Peaking at the right moment is a cliche, but it is probably the talking point in the New Zealand dugout as the side is on a four-match losing streak after beginning the 2023 World Cup with four consecutive victories.
With eight points, the Kiwis are in fourth place, and a semifinal qualification hinges on other results going in their favour. The dip in form after starting so well may worry the side since something similar transpired in the 2019 World Cup.
In this year’s edition, the Black Caps beat defending champion England convincingly in the opening match.
The side then eased past the Netherlands, Bangladesh and Afghanistan in its next three outings. But they lost steam after going down to host India, Australia and South Africa — teams that are in the top four — on the trot.
However, the match that really wounded the Kiwis was the one against Pakistan as they lost by 21 runs in a rain-curtailed contest. Williamson and Co. would’ve thought it had done enough after amassing 401 runs in 50 overs.
Fakhar Zaman had other ideas and took the Men in Green to 200 for one in 25.3 overs, a total well past the DLS par. With eight points in its kitty, Pakistan kept its hopes of making the semifinals and compounded New Zealand’s mid-tournament woes.
With all four of their wins coming against sides that are presently languishing at the bottom of the table, the Kiwis have failed to spark against the stronger outfits.
In the previous edition, too, the Kiwis had a memorable start, garnering 11 points from six games. They beat Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, South Africa and the West Indies, and shared points after a washout against India.
A top-two finish was on the horizon, but that dream faded quite quickly as the side was on the wrong side of the result in the final three league matches against Pakistan, Australia, and England.
The Black Caps had lost to all the eventual semifinalists, and Pakistan which finished fifth below New Zealand on net run rate.
New Zealand might not have been among the top four had the Proteas decided to take a review — when Kane Williamson had actually edged an Imran Tahir delivery — for the sixth wicket of the innings when the Kiwis still had 69 runs to chase.
The team also survived a close call against the West Indies when Carlos Brathwaite muscled the ball straight to Trent Boult on the boundary line with just six runs needed off seven balls. However, no other team understands more clearly why pondering over what would’ve or could’ve happened doesn’t do anyone any good, as evidenced by the 2019 World Cup final.
With a do-or-die match against Sri Lanka ahead, injury-hit New Zealand would not want to lose the impetus and stumble into the semifinals like it did in 2019, or even worse, miss out on a top-four spot.
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