Now this is where the fun stuff happened. The Blackcaps bowlers began the 2019 World Cup by bowling Sri Lanka out for 136 and then pretty much carried on from there, slicing through a pretty dangerous Bangladesh batting lineup to bowl them out for 244 and then skittling Afghanistan for 172. Things got a lot tougher during the losing streak, particularly when England put 308/8 on us, but even then we still had Aussie in trouble at 92/5 even if we went on to lose that one. Come the semis and those bowlers successfully defended a first innings total of 239/8 and then almost defended 241/8 in the final… (and probably would have, you know, if it weren’t for the worst slice of luck in sporting championship history with Ben Stokes’ along-the-ground ‘six’).
Where did the magic happen? Well it began with Trent Boult and Matt Henry opening the bowling, naturally. It was Henry who got it rolling against Sri Lanka with 3/29 and he followed that up with four-for against Bangladesh. Pretty big improvement after going for a century against the Windies in an unofficial warm-up game just before. Although… this was an odd few weeks for a fella who’s been had to carry the drinks a bit more than preferred in recent times for this team. Because having finally edged himself ahead of Tim Southee with those first two efforts he then proceeded to take one wicket for 185 runs in his next four games before being switched out for the leg spin of Ish Sodhi against Australia. But Henry was back in there for the last group game and then in the semis he really showed what he can do. 3/37 against India, including the key wicket of Rohit Sharma, before he bowled an incredible and an incredibly unlucky spell of seam bowling against England in the final for just the one wicket return.
Add it all together and Henry’s 14 wickets weren’t anything drastic, tied for 12th overall in the tournament, while he had the second worst RPO behind Jimmy Neesham of any of the regulars. But as always the stats there don’t quite tell the full picture and from the way that he bowled in the two knockout games it looks like he’s due a nice long run in the first eleven of the ODI side whenever there’s a little juice in the pitch.
As for Trent Boult, he just did what he does. Early days and it was the guys around him stepping up with all the wickets. It wasn’t really until his sizzling 4/30 from ten overs against the Windies that he started doing the damage himself. There was also four-for against Aussie which included a wonderful and almost completely forgotten hat-trick as his swinging yorkers gave the Aussie tailenders no chance. Only the two wickets in the semi but those two were Virat Kohli and Ravi Jadeja – the captain/best player and the top scorer. Kinda massive there, the kiwis’ top bowler coming through when they needed him most.
But then for him to get 0/67 off his overs against England in the final? It doesn’t even come close to telling the story. He could easily have gotten Jason Roy first ball and the amount of times he beat or caught the edge… one of the best 0-fors at worse than a run a ball that you’ll ever see. Plus Boulty did a very weird thing in the final where he bowled consecutive overs. The fiftieth and then the super over. 17 total wickets wasn’t as good as his haul last time but it’s tied seventh at the World Cup. Really just the average of 28.17 that fell short. Yet Boult was always dangerous whether the wickets were falling or not.
Of course, the breakout star for the Blackcaps here was Lockie Ferguson. He’s had to bide his time getting into this team but a great run of games since Gary Stead took over have come with great rewards. He took 21 wickets at 19.47 at CWC19 and going back to the start of the Pakistan/UAE tour last year he has 46 wickets at 21.10. That’s some world class fast bowling there. During the first five wins he took at least three wickets on four occasions, with a best of 4/37 against Afghanistan. A cheeky 3/50 in the final went pretty handy too and Fergo was a pretty rare case in that he took a wicket in every single game that he played at this tournament.
His wickets tally was second only to Mitchell Starc’s 27 sticks (which is a new World Cup record) and Fergo got his in one fewer game with an economy rate half a run better off. He took one wicket more than Jofra Archer, the other breakout bowling star of this tournament, but he did that in seventeen fewer overs. His strike-rate had him averaging a wicket every four overs (24 balls) and what was so crucial about that is he took the bulk of those wickets through the middle overs where he was able to keep the pressure on batsmen the whole way through after the openers’ spells. That suffocating pressure was kinda the whole point of the Blackcaps’ bowling plan once it got to the knockouts. Lockie Ferguson was already in our top strength bowling attack coming into this World Cup but maybe a lot of people didn’t realise that. Tell you what, they know now.
However he didn’t have the best strike rate of the tournament for a New Zealand bowler. That honour falls to Jimmy Neesham whose ability to take the pace off it in the death overs turned into a real strength for him as the tournament progressed. Most famously in that one he bowled against the West Indies after Carlos Brathwaite had gone wild, stemming the flow and ultimately saving the game (along with a delightful Trent Boult catch) at the very end there… after Matt Henry had nearly given it away with a 25-run previous over. He then served up similar clutch heroics with his late bowling against England on the way to 3/43 in the final.
