Michael Clarke and his Australian brothers paid the ultimate respect to Phillip Hughes in Melbourne by winning the Cricket World Cup.

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Australia beat the Blackcaps with ease.

It was a CWC final that broke the hearts of New Zealanders.

It was just a different performance than any other in the tournament from the Blackcaps, and it was the performance that the nation was dreading.

The Blackcaps won the toss and chose to bat first.

Mitch Starc’s wicket of Blackcaps captain Brendon McCullum in the first over set the tone for what would go on to be a dominate performance by Australia.

Nothing went right for the batsmen, and when Grant Elliot failed to rescue the innings, New Zealand were doomed to finish on a total that never felt near the desired mark.

Trent Boult again showed his class as arguably the best bowler in the world with an early wicket of Aaron Finch to give New Zealand a small ray of hope.

But lets be honest New Zealand – the Blackcaps were never in the contest.

Sitting in front of the television screens would have been a painful experience for the Blackcaps loyal, but what needs to be taken away from this is just how well our cricketers did to make it to that stage in the first place.

Brendon McCullum said quite famously “this is the time of our lives”.

It wasn’t only the time of his life, but the time of our cricketing lives also, something that has been said a lot in the last week.

This is the possibly the best Blackcaps side you will ever see.

The entertainment and excitement that the two games at Eden Park and Wellington gave to cricket fans is more than enough to warrant what has been not only our best World Cup on the field, but the most exciting for the public.

Winning in Melbourne against Australia was always going to be one hell of a task.

The Blackcaps may not have won this tournament, but they have captured the love and hearts of an entire nation on a level never before seen for cricket in New Zealand.

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: Big Sri Lankan challenge awaits Australia

Australia is still a side looked at as big CWC contenders despite a tight squeeze in Pool A heading towards the finals.

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The Australian media slammed the performance of the side following their batting collapse and eventual narrow lose to New Zealand last Saturday.

Despite Australia’s bounce back coming against an associate nation, Australia returned to their dominant best yesterday against the U.A.E in Perth.

Posting 417 batting first, Australia never looked anything but certain and thumped the U.A.E by a record 275-runs.

Warner blasted 178, before Glenn Maxwell bashed 88.

Mitchell Johnson took 4 wickets with the ball, pace bowlers Josh Hazlewood and Mitch Starc joined with two wickets each.

Shane Watson has been dropped from the side for the returning power of James Faulkner, though Faulkner failed to deliver in his first match back.

Australia currently sit third in Pool A, and if they beat Sri Lanka on Sunday, will qualify for the quarter finals, where they could play South Africa, and if successful in that bout, a potential rematch with New Zealand back at Eden Park.

Sri Lanka are fresh off a dominant victory over England in Wellington last Sunday.

Sunday’s clash against Sri Lanka will be crucial for the Australian’s to win and win well.

CWC 15: Emotion for the ages

Yesterdays Cricket World Cup bout between Australia and New Zealand was one for the ages.

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A packed out Eden Park was brought to its knees after the Blackcaps almost lost what looked to be an easy victory after Trent Boult ripped through Australia’s batting lineup with figures of 5/27.

Brad Haddin was the top scorer for Australia, ending on 43 as Australia collapsed to be all out for 151.

Wether it was poor batting from both sides or some remarkable bowling, Australia clawed themselves out from the clutches of defeat in an over from hell for the Blackcaps.

Mitchell Starc took two wickets in a row and left the Blackcaps needing a further six for victory with just a wicket to spare.

Starc was unable to break through Trent Boult in two attempts.

The next over, Kane Williamson smashed a six down the ground to win the most emotional match of the Cricket World Cup so far.

The biggest concern for both Australia and New Zealand will be how quickly they collapsed with the bat on such a perfect batting deck.

It was always going to be an historical match, but the  February 28th showdown between Australia and New Zealand at Eden Park will go down as one of the most intense, emotional and shocking matches in CWC history.

The latest update from NZ Cricket is that Brendon McCullum’s arm injury is in the all clear – a positive for Blackcaps fans.

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.

Ireland add more misery to West Indies Cricket

It didn’t take Ireland long to cause an upset at the Cricket World Cup as the green machine stuffed out the West Indies by a comfortable margin of 4 wickets this afternoon.

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It wasn’t as if Ireland chased down a mediocre score to win either.

The West Indies set a total of 304, and the Irish chased it down with relative ease.

The West Indies were in trouble early, but like other teams have shown already at this CWC, managed to use a couple of batsmen to work their way to a good strong total.

Ireland in their reply batted what could be called almost the perfect run chase.

All the batsmen put in solid scores, including a brilliant knock of 92 by opener Paul Stirling in an effort which saw Ireland heading towards a potential at the midway point.

A well balanced 84 by Ed Joyce anchored the Irish towards a convincing victory.

Middle order batsmen Niall Anderson smashed the ball to all areas of Nelson’s Saxton Oval, ending on an beaten 74.

The West Indies have been poor right through their CWC buildup, and their opening performance in the tournament proper wasn’t any better.

