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.

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.

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.

Players who were unlucky to miss Blackcaps CWC selection

With the World Cup looming large on the horizon, let’s take a look at some of the other potential Blackcaps selections that were unlucky to miss out and those who could still play at the tournament.

Matt Henry

In the eyes of nearly everybody, Matt Henry’s non World Cup selection was the biggest surprise.

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21 wickets in 8 matches, an average of 15, with an economy of just under 5 are bowling statistics that would warrant a selection in most cricket sides but Henry was outed presumably in favour of Adam Milne who is known for his speed with the ball in hand, and Kyle Mills who will be one of the most experienced heads in New Zealand’s squad for the World Cup.

Matt Henry has played on a couple of occasions during the ODI series against Sri Lanka and is poised to be the first call in if injuries hit the Blackcaps bowling stocks.

Jesse Ryder 

It was a case that had been pre determined, but the reason why Jesse Ryder chose to opt himself out of World Cup availability may not be down to personal issues as he first stated, but perhaps a niggling back injury which had become quite serious after an incident in the gym.

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Ryder shortly after pulled out of his commitments to BBL team the Melbourne Renegades but is currently back on the field playing for the Otago Volts in the Ford Trophy.

Ryder averages 33 in ODI cricket for the Blackcaps with an impressive strike rate of 95. Also, interesting point of note, Ryder averages a higher than ODI standard of 40 in Test Cricket and would have been the perfect replacement should Martin Guptill pick up an injury sometime over the summer.

Sadly though, Ryder brings just too much baggage to the game.

Anton Devcich

Some may say that Anton Devcich was unlucky to miss out on a place in the World Cup squad, but was outed most probably due to his lack of experience at international level more than anything else.

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Anton Devcich opened for the Blackcaps during the recent series against Pakistan in the UAE and proved to be a viable option at the top of the order, but his low average of just under 20 after a few decent goes with the bat may have been a factor in his selection being denied.

Plus with Brendon McCullum moving to the top of the order and other opening options such as Kane Williamson and Tom Latham available to fill that void, perhaps a better average when given a shot at the top level would have further pushed Devcich’s World Cup likelihood.

Dean Brownlie 

Dean Brownlie is the typical mid order batsmen that many would have had in mind, but his stats suggest that his failure to make the Blackcaps World Cup squad isn’t as surprising as you’d think.

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Granted Brownlie has only played 10 internationals, but a total of 203 runs in 9 turns at the crease isn’t the worst reading ever but it certainly isn’t the best either. Like many batsmen who play ODI cricket for the Blackcaps, their form in the shorter version of the game just isn’t as impressive as in Test Cricket, especially early in their careers, but the likes of Kane Williamson have proved that it takes a lot longer than 10 matches in one form of the game to find consistency in runs.

Like the case is with Matt Henry, the outed Dean Brownlie could well be one of the first to bring into the Blackcaps middle order if any of the batsmen were to suffer injury.

James Neesham 

The stats point in favour of the decision, but James Neesham looked to be a certainty for the Blackcaps World Cup effort prior to the official squad announcement.

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His results on the field pail in comparison to Grant Elliot who replaced him, but in terms of consistent selection, James Neesham was a regular in the Blackcaps throughout 2014 and appeared to be performing well, especially with the ball. 18 wickets in 16 matches, but the real issue for Neesham was with the bat.

Just 146 runs in 13 bats at the crease, including an experiment at the top of the order which was an utter failure.

Like with Brownlie, the performance of James Neesham with the bat was far better in test cricket than it ever was in the shorter form of the game.

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.

McClenaghan rips through Sri Lankan lineup as Blackcaps win

The Blackcaps have taken a 1-0 lead over Sri Lanka thanks large in part to Mitchell McClenaghan and Corey Anderson.

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After Sri Lanka surprised many by electing to bat first, Blackcaps bowlers performed well and restricted the dangerous Sri Lankan batting lineup to a pedestrian total of 218.

Mahela Jayawardene was the only real stand out batsmen for Sri Lanka.

Jayawardene showed his batting class once again with a superb score of 104 as the former Sri Lankan captain played many roles during his innings. Jayawardene was not only aggressive when needed, but he also took to some risky platform shots which sent the ball over behind the slip cordon and was also at times a big anchor to the innings as wickets were falling around him.

Adam Milne picked up 2 wickets while Mitchell McClenaghan put in one of his best performances as a bowler for the Blackcaps in ODI cricket, taking 4 wickets including a triple-wicket maiden over.

The run chase got off to a fiery start as Brendon McCullum smashed 51 off just 22 balls on his return to the top of the order.

With an RRPO of just 4 per over, McCullum’s quick run scoring came in handy later on in the innings as wickets quickly began to fall after his dismissal.

With the Blackcaps in a little trouble following a quick succession of wickets, Corey Anderson played arguably his most mature innings yet for the Blackcaps, scoring 81 and batting together with Nathan McCullum to bring the Blackcaps home to victory.

There are two main points of concern for the Blackcaps from this run chase.

Martin Guptill was dismissed on just his third delivery after playing so well for the Auckland Aces recently, and also Grant Elliott only managed a single run before being bowled as he tried to cut a ball that was too close to his body, he too coming off recent success in domestic cricket.

