Whilst many are looking no further than favourites Australia to win the upcoming World Cup New Zealand are building up some real momentum and could be a real force in the tournament.
They are quietly going about their business, which will suit New Zealand, but they are doing so very impressively, as Pakistan and Sri Lanka will testify.
The Black Caps have a lot going for them at the moment and can point to a few reasons why they can be successful in this year’s World Cup.
Firstly they are currently in superb form as a team. After a 4-2 one-day series victory over Sri Lanka the Black Caps have now defeated Pakistan 2-0 with two victories that can only be described as comfortable against a lacklustre visiting team. They have already hit three scores over 300 in 2015.
The Black Caps have shown that they have some outstanding, game-changing individuals who can take the game away from any opponents, particularly in the batting department. Captain Brendon McCullum will obviously be highlighted as the danger man at the top of the innings but any side that can leave out Jesse Ryder from their World Cup squad must have more to offer and New Zealand certainly do.
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In-form batsmen Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor are currently enjoying a fantastic run of form. Both players have just scored a century in the second ODI against Pakistan, adding to their formidable recent records. In the last twelve months both players have played a similar amount of innings, with Williamson (1114) slightly edging Taylor (928) in runs scored.
Both players are averaging over 70 and both have very healthy strike-rates, Williamson (90 runs per 100 balls) and Taylor (86 runs per 100 balls).Williamson has hit three centuries and nine half-centuries whilst Taylor has scored four centuries and five fifties. Impressive stats indeed.
Added to the in-form duo are big hitting players such as Luke Ronchi and Corey Anderson, as well as veteran Grant Elliott, and you can see why they could be considered dark horses for the title.
Their bowling, whilst less eye-catching, can be just as effective. They will be ably led by veteran spin-bowler Daniel Vettori and will be backed up by the experienced pace duo of Tim Southee and Kyle Mills.
Home advantage is another key ingredient that could help the New Zealanders. This can be under-estimated at times but New Zealand will feel very comfortable in their own surroundings. They know the pitches, the grounds and the different environments that they will play in. They will be confident because they have been regularly posting huge totals at home and gaining comprehensive victories over the past few weeks.
Each of their group games are to be played on home soil and only later in the tournament will they need to venture over to Australia for matches. They will hope that they will have to play in Australia on the 29th March when the final takes place at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).
In World Cup Pool A, which involves Australia, Sri Lanka, England, Bangladesh, Scotland and Afghanistan, the Black Caps will have nothing to fear. Only Australia can be viewed as a better side than them at present but New Zealand have the advantage of playing their co-hosts in Auckland where they can test out their cup credentials against the very best.
Their final warm-up game against South Africa on 11th February will also be a good indicator of how New Zealand can compete with the very best sides in World cricket. If they are to win the World Cup they will have to beat the very best sides along the way.
However, if I was a betting man, I would definitely be backing the Black Caps to at least reach the semi-final in this World Cup and then, in a straight knock-out, no team can be discounted from lifting the trophy.
New Zealand squad for the ICC Cricket World Cup 2015
Brendon McCullum (captain)
New Zealand Pool A fixtures
Sat Feb 14 New Zealand v Sri Lanka, Hagley Oval, Christchurch
Tue Feb 17 New Zealand v Scotland, University Oval, Dunedin
Fri Feb 20 New Zealand v England, Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Sat Feb 28 New Zealand v Australia, Eden Park, Auckland
Sun Mar 8 New Zealand v Afghanistan, McLean Park, Napier
Fri Mar 13 New Zealand v Bangladesh, Seddon Park, Hamilton
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