New Zealand - a team on a roll
By Orin Davidson
April 11, 2007
The New Zealand team was as efficient as it can get on Monday.
The team showed the professionalism required to win the World Cup shaking off a slow start then cranking up to third gear to turn a competitive game early on to a rout of Ireland in the blink of an eye at the National Stadium at Providence.
After blowing away West Indies in their first game of this Super Eight stage and handing Bangladesh one of their worst beatings in the competition, no one need ask any more questions about the Kiwis' temperament.
They have never won the World Cup but their displays so far; from the preliminary round to the Super Eights, should send a strong message to Australia that their brothers across the Tasman Sea are for real.
It would seem as if their clean sweep triumph of Australia in the recent Chappell/Hadlee series was not a flash in the pan result even though the world champions were without a few of their big names.
In limited overs competition, teamwork is not only a watchword, it should be paramount for any squad.
And New Zealand often demonstrates that quality more than most of their competitors.
On Monday Peter Fulton stepped up to the batting plate after their most celebrated player and skipper Stephen Fleming failed to follow up on the ton he blasted off Bangladesh in their previous game.
Fulton is not your most attractive stroke-maker but he gets the job done and is not making the top-order feel the loss of Lou Vincent as much.
His 83 on Monday gave New Zealand the foundation they needed after Fleming, Scott Styris and Craig McMillan had off days.
Brendan Mc Cullum and James Franklin down the order fulfilled their roles as reliable hitters at the end.
Their hurricane 71-run partnership for the eighth-wicket killed whatever little fight the Irish had in store after what has so far been an exhausting World Cup for them.
There was not any shirking of responsibilities or "Collapso" stuff as others are wont to revert to when the specialist batsmen do not strike.
New Zealand's opposition might only have been Ireland - minnows and surprise Super Eight qualifiers in their first World Cup - but they know how to apply the killer instinct, regardless of the opponent or the conditions.
Fleming said the game provided them with a good challenge on slow turning pitches, but his team played like they were specialists on such surfaces.
At least Daniel Vettori made it seem that easy in the latter stages of the innings by cleaning up Ireland's lower-order utilising the sluggish turn like Bangladesh did to upset South Africa there on Saturday.
The left-arm orthodox specialist spinner gives New Zealand the type of variety absent from teams like South Africa as he also takes up some of the batting responsibilities when necessary.
New Zealand has three strong opponents left to round off their Super Eight campaign; Australia, Sri Lanka and South Africa, but those three countries strong as they undoubtedly are, should take note that Easter Monday's display was of a team on a roll.
Ireland gave a spirited display but it was obvious they are at the end of their tether although the fair-sized crowd gave them maximum support as they looked for another upset.
But Ireland seemed unprepared to play one month of World Cup action and were out on their feet after New Zealand upped the pressure.
Fast bowlers Boyd Rankin and David Langford-Smith were the exceptions and are continuing to cause problems for the opposition early in the innings.
No doubt they will be the key to Ireland's hopes of notching their first and only likely points against Bangladesh on Sunday. Because they can forget about Australia and Sri Lanka, their other remaining opponents.