Having always been an unreliable bowler at this level before, Neesham’s 2019 resurgence has seen him finding ways to contribute with both bat and ball and his sneaky effective death bowling combined with his less than sneaky way of breaking partnerships has turned him into the limited overs all-rounder the Blackcaps have been desperate for since Corey Anderson was last 100%. Especially cool for Neesham considering his story, having been the unlucky dude left out of the squad four years ago and as recently as a couple years ago he was pondering retirement and a pleb career.
To be fair, Neesham’s numbers here are a little inflated by his 5/31 against Afghanistan. Other than that he didn’t take more than two wickets in a single other game until the final. But even if you take that AFG game out, he’s still averaging 26.1 runs per wicket at an RPO of 5.87 and for a fifth bowling option who has Colin de Grandhomme and perhaps even Kane Williamson to eat into those overs if things go astray, that remains kinda superb. Keep that AFG game in there and his average and strike rate are marginally better than even Lockie Ferguson (albeit with almost 30 fewer overs bowled).
Speaking of CDG… his economy rate of 4.15 wasn’t just good… it was the best in the entire World Cup for any bowler who got through at least 35 overs. And he didn’t just peak against the weaker teams either, he saved his best for the final by running through ten straight for 1/25. You wouldn’t think his relatively gentle 124km/h seamers would be unplayable but this dude just gets in a rhythm sometimes where they are. It was like his Test debut all over again only without the wickets. Funky thing with CDG is that he was splitting overs with Neesham as the fifth option, so despite playing all ten games there were four of them where he bowled two or fewer overs and only twice did he get through the full ten. With only six wickets the average is pretty mud too compared to the rest of the seamers but that’s not so bad when the Blackcaps could afford to be stingy with him. Never took more than one wicket in a game… but that’s not crazy unexpected for a fella who has a best bowling in ODIs of 3/26 and has only taken more than one wicket in four of his 38 career ODIs.
Almost as economical was Mitchell Santner. He did get taken to for 61 off his ten against the Windies and he only bowled three against Australia as a big leftie partnership between Khawaja and Carey saw Williamson step in and hog the spin overs. Only bowled three against England in the final too after they also popped him a bit in the previous contest (1/65 off 10). But he was magical in the semi-final against India with 2/34 and was generally tough to get away for everyone else. Only drama for Santner, as always, was the lack of wickets. With just three in his first seven games (he didn’t even bowl against Afghanistan) he came through with an average of 53.83 which was far and away New Zealand’s worst. Sometimes that’s because he wasn’t needed with the strength of the pace bowling attack, others it’s because he relies too much on batsmen trying to hit him out for his wickets to come. But that did work to perfection against India with both Rishab Pant and Hardik Pandya holing out trying to slog him. His first six overs went for seven runs that day!
Tim Southee only played one game in the end and that one game was preeetty rusty, going 1/70 off nine overs against England with Lockie Ferguson rested for fitness reasons. Can’t blame Southee for this when Santner also had his most expensive figures of the tournament there but that was the only game that the Blackcaps conceded over 300 in (we were then bowled out for 186). Southee began the tournament injured and by the time he was fit he’d already lost his spot to Matt Henry. By the end of it all that decision looked pretty vindicated too so interesting times for Tim Southee the ODI bowler, considering his numbers were pretty awful since the last World Cup. In the last four years he has taken 51 wickets at an average of 41.15 and RPO of 5.69. But in fairness he did take 6/65 against Bangladesh in his previous ODI before the World Cup.
Ish Sodhi also only played one game, which was a bit of a drama after he was excluded on a deck against Pakistan that was turning sideways, but he only got six overs against Australia in that one game whilst going wicketless. Didn’t bowl terribly but a few airborne mishits fell safely and with things getting away from the Cappies, Williamson ended up getting through seven overs of offspin darting in towards the left-handers instead. The captain rarely bowls himself, which he probably ought to do more, but on this occasion he bowled more overs than either Sodhi or Santner who were both in the side. Williamson had also rolled the arm over for eight overs in the previous game against Pakistan (with Santner but not Sodhi in the team) and he picked up a wicket in each innings. The only other bowler to get a go was Colin Munro, who bowled one over for nine runs against Pakistan.
Guess what else? Tom Latham had the most dismissals of any wicketkeeper at the 2019 World Cup with 21 of them, one ahead of Alex Carey in the same number of games. All 21 were catches and five of them came in one game against Afghanistan (Carey also took four catches and a stumping against Afghanistan). Elsewhere Martin Guptill made eight catches in the field as well as saving about a hundred other runs with his general excellence there. The run out of MS Dhoni in the semi stands out above the crowd, same as his incredible catch at leg gully off Steve Smith. Strangely Ross Taylor didn’t take a single catch all tournament though. Can’t say it wasn’t catching the edges either if Latham was getting so many. One of those weird cricket happenings. We saw more than a few of those over the last month and could really have done without the last couple.
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