Ireland beat one more big time cricketing outfit and are surely now one step closer to being serious contenders to a top tier cricketing nation.

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.

CWC 2015: All in readiness

On the eve of the Cricket World Cup, a nation waits with patience and expectation.

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Form is on the Blackcaps side heading into tomorrow’s CWC opener in Christchurch, but with that said, the results so far this summer mean absolutely nothing either.

The Blackcaps are seen as one of the potential World Cup winners this year, something that hasn’t been said all that often in past tournaments with as much conviction.

Last night, New Zealand Prime Minister John Key said “go well boys go well” passionately during the opening ceremony.

New Zealand as a country are behind the Blackcaps.

On form, good performances with both bat and ball have been more consistent than ever. New Zealand opener Martin Guptill has been improving innings after innings, and the form of Kane Williamson who bats at the crucial number three role is in career best.

Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor will both deliver with the bat, and the middle order is suited nicely with Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi, both of whom batted well in the recent series prior to the CWC.

Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Adam Milne, Mitchell Mcclenaghan, and to a lesser extent Kyle Mills are all in form with the ball and can deliver wickets against any team.

Quite simply, this is a Blackcaps side that comes into the CWC in red hot form – capable of capturing the trophy.

Sri Lanka are a tough one first up. The side has been in New Zealand for the better part of a couple of months, and despite losing the recent series, signs were there that Sri Lanka may be the sub continent side that is most capable of performing well in foreign conditions.

Sri Lanka possess four main threats with the bat in the form of Dilshan, Jayawardene, Sangakarra, and Matthews.

There is also a deadly option with the ball in the form of Lasith Malinga.

The tagline is “greatness is contagious”, but the question remains of if the Blackcaps will be able to deliver that greatness right throughout cricket’s showcase tournament.

Malinga could destroy Blackcaps in cup opener

Brendon McCullum and his men will face one of their biggest CWC challenges immediately as Sri Lanka confirm the return of deadly bowler Lasith Malinga.

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Arguably, Malinga is one of the hardest bowlers for batsmen to play against in world cricket.

At the death and the top of the innings, Malinga is almost impossible to build a decent run rate against and in this forms what will be one of the biggest challenges that the Blackcaps batsmen will face throughout the Cricket World Cup.

Malinga could be the bowler that ruins the party surrounding the World Cup by ripping through the Blackcaps batsmen in game one.

The threat will be present no matter where the Blackcaps are in their innings.

Blackcaps bowlers must take consistent wickets. For the batsmen, chasing a total over 300 will be tough against a side that possesses Lasith Malinga as part of their attack, even if the conditions are perfect for batting.

The Blackcaps showed good mental headspace with the bat during the recent series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan, but the question of how they will approach a bowler like Malinga is difficult to answer.

A batsmen like Martin Guptill and his frequent indecision early on at the crease is perfect for Malinga.

Sri Lanka would be encouraged to use him at the beginning of an innings, not just at the depth.

The Blackcaps batsmen have to bat without fear, take risks, and back themselves to find gaps in the field because Lasith Malinga has the potential to rip his way through the batting lineup at a moments notice.

Thoughts to take away from Blackcaps loss

Despite the loss, many positives can be taken from yesterdays performance out on the park against Sri Lanka.

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Luke Ronchi proved once again that he is the man to bat in the crucial No.7 spot for the Blackcaps.

Despite not staying in as long as he needed to, Corey Anderson appears to be getting more and more comfortable as an allrounder batsmen who is expected to bat the Blackcaps out of match-losing situations.

Grant Elliot looked steady but eventually fell to a trap set by the Sri Lankans.

Disappointingly, Elliot lost his wicket playing the encouraged high cut shot that that Sri Lankan bowlers were wanting.

Perhaps most pleasing for Blackcaps fans however was the long awaited good performance with the bat by Daniel Vettori last night in Wellington.

His style has never been pleasing on the eye, but the boundaries were found with some beautiful timing of the shots and brave but controlled walking across the wickets.

While it would be a stretch to say Vettori is back in form with both the ball or the bat, the performance given the situation of the Blackcaps run chase was encouraging.

Vettori didn’t need to play the aggressive role batting alongside Ronchi, but chose to take it to the Sri Lankan bowlers anyway, the sign of a batsmen with experience and confidence about his game despite what recent results would suggest.

Vettori does need to start taking wickets however, his form with the ball since returning to the Blackcaps has been sub par at best.

However, major concern needs to be had surrounding the form of Martin Guptill.

Guptill’s golden duck was his second of the series, and barring his performance at Eden Park, Guptill has looked like a batsmen who doesn’t have his bearings out in the middle.

Replays using hotspot clearly showed an inside edge, either from the ball or a brush against the pad, but Guptill didn’t review and looked to be perplexed about what had just happened.

Guptill does hold the record for the Blackcaps highest ever ODI score of 189 not out against England, but that isn’t now and it certainly doesn’t appear to be helping the cause with his current form.

Guptill now heads into the Pakistan series under some serious pressure to perform, and perform he must.