What do New Zealand need to do to be taken seriously as a possible Cricket World Cup winner? Or to put it another way: why are New Zealand still available at odds of 10.0 with Betway when they were only 13.0 at the start of the tournament? You would never have suspected they were unbeaten and…top of the table.
You can only beat those you play
When the World Cup fixtures came out, it was no secret that New Zealand had the easiest opening three matches. Games first up against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan is a set of matches as easy as you could have been given. But here’s the thing: you can only beat the sides you’re up against. And beat them they did.
There was admittedly a bit of an unnecessary wobble against Bangladesh that needed the cool head of Mitchell Santner to get them over the line but it was no more than a hiccup and with the run rate never the issue, it was just a case of not getting bowled out.
Of the three, Bangladesh are the ones more like to cause the bigger teams problems. Just look at what happened when they played South Africa. It helps when you have the tournament’s top batsman so far in Shakib Al-Hasan but they have other weapons beyond the number 1 ranked ODI all-rounder.
So it’s all well and good assuming that the likes of India, England and Australia are going to beat those three. But what if they don’t? Especially if…
The weather can take it out of your hands
New Zealand are nothing if not lucky. They enjoyed fair weather that allowed them to get full games in against the sides they were expected to beat and must have been pretty thankful when the rain came ahead of their game against India. India, the second-favourites to go all the way, India the hot favourites to beat them in that match.
If the weather improves, the smart money is on Virat Kohli and co beating everyone bar maybe England. Their obvious rivals for a Top 4 finish are Australia (who already lost to India), Pakistan and the West Indies. Whereas those three are highly likely to lose to the 2011 World Champions, New Zealand walked away with a point.
With the weather playing in its part in the tournament so far, it could well be that two wins from their remaining five matches is more than enough to secure a Top 4 spot and a semi-final place. Three wins could be enough for them to win the group stages and play the supposedly weaker fourth-placed side.What odds would they be to beat say…Australia…in that semi? Outsiders, yes. But not that much in it.
Right, so they’ve got those three wins on the board, got somewhat lucky that their tough game against India was rained off and are looking good for a semi-final spot. Their chances would be further increased if they beat an out-of-sorts South Africa next, played on the June 19. They’re 1.72 favourites for that one with Betfair Sportsbook and that looks a good price.
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There’s a long way to go at the moment so not yet worth speculating too much about who they might play then but we’ll have to assume it’s likely to be one of England, India or Australia. So the question is: how good are they?
But is their team good enough to be a Cricket World Cup winner?
You can read Betting Maestro’s detailed pre-tournament team guide of the Black Caps here but nothing we’ve seen so far this tournament changes our mind about their strengths and weaknesses.
Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor are world-class batsmen. Perhaps only England- with Joe Root and Eoin Morgan have players as reliable batting at three and four.
Martin Guptill can be a bit inconsistent in the sense that his innings have a tendency to be ‘feast or famine’ but a career average of 43 and 16 centuries suggest just that: when he does get in, he often capitalises.
Mitchell Santner is in many ways the millennial version of Dan Vettori: bowls, bats at eight, fields well and has a fine cricketing brain. By no means quite as effective as a spinner but a fine multi-dimensional player to have in your team.
Trent Boult is one of the top three or four white-ball fast bowlers in the world. His three wickets from three matches isn’t a great return by his standards but New Zealand won’t be too fussed about him contending for top bowler honours if he carries on boasting an economy rate of 4.2 an over.
Lockie Ferguson has been even better. Eight wickets at a better economy rate of 3.88 is an excellent return from one of the game’s more under-rated players. Matt Henry, often the forgotten man of New Zealand cricket has seven wickets but has been considerably more expensive. Still, raw pace at the top of the innings is an invaluable asset and a few runs will be worth it f he carries on taking wickets.
However, we’ll have to see whether the three pacemen can carry on being that successful when they come up against the likes of David Warner, Joe Root and Jos Buttler.
Tom Latham isn’t in the same class as Buttler, Quinton de Kock or MS Dhoni when it comes to wicket-keepers able to make a huge impact with the bat but he’s ok as well.
It’s the other three that are perhaps the problem and why New Zealand are the price they are. When Colin Munro gets a big score it’s generally met with surprise rather than being expected, a less refined technique often letting him down.
Have they got their team selection right?
But New Zealand’s biggest problem might be that they’ve got their team selection wrong. Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme are a bit too similar. They bat at six and seven respectively, bowl at a similar pace and tend to get their runs in boundaries. You can see that the Black Caps see them as a safety net because either of them can come off with bat or ball but the gutsier option would be to play Ish Sodhi instead of one of them, presumably de Grandhomme.
But no ODI team is perfect and no side has been a Cricket World Cup winner without having at least one weak link somewhere. By backing them now you’re essentially asking yourself the question: can they beat one of the Big 3 in a semi? Can they do it all over again in the final?
They’ve never done it before but then again, there’s a first time for everything.