Friday, June 14, 2024

Underdone Blackcaps fighting for survival

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Times’ sports columnist Jim Birchall. File photo supplied
  • By Jim Birchall

The Blackcap’s bumbling first-up loss to the world’s tenth-ranked T20 cricket side in Guyana now puts them in an unenviable position.

They sit precariously with an eye on other results from their group that could determine whether they catch an early flight home.

The performance against an impressive Afghanistan was pockmarked by ineffective new-ball bowling, dropped catches and a batting display that could politely be described as rusty.

Coach Gary Stead and those responsible for scheduling did the team no favours by not including any warm-up games during the tournament’s lead-in.

New Zealand has not played since a rag-tag bunch of second-stringers captained by Michael Bracewell drew a five-match series in Pakistan at the end of April, but for those not involved in the Indian Premier League, wintering back in Aotearoa was hardly ideal preparation.

Afghanistan, who could claim the mantle of the world’s most improved side, fielded an XI made up of players who have performed strongly in franchise cricket around the globe.

Their eventual victory was not seen as completely out of the realms of possibility by cricket clairvoyants – but it was certainly a game the Blackcaps were expected to win.

They also were not the only top-flight team troubled by teams ranked lower.

Papua New Guinea, who respectfully, are never going to be described as a cricketing powerhouse, almost tipped the unpredictable West Indies in their first game.

However, any early tournament concerns the home side may have had were quickly allayed by yesterday’s demolition of a hapless Uganda.

Afghanistan’s ascension sees them sitting pretty atop the table of Group C, leaving the Blackcaps facing a do-or-die clash with the tournament co-hosts on Thursday in Trinidad, and a nervous New Zealand cricketing public will be hoping their team avoids the biggest disaster on a West Indies Island since the Fyre Festival.

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