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: 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.

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

Predictions For Blackcaps vs India ODI Series

When I got home from the HRV Cup final last night, I hit the pillow knowing that the next day would see the main event of our cricket summer finally get underway.

In just over an hour, the Blackcaps kick off their ODI Series against world champions India, and while many will think that the 5-match series could be a walkover, to me there is a lot of reason to be hopeful at least about the chances of our national team.

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The problem for the Blackcaps is consistency, hasn’t it always been that way?

They failed to close out the ODI Series against West Indies, but came back and dominated much of the T20 Series, and let’s not forget about the performance in the Test Series a few weeks earlier.

Martin Guptill needs more consistency, but he hits the ball so cleanly during all his hit outs at the crease. I think he is not far off a big ton, perhaps multiple tons in this Indian series. Jesse Ryder is in typical Ryder form, hit the ball long or get out, I think he should stay just there for now, but let’s be honest most of the batting lineup for our Blackcaps needs to be more balanced, and perform well on a more regular basis. I don’t want to sound like I am negative because I really feel that we have a chance in this series, but India are a whole different animal than the lackluster West Indians were.

How good was it to see Luke Ronchi get up and put on back to back good innings with the bat? He has no justified his selection which was questionable at best prior to the T20 series last week.

Despite so many class names not touring our shores, players like Laxman, Sewag, Tendulker, Yufraj, and more, this Indian side is still absolutely booming with hard hitting, match winning power. I am terrified of what the likes of Kohli and Raina will do when they bat, and Ishant can be deadly with the ball on his day, so the Blackcaps are certainly up against it but we always perform decently well at home.

In short, India are the unchallenged superstars of cricket. That is a huge mountain to try and climb.

Prediction?

I think the Blackcaps may just get up for this one, I am going with a series win 3 -2, India won’t start well in game 1 today, but look for a major comeback in games 2 and 3, before the Blackcaps win games 4 and 5.

Looking forward to it. Of course I am predicting that the boys in black will get up and win, I have to support my own country!

Regards,

Mike