Come the last match of New Zealand against Afghanistan, there were hopes of an upset win by Afghanistan over the Kiwis by 1.2 billion Indians. The Kiwis, however, put up a strong performance to brush aside any such possibilities and romp to yet another semi-final of an ICC event.
The New Zealand team showed professionalism after losing their first game to Pakistan in Sharjah to beat a strong Indian side in Dubai comprehensively and then won the other three games against Scotland, Namibia and Afghanistan. They had a tough schedule in the group to play three games in five days at three different venues - Dubai, Sharjah and Abu Dhabi in the afternoon heat on Sunday. Despite losing all three tosses, they were clinical in all their wins.
Their team has no so-called big names, barring their captain Kane Williamson and Trent Boult, but in every game one player or the other put their hands up to bail the team out. In the game against Scotland, Martin Guptill played an important knock of 93 when New Zealand were struggling at 52/3 to take them to 172 which was a match-winning total.
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Against Namibia, it was Glenn Phillips and James Neesham who hammered 67 runs in the last overs to take them to 167 and when it mattered the most, it was the calmness of their Williamson who ensured that there were no slip-up against Afghanistan when chasing a relative modest target.
New Zealand have been always the bridesmaid at an ICC event when they lost two back-to-back finals in 2015 to the Aussies and a heartbreaking Super Over loss to England in 2019. They, however, had some justice done to them when they pipped India to win the World Test Championship in June.
No one had given them a chance to make it to the semifinals of the T20 World Cup, but they quietly went about their business and made it to the last four of another ICC event and now face England - and who knows if they make it to another final on November 14.
What makes the New Zealand team so consistent at ICC events is that they don’t get bullied by an opposition and punch above their weight. Everytime, they turn up without making any noise.
- Cricket enthusiast Anis Sajan is the Vice-Chairman of Danube Group