Friday, March 20, 2015

Can West Indies Stop the New Zealand Juggernaut?

New Zealand vs West Indies at Westpac Stadium, Wellington on 21st March 2015 - Match Preview

New Zealand has pretty much cruised through the group stages and they have been the team to beat as far as the World Cup 2015 is concerned. They have cast aside Sri lanka, destroyed England, scraped past Australia, Scotland and Bangladesh and also defeated Afghanistan relatively easily.

West Indies has played extraordinary cricket at times but have looked commonplace at other times. They rode on Chris Gayle’s double ton to annihilate the Zimbabweans and Jerome Taylors and Jason Holders exploits to gun down Pakistan and UAE but have lacked the skills and at times the commitment to get across against India and South Africa. They also suffered a humiliating loss to Ireland in their opening game.

West Indian batting looks shaky at the top with an under performing Dwayne Smith at the top of the order and Chris Gayle under a cloud of a back injury. Johnson Charles played in the last game for them and he looked a really good option for the West Indies, they must open with him and Gayle, if the big man is fit. They can also try Lendl Simmons and Charles at the top with Smith slotting in the middle order. Marlon Samuels was expected to lead the WI batting as he was the man in form over the past few years but he has not lived up to the expectations and is playing too slowly and consuming too many balls at the start of his innings.

Darren Sammy and Lendl Simmons have been the stand out batsmen for the West Indies thus far and once again a lot may depend on these two batsmen if Chris Gayle is absent. Andre Russel is a muscular and athletic man and can tonk the ball a long way; he will be one of the major threats in the death overs for the Kiwis.

Jerome Taylor and Jason Holder have been splendid with the ball for the men from Caribbean as they have quietly gone about dismantling and wrecking the top orders of the teams that they have faced. Kemar Roach has been well below par though and I guess his place will be discussed and has to be under threat. Andre Russel has provided admirable support to Taylor and Holder and has bowled with a lot of aggression if not always with accuracy. Marlon Samuels has made up for some part time spin with his fast off breaks.

Jason Holder will have to galvanize his players if West Indies 
are to have any chance of beating New Zealand

Brendon McCullum has led the Kiwi batting charge from ball one and his wicket will again be the key for them. If he can provide a flying start then that will help settle the early butterflies and the rest of the New Zealand batsmen can then play with a lot of freedom and calmness. Martin Guptill got back in to form with a century against Bangladesh and helped chase down a big target. Ross Taylor was scratchy and slow in the same match but more importantly spent time in the middle and made a half century.

Kane Williamson has not had the kind of impact that he would have liked in the World Cup but he is probably their best batsmen right now. Corey Anderson has had a few good knocks and Luke Ronchi also waits in the wings.

Trent Boult and Tim Southee have been on the money with the new ball for New Zealand and with the West Indian batsmen susceptible against swing they might have a field day once again. While Tim Southee destroyed England with a magnificent 7-33, Trent Boult destroyed Australia with a dream spell of 5-3-3-5!! These two will have the backup from the raw quick Adam Milne who is also a super athlete and has already taken some blinders in the field.

The accuracy and stifling length of old hand Dan Vettori will also provide much to chew upon for the West Indian batsmen. His battle with the middle order batsmen will hold key if West Indies manage to get past Southee and Boult in their first spell.

Key Battles: New Zealand vs West Indies

Tim Southee and Trent Boult vs Chris Gayle

Daniel Vettori vs Darren Sammy and Marlon Samuels

Jerome Taylor and Jason Holder vs Brendon McCullum

While New Zealand are hot favorites to win this and they should do that comfortably going by the current form but one can never discount the men from the Caribbean. They possess some dangerous batsmen who can easily clear the small ground that the match will be played on. If the West Indies bat first and manage to score around 300 runs then the chase will be very interesting to watch. If New Zealand have looked to have a chink in their armor then it has been while chasing. Scotland ran them close and so did the Australians before the Bangladeshi boys gave them a huge scare in their last game.

The pressure is now really on as the fact that this match is a knockout will only add to the intrigue. Will Chris Gayle trump McCullum? Will Holder and Taylor manage to perform better then Southee and Boult? Will Sammy and Simmons stand up against Vettori? It is in these little match ups within the match that the result of this last Quarter Final will hinge upon!

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