Adelaide: New Zealand captain Kane Williamson said on Thursday he was staying patient and working to hit top gear as the Black Caps look to clinch a Twenty20 World Cup semi-final berth against Ireland.
New Zealand are in pole position on net run rate in Group 1 but level on points with England and Australia with one game remaining, meaning victory against Ireland in Adelaide should guarantee a semi-final spot.
Williamson is one of the world’s leading batsmen in Test cricket, but has often struggled with the demands of the shorter format where he bats at the key No 3 position.
Struggle to convert
He has struggled to convert starts into bigger scores or to accelerate, with his strike rate at a modest 122.51 runs per 100 balls.
He was at the crease for almost 13 overs, taking 40 balls and 57 minutes to make 40 on Tuesday as New Zealand failed to chase down 180 to beat England.
“You’re always wanting to get better, and cricket is a pretty fickle game by its nature,” Williamson told reporters.
“You sort of do go through different periods where there’s better rhythm and then other times where you’re working harder and you’re trying to make sure that you’re making a valuable contribution.
“So that’s the focus… and staying a little bit patient with it, as well. The game forever challenges us.”
Williamson’s 23 in 23 balls in his team’s opening win against hosts Australia contrasted with teammate Devon Conway’s 92 off 58 balls as New Zealand smacked 200 in their 20 overs.
He scratched around for eight off 13 balls in the previous match against Sri Lanka.
“With the bat, there’s a number of, I guess, phases or gears to go through,” he said.
“I definitely want to keep touching on those third and fourth gears where you are exploring some different areas of the ground.”
Other New Zealand batsmen have stepped up, with Glenn Phillips hitting 104 off 64 balls against Sri Lanka in Sydney to rescue the team from 15-3 and a 36-ball 62 against England in Brisbane.
“He’s been absolutely on fire in all facets of the game,” Williamson said of Phillips.
“That hundred that he got in Sydney on a difficult surface was exceptional, one of the best T20 knocks that I’ve seen, and he’s a real power dynamic player, and we see that in the field, as well.”
Ireland’s semi-final hopes are all but over but they would love to put in one final giant-killing act having already beaten the West Indies and England in the tournament.
Ireland pace bowler Josh Little said they were looking for nothing less than a win against New Zealand.
“I think if you just look at the tournament so far, you’ve seen upsets nearly every day or every second day, if you can even call them upsets any more,” he said.
“Everyone is pretty competitive. It’s a World Cup. Anything can happen. Yeah, we’re going out there fully confident and hoping to get a win tomorrow.”