Dubai: Martin Guptill, the senior New Zealand opener, embodies their country’s work ethic on the field - low profile, team first and brilliant in execution. Not many would have known that the ongoing T20 World Cup is actually his 12th major ICC tournament in an international career spanning over as many years.
To start with, there was not much of a realistic possibility of the Kiwis being handed an upset by Scotland, languishing at the bottom of Group 2 in a game which they had to win upfront to stay in the hunt for a push at the semi-final spots. However, when a young seamer called Shafyan Sharif sent back opener Daryl Mitchell and the ever-reliable skipper Kane Williamson in back-to-back deliveries, Kiwis were placed awkwardly at 35/2.
Devon Conway, their wicketkeeper-batsman who had been the toast of New Zealand cricket this year, fell soon after in going for a reverse sweep and at halfway of the innings, the favourites looked on the backfoot. There was, however, no undue panic from the experienced Guptill, who gave a masterclass on how to build an innings on these UAE wickets while batting first.
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He ushered in his half-century with a six which soared for 102 metres to one of the longest boundaries of the ground. Suddenly, a century for him looked a possibility – which could have been the second one of this tournament after England’s Jos Buttler showed the way on an even slower Sharjah surface the other day. It didn’t quite come in the end but gave Kiwis the runs to play with – and made the difference in the end.
It was a remarably improved show by the underdogs, who began their Super-12 campaign on a disastrous note when they got leaden-footed against the Afghan spinners. They looked more determined this afternoon first with the ball in hand but they were a bit cavalier while chasing an over-par score.
Right from the impressive George Munsey, skipper Kyle Coetzer, Matthew Cross and Michael Leask – they showed the apetite to go for the big shots against world class bowlers. However, the absence of a leader in the batting unit who could anchor the innings was sorely missed in the end as wickets kept on falling in regular intervals.
Cross, in fact, took the breath away with his five delightfully struck boundaries in one over from Adam Milne and Scotland looked very much in the game as they were 48 for the loss of a wicket. Leask’s counterattack in the back-end of the innings was extraordinary with with the run-rate then far and beyond, the die was already cast.