One just gets the feeling that Fleming will just crack up the stage one more notch.
New Zealand is a team without superstars. But to say the team does not have outstanding team players could not be further from the truth. They may not boast of a Sachin Tendulkar or a Brian Lara or even a Ricky Ponting. But then, they have never believed in a philosophy of working around the big guns. New Zealand is a team of equally weighted players. That is also perhaps why New Zealand is always reckoned as a dark horse and their key, uniform strength.
That quality was once again vociferously highlighted in the game against England. In the campaign opener for these reckoning teams of the C group, the highly anticipated game may not have had the big game edge but for thrills, it lacked none. The game oscillated between the two games, but right through, New Zealand always seemed to have the added edge at the Beausejour Stadium in St. Lucia.
Revenge was on their mind. Being ousted from making the finals of the Commonwealth Bank tri series in Australia, New Zealands pride hurt far more than they would like to admit. This was the big World Cup match in this group and it was important to put the foot down and show exactly who held the upper hand. New Zealand was determined to prove that, at all costs.
Englands innings could be described as the culmination of two noteworthy innings. Englands frontrunner for the explosive batsmans role, Kevin Pieterson, set the game up with an eighty-one run partnership with Paul Collingwood for the fourth wicket. But just when the innings seemed to be shaping up enticingly for England, Shane Bond responded in his feted manner. Two deceptive slower balls later, Pieterson and Andrew Flintoff were back in the pavilion with England in dire straits at 138 for seven.
But Englands innings did not come to a halt there. Paul Nixon combined with Liam Plunkett and the lower order rearguard salvage of seventy-one at a run a ball meant England ended crossed the 200 mark. The total may have seemed short by at least thirty runs. But it looked lofty given the predicament the England team found itself in midway through the innings.
When New Zealand lost its third wicket as Stephen Fleming miscued a shot off James Andersons bowling as early as the fifth over, doubts arose at a measly nineteen for three. Craig McMillan stood alongside Scott Styris but things began to take euphemistic tones when he disappeared as well. Four down and still some way off, England was beginning to say a ray of hope and respite from their recovery job at the end of their innings.
But New Zealand prides itself on the fact that it can bat deep. And batsmen who can send a ball a mile come aplenty in New Zealand. Short of just retired weighty individuals such as Nathan Astle and Chris Cairns, both retired, new hope stepped forward in the form of Styris and Jacob Oram. Oram had famously stated that if need be, he would amputate his broken ring finger if that is what it took for him to feature in New Zealands campaign. Well, he might as well have because New Zealand so very much needed his invaluable presence in not only bringing the innings back on track but press for victory with the steady hand of Styris who simply refused to give up.
New Zealands fight back has given their supporters a lease of life and fresh voice to losing their tag of dark horses and become one of the front runners. But for that, New Zealand will have to make a more magnanimous effort with the bat and the top order needs to be smoking hot! One just gets the feeling that Fleming will just crack up the stage one notch. Greater things are expected of the New Zealand side and nothing will be spell a plausible swansong for the skipper than a cup in his hands, the World Cup that is!