ODI World Cup 2023: Kiwik Solution for New Zealand; Pak need a miracle
With the five-wicket against Sri Lanka, Blackcaps are almost assured of a place in the semis.
BENGALURU: It was always expected that New Zealand’s game against Sri Lanka at the Chinnaswamy Stadium here on Thursday would not go the entire hundred overs. In the end, it did not, but not for expected reasons. The rain stayed away but New Zealand showed up. Their comprehensive five-wicket victory over the Lankans means that they are now virtually guaranteed a spot in the final four barring Pakistan pulling off one of the biggest victories in ODI history against England.
New Zealand chased down their target of 172 in just 23.2, leaving Pakistan with a near-impossible task against England. To better the Kiwis net run rate, Pakistan will have to beat England by 287 runs or chase down a target in under three overs. The first scenario is not impossible given the manic urge with which Fakhar Zaman was scoring runs against New Zealand on Saturday. But it remains highly improbable.
Given how luck has betrayed them over the course of this tournament, the Kiwis did not leave anything to chance on Thursday. First, their bowlers dominated the Lankan batsmen, dismissing them for a paltry 171. Barring a brief spell when Kusal Perera smashed 51 from just 28 balls, the Lankans never looked to be in the contest.
Then, Rachin Ravindra and Devon Conway came out and put on a solid opening stand, scoring almost half the target in twelve overs. It was a memorable day once again for Ravindra as he overtook Sachin Tendulkar in the list of batsmen with most World Cup runs before 25. Ravindra also leads the batting charts in this tournament with 565 runs. The Kiwis did lose a few careless wickets trying to reach the finish line as fast as possible but at no juncture did it seem like a win was in question.
The New Zealand bowling performance was a clinical hit-job, the kind which India, their likely opponents in the semifinal, seem to have perfected in this World Cup. Tim Southee picked up a wicket in his very first over and the game’s second, inducing an edge from Pathum Nissanka that Tom Latham snapped up. He should have had a wicket in the previous ball but a similar edge from Perera was put down by Latham.
Then his strike partner Trent Boult came to the party, sending back three Lankan batsmen for single digits. When the danger Perera was caught off Lockie Ferguson by Mitchell Santner with the score at 70, the game looked done and dusted with three balls still left in the first powerplay. Sri Lanka’s lower order hung on till the very end of the innings but they were only prolonging the inevitable. Among them, Maheesh Theekshana looked assured while facing 91 balls for his 38.
The swift turnaround, from a bowling attack that was smashed to all corners of the same stadium by Pakistan less than a week ago, was remarkable. “It did feel like a different weekend, to be honest,” said Boult after the match. “It was a touch slower today. I think Mitchell Santner bowled 10 overs for 15 runs or something like that. That proved that it was a pretty tricky surface. But yeah, the difference with the other night was we came across a Pakistan side that was in a hurry really. It was an interesting game but we parked that, learned from it and I thought we put those learnings in place quite nicely this afternoon.”
The only possibility of the Lankans taking something from this match was the rain playing spoilsport again. This time though, that did not happen. The dark clouds that hung over the stadium when the match began had cleared by the time half the Lankan batsmen were back in the dugout. For once, the weather gods were on New Zealand’s side.