July 28, 2020
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Pack Hunters

It's a side without superstars. In '92 they showed what team play and tactics can achieve. Now, they're back on the prowl .

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Pack Hunters

IN Group B, New Zealand’s chances depend on our ability to beat at least one of the three powerful candidates, West Indies, Pakistan and Australia. Like India, our draw is not unfavou-rable. We meet Bangladesh first up at Chelmsford— the Essex County ground of which I have some happy memories. The short straight   boundaries here allow pro fitable stroking down the g round. This match is already sold out; an encouraging sign for the Cup considering that neither side is really a fancied finalist .

Bangladesh toured New Zealand in November ’97, playing in a new first-class competition known as Conference Cricket. This comprised three regional selections, allowing the best 36 cricketers in New Zealand to compete among themselves and with Bangladesh. The latter didn’t make any impact at the time and I doubt if they can against the top sides in the World Cup.

New Zealand then meet the big three before a last group match against Scotland. My compatriots will be aware that at least one of the three has to be beaten. Which will it be? The Kiwis will be most happy if a win is possible against ‘big brother’ Australia, who they take on next at Card i ff. NZ will need to negotiate Glenn McGrath and then stay cool against Shane Wa rne. If these two are seen off with fig u res of 1-35 and 1-40 respectively, then we are in with a re a l chance. When bowling, the key is to separate Adam Gilchrist and Mark Waugh in the first 15 with the score at around 65-70 runs .  From here the more unpredictable Kiwis will be better off .

Specifically, the man to target is captain Steve Waugh. There’s such a following for Wa rne as captain, including myself, that one feels Waugh can’t stay ice cool forever. In fact, he hardly hit the ball off the square in the first four Caribbean one-dayers. So, NZ must use Gavin Larsen and Chris Harris in tandem against Waugh. They are expert at slow, straight, full-pitched deliveries that can only be hit down the ground. For  the Aussies, Michael Bevan is truly re markable  in his skill to pace the latter part of the innings. Pace being the operative word as he is easily the quickest runner between the wickets the world has ever seen. This will be a fascinating match as both teams have territorial, "down under" pride to play for.

The West Indies are next, this time in Southampton. Going by recent matches it doesn’t seem that Brian Lara is now totally on his own. In any case, for the Windies to progress Sherwin Campbell and Jimmy Adams must play solid supportive roles— the onus is really on them, particularly with Hooper announcing his shock retirement. The bowling, built around the two war-horses, Ambrose and Walsh, looks predictable. Unless the Windies find some accuracy through the middle stages, they’ll be placing too much pressure on Ambrose and Walsh to strike early every time.

Pakistan are the fancied side with world-class bowlers in Akram, Waqar, Saqlain and  Mushtaq. Also, they seem happier as a unit. Expect pro l i fic run scoring from Anwar and Inzamam, but they’ll re q u i re plenty of partnerships if they are to be consistent. Their weakness? Fielding, and this could cost them dearly! Before the last pool match NZ should know their destiny. Their clash with Scotland is unlikely to be crucial, even if they win comfortably.

In brief, NZ will be hoping to exploit the other teams’ inconsistencies. While Nathan Astle is an excellent opener, Matt Horne has not quite endorsed his promise as the other opening bat and may interchange with Roger Twose. After them, the line of Stephen Fleming, Craig McMillan, Chris Cairn s , Harris, Adam Paro re and Dion Nash is useful indeed. My strategy to winning World Cup matches is based on containment. Harris and Larsen are economical one-day bowlers; Astle, McMillan and Daniel Vettori have p roved handy backups. The key is in the quality of the seam attack: Simon Doull, Cairns, Paul Allott and Nash. I like the range of options open to captain Fleming as I believe you need at least seven bowlers to successfully contain the opposition.

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