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.

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.

Guptill shrugs off his own mind and bats well

If there was one story to come out of yesterdays rain-tarnished ODI in Auckland, it was Martin Guptill.

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Many are calling Guptill’s unbeaten knock of 66 a return to his form of old, others say that Guptill has “rediscovered his mojo”.

What Guptill did at Eden Park yesterday was bat with aggression, but he also did it with calm and with well thought out decision making at every turn.

To say Guptill had a clear mind out there would be pushing the envelope though.

At various times throughout his innings Guptill was very fidgety, he could be seen shaking himself off even when at the non strikers end.

But when it came time to take guard and watch the bowler run in towards him, Guptill put whatever was on his mind to one side and played one of his best innings for the Blackcaps in nearly a year.

The fidgeting, the shaking off, the deep breathes after each delivery faced, it was all a factor in this knock for mind.

Early on in the innings Guptill was walking across his crease and put himself at deep risk of LBW many times, and he was lucky not to chop the ball back onto his stumps on a couple of occasions.

Guptill has long been slammed by many in the media for his lack of production early on in his innings.

Yesterday on his home ground, Guptill was slow off the line again. But once Guptill kept that head down and smashed the ball for six on the onside, it was a different story altogether.

Guptill was proactive and quick to make decisions especially with his running between the wickets.

Going forward the challenge for Guptill will be consistency. He must perform this well away from Eden Park. In recent seasons some of Guptill’s best batting in the black jersey has been at his home ground of Eden, that must change heading into the World Cup.

The strike rate is good, because with Brendon McCullum likely to play the aggressive role throughout the World Cup at the top of the order, Guptill is going to have time to play himself in and get a feel for conditions, providing McCullum stays with him at the crease however.

But after ten to twenty deliveries, Guptill is going to have to show some aggression no matter the situation because the likes of Tom Latham, Kane Williamson, and especially Ross Taylor are all slow starters who like Guptill, have to work into their innings early on.

Guptill should be proud of himself today though.

Perhaps his clear intent to fidget around after each ball and shrug himself off is the key to forging together decent scores in his opening role.

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.

Adam Milne must perform in series opener

With the Sri Lankan ODI series beginning tomorrow, so also begins the final test for the Blackcaps ahead of the ICC Cricket World Cup.

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Sri Lanka welcome back two star batsmen in the form of Tillekaratne Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene, and threatening allrounder Thisara Perera also returns to the side and all will take to the field tomorrow at Hagley Oval in Christchurch.

Ross Taylor and Tim Southee miss out for the Blackcaps while Grant Elliot gets his first ODI appearance in 14 months.

As the 7-match ODI series begins, it is important that the Blackcaps carry over their winning form from the recent test series and more runs for Brendon McCullum, who is likely to return to the opening batting role tomorrow, will be at the height of fans wishes.

It is important that Martin Guptill also fires backing up from good form in the Ford Trophy.

Adam Milne will also get a chance to sway growing opinion around the country that his place in the squad isn’t as deserving as that of snubbed Matt Henry. Stats clearly show that Henry has taken plenty more wickets in far fewer games than Milne, so it is crucial that Milne finds a few Sri Lankan wickets right from the get go.

Both Daniel Vettori and Nathan McCullum will play tomorrow also as the Blackcaps field 3 potential spinning options also including vice captain Kane Williamson.

While it would be forgivable, a loss isn’t what the Blackcaps need just as the New Zealand public is beginning to really get behind them.

Rotation is going to happen a lot in this series, the coaches want each player to get as much game time as possible prior to the World Cup, but whatever the results from the opening few games of this series it is crucial that the little things are done well.

The Blackcaps also need to remember that whichever way Sri Lanka perform in this ODI series should in no way be a screenshot for what their form will be come World Cup time either.

And so it begins, the final month of cricket before the big one.

Look for the Blackcap bowlers to target Dilshan at the top order as the series rolls on. It is imperative that Milne takes wickets in bunches this series, and the top five need to all put in significant runs in successive bats.

All Out For 60: A Stronger Resolve

Getting up this morning, checking the NZ Herald app on my iPhone, and reading that the Blackcaps had been bowled out for 60 runs was amongst one of the most deflating feelings I’ve had in a long time. In my life actually, not just in my passion for sport.

As Graham Henry said to waiting media in 2007 following the All Blacks RWC Quarter Final exit, “that’s sport I guess”.

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“That’s sport I guess”.

This is about all I can think of right now to shed any sort of positive light on what was a shocking result. But despite this, I am a more determined and loyal Blackcaps supporter than ever before.

Simply put, because I have to. I just want to give a congratulations to the Blackcaps for what they’ve achieved this summer. The feeling in the camp must be extremely sad, disappointing, perhaps even a little angry at the moment, but the Blackcaps are a champion side, summer 2014 proved that, and I guess that’s what you must hold on to at times like this. Bad days will come and go in sport, today that type of day arrived and arrived in the worst way, tomorrow the resolve and belief begins again.

On a more positive note, I get to play cricket on Thursday! Yes that is right, Don Bradman Cricket 14, arguably the best looking and feature packed cricket game ever made, arrives on PS3 and Xbox 360. I’ll have an unboxing on Youtube.

Regards,

Mike