World Cup: Rain threat looms as Kiwis take on Sri Lanka in bid for semifinal spot

Kane & Co will be hopeful that rain will stay away when they face Sri Lanka in a crucial tie in Bengaluru on Thursday
New Zealand players during a practice session in Bengaluru on Wednesday (Photos | Vinod Kumar T)
New Zealand players during a practice session in Bengaluru on Wednesday (Photos | Vinod Kumar T)

BENGALURU: As they took to the Chinnaswamy Stadium turf on Wednesday, for one final practice session before their all-important World Cup game against Sri Lanka, at least some of New Zealand's players must have been wondering how it all boiled down to this.

After starting with four wins from four games, the Kiwis would no doubt have expected to be much more certain of their future in the tournament at this stage. Yet here they are, needing a win by as much as they can, at the mercy of a number of factors, the most important of which is Bengaluru's weather.

The weather is often the last thing visitors to the Garden City complain about, yet that would have been the biggest gripe of the Kiwis’ week here. Against Pakistan, they were sitting pretty after putting in excess of four hundred on the board in the first innings. Then the rain came and Pakistan only had to play an average T20 innings to take home the points — 140-odd from 20 overs (the par DLS score at that point) would have been nothing special in an IPL game at this ground.

A win for Sri Lanka will help them secure a spot in the 2025 ICC Champions Trophy
A win for Sri Lanka will help them secure a spot in the 2025 ICC Champions Trophy

On Thursday, rain once again stands in their way, arguably posing more of a challenge than the Lankans who have looked worse and worse as the tournament has progressed. There has not been a day in the past week where Bengaluru has not seen rain. The last two days have witnessed sustained spells. The forecasters believe there is more than a 70 per cent chance of rain on Thursday. A washout here will mean that a win for Pakistan against England will take them to the semifinals. As inadequate as New Zealand's recent bowling performances have been, no team deserves to go out of the World Cup after having two games affected by rain.

"We did start off well in terms of those results, but there were also some really close games and ones that we lost," captain Kane Williamson said on the eve of the match. "I think if we look at the cricket as a whole, there has been a lot of good cricket. We've seen a lot of teams here playing really good cricket and coming into it, we knew that anybody can beat anybody and we've certainly seen that. There's been so many, every team's won a few. And so, yeah, I mean, it's just trying to focus on our cricket and try to put out better performances."

"There's lots of things that we can't control and the weather is one of those," he added. "There may be a thought in the back of your mind, but at the end of the day, our focus will be on the cricket that we want to play and trying to put all our focus and energy into that."

The one thing that will work in New Zealand's favour is that they finally have a full-strength squad to choose from, after spending half the tournament with key players injured. 'Fittish' was how Williamson described his players on Wednesday. Given that the man himself was 'fittish' before his brilliant knock of 95 against Pakistan, the Kiwis will take that.

Sri Lanka will not be completely devoid of motivation. Englands' win over the Netherlands on Wednesday means that they will need a win to secure their spot in the 2025 ICC Champions Trophy. However, there has been little in their last couple of games to suggest that they are capable of one. In a perfect world, the Kiwis would have been overwhelming favourites to get a huge win and qualify for the semifinal. But then, this has not been that kind of a tournament for New Zealand.

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