Not a brilliant performance with the bat undoubtably, and if Sri Lanka had have gotten perhaps 50 more runs this match could well have been a different story.

But the Blackcaps bowlers stood up today and as competition for spots in the bowling lineup in particular heats up, Mitchell McClenaghan will go to sleep tonight knowing he could have just staked his claim for preferential bowling choice in the World Cup.

Knights beat Central to equal top of the Georgie Pie ladder

The Northern Knights have bounced back after a disappointing result last match to comfortably beat the Central Stags by 25 runs in front of a strong crowd at Seddon Park in Hamilton.

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Ending with a total of 166, it was the highest score so far in the Georgie Pie Super Smash for the Knights who elected to bat first on a two paced deck which was predicted to turn late in the weekend.

Travis Birt proved why he is arguably the Knights’ most valuable re-signing this season, smashing a solid 68 while being the aggressive anchor for the batting effort throughout the innings after finding himself at the crease early.

Birt was helped by Dean Brownlie who put in one of his best innings yet in Knights colors.

The former Cantab batsmen got to 35 before being caught and bowled by Stags spinner Ajaz Patal.

There has been much talk about the Knights failing to capitalize on the opportunities for big scores with the bat so far in this campaign, but Daryl Mitchell helped Birt work the Knights to their tournament best 166 total, a score that was looking like a long lost hope at the halfway point in the innings as the Knights began to slump.

Mitchell kept his wicket secure, finishing with a very respectable 35.

But the strike rate was the more telling factor, 140 and Mitchell’s best in the Georgie Pie Super Smash thus far.

The Central Stags run chase looked unlikely from the get go, Mitchell Satner and Scott Kuggeleijn keeping the overs tight early on.

The Knights went with four spinners in the game with the turning pitch.

Satner, in his first outing in the Georgie Pie Super Smash, nabbed the wicket of George Worker, before Aussie import Ben Laughlin broke the hugely important Stags pairing of Jamie How and Kieran Noema-Barnett when Barnett held out in the field to Kuggeleijn to have the Stags sitting at 61/3 after 10 overs.

The final nail was put into the Central Stags coffin when captain Jamie How was dismissed by Ben Laughlin for a valiant 29.

Despite a defiant 34 by Stags wicketkeeper Kruger Van Wyk late in the innings, the Stags were never going to win.

The win sees the Knights in a strong position on the Georgie Pie Super Smash ladder, though there is still a lot of cricket remaining, including the sell out crowd waiting for the Knights down in Canterbury on Thursday afternoon.

The result also saw the strongest crowd attendance for the Super Smash so far.

Proteas bring best of the best to Bay Oval as Blackcaps summer begins

World Cup preparations continue for the Blackcaps as they begin their 2014/2015 campaign officially tomorrow in the opening match of the ANZ Series against South Africa.

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The lineup that the Proteas have brought over isn’t to be scoffed about either.

All the big names have touched down in New Zealand including Dale Steyn, Hashim Amla, JP Duminy, Vernon Philander, and of course their captain AB de Villiers.

Steyn and de Villiers are absolute world class cricketers, arguably the world’s best batsmen and bowler is in this side alone.

Whichever way you look at it, the Proteas are sporting a terrifically strong side in this series.

News out of the Blackcaps camp this morning was that Jimmy Neesham will open the batting for the Blackcaps with Martin Guptill. Daniel Vettori also makes his return to international cricket, finally, and TIm Southee will sit out the first ODI as Mike Hesson looks to rest his star bowler.

In what promises to be an interesting series, it is imperative that the Blackcaps just find their feet in this series.

If results don’t go the way of the Blackcaps, it will be an un ideal way to start the summer.

But there is simply just so much cricket ahead for all these players that a 2-1 series loss wouldn’t be the end of the world either. The NZ Public will jump on the bandwagon if a series victory were to occur, but even with such an exciting series to begin the summer, wins or losses won’t impact upon the World Cup chances for or against at this point in time.

Daniel Vettori’s performance should be the thing people watch, and his return to international cricket after all this time should see a pretty decent tune in tomorrow.

Northern Knights should keep heads high despite results

It was only a few days ago that the Northern Knights were the talk of the cricketing world, but now their Champions League campaign is over, but the side look back on the Champions League with fond memories.

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Three convincing wins in the qualifying round has led to a mediocre outing in the main Champions League draw, with just a single victory, and with the Hobart Hurricanes winning overnight, the Knights now cannot make the semi finals.

The last two games were shockers for the current HRV Cup champions, no denying that.

Given how well they played earlier in the tournament, the sudden loss of form and back-to-back heavy defeats were signs of panic in difficult situations as the likelihood of finals cricket drew nearer.

Before arriving in India, many wouldn’t have picked the Knights to go far at all, and this is something the players should keep in the back of their minds in the coming days.

The reality is they did go far, they did play well, and not reaching the semi finals, something that seemed entirely plausible a week ago, will sting this Knights side who suddenly will be feeling very deflated and more than a little disappointed.

Should cricket fans in New Zealand be disappointed?

Not entirely.

The Knights played better than many expected, and barring the last couple of results, the team should be very proud and delighted with the Champions League campaign.

Kane Williamson was stella with the bat, the fielding has been sharp and accurate, and the players that needed to stand up did.

This was a Champions League that the Knights should be happy with.