Black Caps T20 World Cup hopes back in their hands
The Black Caps’ hopes are back in their own hands at the T20 World Cup.
New Zealand joined Pakistan as frontrunners to advance from their group into the semifinals after a thumping eight-wicket win over pre-tournament favourites India in Dubai on Monday morning (NZT).
The Black Caps came into the crunch clash knowing both teams’ title hopes were all-but on the line.
With the pressure on, against the star-studded pre-tournament favourites, New Zealand delivered in dominant fashion.
Much to the satisfaction of Black Caps captain Kane Williamson.
“Anytime you play India is always a very tough task, so really proud of our all-round performance.
“A lot of planning goes into it, but you still know you’re coming up against the best.”
New Zealand chased their modest target of 111 with more than five overs to spare.
But it was the Black Caps bowlers who most impressed coach Gary Stead.
“[It’s] up there with the best performance I’ve seen in my time from a T20 bowling team.
“To restrict a star-studded team like India to 110 is really special.”
Leading the way was Ish Sodhi, who celebrated his 29th birthday with a player of the match performance.
But the leg spinner was quick to deflect credit, making special mention of Daryl Mitchell, who’s 49 runs from 35 balls was the key factor in the successful chase.
“It was his second game opening the batting in Twenty20 professional cricket and he’s facing one of the best bowling attacks in the world, so that’s a huge testament to his character and the backing he’s receiving from our camp.
“That was never going to be an easy chase. They were always going to come out and be really aggressive with the ball, [so] the way that he played was definitely the icing on the cake.”
It was the third time in recent memory New Zealand had either ended, or dealt a sizeable blow, to Indian title aspirations.
And following on from that 2019 one-day World Cup semifinal – and this year’s World Test Championship final – this latest result had left plenty of questions from former players and millions of fans alike in the cricket-crazy country.
But Indian legends such as Virender Sehwag and VVS Laxman were also quick to credit the Black Caps, who could now reach the semis with wins over Scotland, Namibia and Afghanistan.
They would be favourites to win all three matches but Stead wasn’t writing off the minnows.
“One person can change the game in T20, and we certainly won’t be taking any team for granted.
“No doubt Afghanistan are a team that will upset other teams, as we saw with Pakistan. They nearly got over the line against them, and they’ve got some quality players.”
And potential complacency wasn’t the only reason the Black Caps needed to keep their foot on the gas.
The semifinal spots could still come down to net run-rate, and Stead said they would be keeping an eye on all the calculations.
“Net run-rate is always important and I know Afghanistan have got a big lead on everyone [in our group] at the moment.
“We just have to see how the next two games pan out and then how we’re placed before we face Afghanistan.
“But at the end of the day, if we win all three games it is in our own hands.”
The Black Caps stay in Dubai to continue that quest against Scotland on Wednesday.
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