Birmingham: The New Zealanders are doing it again. Often the quiet achievers at Cricket World Cups, New Zealand can secure their eighth semi-final spot with a win against Pakistan at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
The unbeaten Black Caps have 11 points from six games, seventh-placed Pakistan have five points with an outside chance of advancing. A loss to the Kiwis will send them home early from England.
The two teams have history at the World Cup. Pakistan are hoping for a repeat of 1992 when they endured a poor start before going on to win the title after beating New Zealand in the semi-finals with future Prime Minister, Imran Khan, hitting 44.
Reaching the last four has become commonplace for the Kiwis with other semi-final appearances in 1975, 1979, 1999 (against Pakistan), 2007, 2011 and 2015. They finally broke a hoodoo last time around to advance for the first time to the final, but then lost to co-hosts Australia.
New Zealand coach Gary Stead is confident opening batsmen Martin Guptill and Colin Munro will rediscover their scoring touch as the tournament reaches the knockout phase.
Guptill and Munro, in full flight, provide New Zealand with an explosive start but the pair have struggled in England, with Kane Williamson (373 runs at 186.5) and Ross Taylor (200 at 50) responsible for the bulk of the side’s runs.
The right-handed Guptill, the only New Zealander to have scored an ODI double century, has been dismissed for two golden ducks and his 133 runs in five innings are mostly courtesy of 73 not out against Sri Lanka in their opening match.
The majority of Munro’s 113 runs also came in the 10-wicket victory over Dimuth Karunaratne’s side when he scored 58 not out in Cardiff as he and Guptill chased down the 137 needed for victory in 16.1 overs.
“In any team you will have times when people don’t score runs. That’s the game of cricket,” Stead said. “Martin and Colin have both done it for us on numerous occasions and I hope that their time will be the next game. If they come off it is going to make it easier for the likes for Kane and Rosco and the guys after them.”
While victory over Pakistan would confirm a spot in their eighth World Cup semi-final, Stead was wary of looking too far ahead and knows that while they top the table they could also finish outside the top four if things go against them.
“The team is in a good space,” he said, adding that tight wins over Bangladesh, South Africa and the West Indies would stand them in good stead.
“We have had three really close games and I guess that augurs well for when you get to finals time because you have been in those tight situations.
“We want to just keep playing the way we are at the moment.”
Catch the Match: Pakistan v New Zealand
Venue: Edgbaston, Birmingham
Start time: 1.30pm
Telecast: OSN Sports