Two games left before knockout cricket at this World Cup and we have a typically Blackcaps situation where the strongest Blackcaps playing 11 is still uncertain. Consider that Aotearoa's Blackcaps came into this World Cup with plenty of options, or selection uncertainty and have gone through a rather successful campaign thus far to still have such clouds of uncertainty lingering.
The Blackcaps lost to Pakistan, sparking all sorts of selection discussion. A rather clear line became apparent as the winning run of the Blackcaps came with no changes to their 1st 11 and minimal conversations (outside the Niche Cache) about tinkering with different selections. In comes a loss and suddenly the Blackcaps need to make moves.
Tinkering with selections earlier in the tournament would have allowed the Blackcaps to come into this crucial stretch of the tournament, knowing who was in form and capable of doing their required job. Right now though, all we are getting from the skipper Kane Williamson and coach Gary Stead are votes of confidence, faith in their players because it would be kinda crazy to make drastic changes this late in the bloody World Cup.
As you my pick up, my vibe is to stick with this playing 11. Not because I think it's the best team the Blackcaps can roll out, but because the Blackcaps have backed themselves into this corner where sensible options are limited. Throughout my Blackcaps yarns that have been tinged with a lack of planning and preparation, has been a wrinkle of setting up players for success in the Blackcaps and that definitely hasn't been the case during this period going back to the Champions Trophy; any selection changes at this stage would put the player/s coming in under immense pressure.
The Blackcaps may make changes for Australia and I'm prepared for that weird eventuality. The Blackcaps have also put all their eggs (rightly or wrongly) in the basket of this playing 11, to the point where that's just how it is and we wait to see whether that basket collapses under the weight of all them eggs ... or if we can crack a mean munch.
Ish Sodhi was interesting name brought into the equation because of how delectable the Birmingham pitch looked with spin. 4 of Pakistan's 6 wickets they took came from seam bowlers though, 1w was a run-out and the other was a ripper to leggy Shadab Khan. The major weapon was Shaheen Shah Afridi with 3w @ 2.80rpo and while Mohammad Amir's 1w came at 6.70rpo, Amir is 2nd to Mitchell Starc in the overall bowling rankings and Amir is 2nd in a group of eight seam bowlers who have 11+ wickets in the tournament.
No spinner has more than 11 wickets at the World Cup. When we wiggle into the Blackcaps bowling innings, Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson took a wicket each, plus a run-out and then Kane Williamson dismissed Mohammad Hafeez - who as was highlighted in commentary loves getting out to part time spinners. Hafeez was dismissed by Aaron Finch, Aiden Markram and then Williamson. To me that feels like a guy who can't keep a lid on his want to whack, as opposed to Williamson cashing in on favourable spin conditions.
That amounts to 2 of the 4 wickets falling to seam, 1w to spin. 10w overall in this game and 2 fell to spin, despite such favourable conditions to spin bowling and with this in mind, it feels a bit lazy to have suggested that Sodhi should have been brought in. Although, that the Blackcaps admitted that they mis-read the pitch, also complicates this matter.
Instead, I look at Matt Henry and Mitchell Santner, or why Colin de Grandhomme and Jimmy Neesham bowled a combined 5 overs.
Henry has now taken 1w in his last four games.
We all know Santner's tweakers look amazing and he's got 3w in 5 innings, averaging 63.33.
De Grandhomme and Neesham both conceded more than 6rpo vs Pakistan, but their bowling usage was brought about by Williamson and the Blackcaps being seduced by the sexy spin.
De Grandhomme and Neesham may not have done the job with more overs, but Santner and Williamson combined for 1w in 18 overs when the Blackcaps strictly needed wickets to win. That kinda feels like the Blackcaps mis-read things twice, initially in not sussing the spin at the start and then being seduced by how much spin they were seeing and perhaps over-reacting.
Make of all that what you will. Like some finely crafted art, those words above are open to your own interpretation. Ultimately though, I think my point is that the Blackcaps didn't need Sodhi, they just had to be better and that slides back to any discussion about Colin Munro or the equally as slumpy Martin Guptill and Tom Latham; they just need to be better.
We are at the stage of this World Cup where I'm not convinced that any changes will help the Blackcaps. There's nothing to suggest that Henry Nicholls, Ish Sodhi or Tim Southee will come in and perform at a high level against Australia (and England and beyond) when it matters most at a World Cup. They might, for sure, but it's unrealistic to assume that guys not in the 1st 11 can simply step up to this level of pressure.
And so, we hope that Munro can get a few out of the middle ... against Mitchell Starc. Or that Latham's 27 runs in 5inns @ 6.75avg can be flushed down the dunny for an almighty knock vs Australia. Or maybe that Henry can climb his way back up the wicket-taking cliff that he has fallen from, or maybe that one of the best ODI openers we have seen for Aotearoa in Guptill can suss out the GPS location of some run-scoring form.
Even if none of that happens, Aotearoa can still defeat Australia. Heck, if none of those dudes step up, Aotearoa could win the World Cup and that would be absolutely bonkers. The greatest strength of this Blackcaps team, is their malleable nature that enables them to adapt into winning games of cricket. Whether that is enough, against the best teams on the biggest stage is the major issue here and that's where the kiwis need someone else to step up to the moment.
Hit an ad to support the Blackcaps World Cup antics.
Support the Niche Cache was we try to build our base on Patreon. Support the underdogs as best you can, a little goes a long way.
Peace and love 27.