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ICC Cricket World Cup 2023, New Zealand Preview: One Last Chance For Black Caps' Golden Generation

New Zealand have plenty of Cricket World Cup motivation based on their controversial final defeat in the 2019 final against England

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New Zealand captain Kane Williamson.
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Four years ago New Zealand missed out on its first Cricket World Cup title by the barest of margins, beaten on a countback of boundaries by England at Lord's. (Full Coverage | Schedule | New Zealand Squad | Cricket News)

The teams had been deadlocked after 100 overs and again after two tie-breaking Super Overs. The countback went England's way and umpires later acknowledged they may have miscounted an overthrow during England's innings which could have changed the outcome.

New Zealand took the loss stoically.

Beginning next week in India the team will try again with a determination tempered by the memory of that defeat.

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Many of the players who took part in the dramatic final at Lord's are returning including captain Kane Williamson who was Player of the Series in 2019, Jimmy Neesham who faced the Super Over from Jofra Archer and fast bowlers Trent Boult and Tim Southee.

Williamson's role in the upcoming tournament is uncertain. He suffered a serious right knee ACL injury while playing in the Indian Premier League in April and is still recovering. New Zealand has named him to lead its squad with the possibility he might not play in the first match against England on Oct. 5.

Williamson is close to surpassing former captain Stephen Fleming as New Zealand's leading run-scorer in World Cup matches.

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“It's a huge boost to the team in many areas (that Williamson is available),” former coach Mike Hesson said. “Obviously from a batting perspective in India and the ability to get runs over there. And the ability share leadership.

“He's a very calm character and obviously at a World Cup where there's tons of pressure and maybe following a poor performance, he's not the sort of guy who will over-react. He will deal with facts and that's important in a group where there's a lot of emotional characters."

Williamson, Southee and Boult also played in the 2015 World Cup final in Melbourne in which New Zealand lost heavily to Australia.

“I think we've got nine players that have been named who have come from the last World Cup and it's always great to be able to fall back on that experience in tough moments,” current head coach Gary Stead said. “Most of the players we have in the squad have been in India as part of the IPL.

“What you do get in India is a variety of conditions. Some days can be very spin friendly, other days can be very pace friendly so we've tried to select a squad that gives us a real balance so that we can move players in and out depending on the environmental conditions.”

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While New Zealand won the inaugural World Test Championship, a limited-overs world title has been elusive. It lost to Australia in the final of the 2021 T20 World Cup and to England in the semifinals of that tournament next year.

Its 2015 finals loss drove its 2019 campaign and, in turn, the 2019 experience will motivate this campaign. But whether New Zealand has the same playing strength this time remains to be seen.

Boult and Southee are four years older and Boult no longer is contracted to New Zealand Cricket, freed to play in various Twenty20 leagues around the world. Southee underwent surgery for a broken thumb suffered in New Zealand's recent fifth one-day international against England and had surgery to insert pins to repair the fracture.

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His fitness now also is in question.

“We're keeping our fingers crossed,” Stead said, with unintended irony. Stead said Southee's availability would depend on his ability to tolerate pain.

Neesham was a close call, earning his selection in the absence of all-rounder Michael Bracewell as Stead sought to bolster New Zealand's contingent of all-rounders in a balancing exercise.

The omission of young opener Finn Allen and preference of Will Young is seen as a gamble.

New Zealand's form has been mixed heading into the tournament. It lost 3-2 to England in a five-match one-day series in which its wins were comfortable and its losses heavy, including a 181-run loss in the third match which was the sixth-heaviest defeat in New Zealand's ODI history.

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Hesson said conditions in India will challenge all teams, not just New Zealand.

“For me those two pitches and those two grounds in the middle of the tournament are going to be a real challenge for New Zealand,” he said. “If they can get through that unscathed they give themselves a chance of making the semis."

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