The just concluded New- Zealand- Australia match was so outstanding that it is impossible to begin this post with anything else. Given the quality of the bowling and the exciting finish, I don’t see how it can be equaled even should these two sides meet again in the finals. Definitely, the match of the tournament.
There was an surprising similarity to the two innings we saw. Both sides started off guns blazing but then suffered a middle order collapse in the face of some inspired fast bowling. Boult took 5 for 27 for NZ and, later, Starc claimed 6 for 28 for Oz. For Australia, Brad Haddin engineered a spirited last minute stand which saw Australia to a total which proved to be just a tad too little. For New Zealand, Kane Williamson held his nerve and calmed down Trent Boult. And then what a finish as Williamson clubbed a six off Pat Cummins to win it for the Kiwis! Even the replays were exciting!!
When the ninth wicket fell, the camera focused on a young Kiwi fan in the stands; his hands went to his head and you could see the disbelief and despair on his face. Three balls later, Williamson deposited a ball from Cummins in the stands and the Kiwis had won a game they seemed destined to lose moments earlier. I wish the camera had been able to pick out the same boy in the jubilant crowd. It would have been wonderful to see his expression…
In the context of the entire tournament, the New Zealand victory does not change anything since both sides will definitely make it to the next round and almost certainly to the semifinals. However, it will further bolster the Black Caps confidence. The NZ teams of the past always played hard but came up short against the heavyweights. This team appeared to be more talented and possessed a self belief that fed off the heroics of their captain. The win over the Aussies will strengthen their conviction that they can not only play with the big boys but beat them. It is a feeling that they have even instilled in their fans. At one point, when McCullum was taking apart the Aussie pacemen, the crowd serenaded the Aussies with a chant of ” You’re worse than England!”, alluding to the Kiwis one-sided drubbing of England.
One of the things I love about the game of cricket is the sportsmanship of the players. When the last ball had been bowled and the teams were walking off the field, the Aussie players joined the crowd in applauding Kane Williamson. That really tells me a lot about them. The Aussies play hard, are arrogant and sledge opposing batsmen unmercifully, not infrequently crossing the line between acceptable and unacceptable. But, in that moment, when they had just suffered a heartbreaking loss, they were able to put their disappointment aside and clap for the man who had just struck the winning shot. A tip of the hat to you, men of Oz.
Two final thoughts about this match. 1) Should Australia have brought Michael Clarke into the team for such a crucial match? Would they have been better off leaving the team unchanged and bringing in Clarke for the last three round robin matches ? Secondly, and I say this as one who roots for NZ, are NZ too dependent on McCullum? I guess we will find out in the quarterfinals and beyond.
I saw the highlights of de Villiers unbeaten 162 against the West Indies and his knock was amazing for its aggressiveness, its sheer brutality. I know the West Indies pace attack isn’t great but this is the same attack that earlier demolished Pakistan. de Villiers was awesome. Roussow seems to be a good replacement for Duminy, as also Abbot for Philander. The emphatic nature of this win should do wonders for the team’s confidence which must have been badly battered by their loss to India. They are a powerful team , one of the big three along with Australia and New Zealand. The win also improved their Net RR, though I don’t think that matters; they are certain to qualify for the next round and, after that, it’s a whole new ball game.
Afghanistan’s victory over Scotland was thrilling and I’m very happy for them. Following the win, there were calls, pleas even, for them to be given a chance at an overseas tour. As commendable as their performance has been, I don’t see that it changes anything. The bottom line, unfortunately , is everything and fans will not come out to see a visiting Afghan side. Or a team from Scotland. Or a team from the UAE or Hong Kong. It’s too bad but the associates will have a hard time taking the next step.