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Kiwi Passion and English Lime
by Sreelata Yellamrazu
Mar 27, 2007
Group C was almost like a tale of two teams. And really the competitions was not even between themselves. Having already done away with the awkward one match tussle, both, New Zealand and England went about their task of teasing the minnows into tame submission.

Kiwis have been the dark horses at practically the last five editions of the World Cup. Their team continues to be very much in the contest in the present edition as well. Under Stephen Fleming’s captaincy, this could well be his last hurrah and nothing could top it like the World Cup in his hands after his invaluable service to the team and the nation since shouldering the responsibility at an early age.

Undaunted by the prospect of a crucial first clash against England, New Zealand edged past England with elegance and flourish that showed exactly who looked the strongest in the Group ‘C’ standing.

With that out of the way, New Zealand went about the easier task of setting the minnows in place. New Zealand has always prided itself on being a unit to the core, where the stars are replaced by hand working, big hitting, multi-skill set individuals who are each capable of turning the course of the match on its head.

Stephen Fleming yet again led the team from the front, shouldering the onerous responsibility of opening the batting as he has for many a year now. Fleming’s consistent batting has been over shadowed by Ross Taylor’s century and Scott Styris’ consistent performance in an anchoring role without compromising on run rate. It was significant for New Zealand to regroup as one and present such a strong façade and foundation to run their course through the most coveted tournament, especially after the retirement of one of their most flourishing and fluent batsmen, Nathan Astle, just weeks before the big event.

With Shane Bond in full flow, Fleming can breathe easy. However, Daryl Tuffey will now be replaced by Chris Martin after the former sustained an injury and the onus will lie on the men who have already acclimatized to the place and demands of the situation. With that in order, New Zealand will prove formidable foes indeed in the Super 8’s stage.

England though has not convinced skeptics yet. After the insipid loss to New Zealand, their game plan has meant victory against Canada and Kenya but there has been too much said and done off the field and the cricket on the field has not been able to distract that. The big question was: is Flintoff going the Warne way?

England’s image was rocked after six of their players were found boozing their way in the wee hours of the morning after the defeat to New Zealand. These included some of their most promising bowlers in the likes of Jon Lewis, Liam Plunkett and James Anderson. But the worst fallout of this late night medley was Andrew Flintoff found drunk in an almost mystifying like scenario in the middle of the ocean and only a paddle for company.

This was the worst image coming out from England’s camp. Andrew Strauss was overlooked with Flintoff being the overwhelming choice for captaincy in the wake of Michael Vaughan’s year long battle with injury. In such a scenario where the team has fought and rallied to come back and send a fitting riposte to Australia in Australia, it was important to sustain that morale and momentum at a World Cup where the level playing field just got wider.

But the loss to New Zealand coupled with the embarrassing incident that has now meant that Flintoff has been stripped of his vice-captaincy duties has only added insult to injury. Unfortunately it has overshadowed Vaughan’s comeback, Ed Joyce’s splendid century for England’s cause as also, the contributions of Kevin Pieterson and Paul Collingwood which will significantly need to grow in size and proportion if England is to make a fresh start at cleaning up their image and forcing their way into the semi-finals. There is also the small matter of New Zealand already edging past them with two points as also three other teams in the Super 8’s.

 
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