Vettori spins Kiwis to victory

New Zealand all but secured their place in the final four with a comfortable but hard fought 129 run victory over Ireland. Although a convincing win on the surface, the game was evenly poised for long periods, with Ireland continuing to show the same competitive spirit that has characterised their presence at this world cup. However, two events helped New Zealand run away with the match. The first was a whirlwind 8th wicket partnership between Brendon McCullum and James Franklin. The second was the unfortunate run out of Kevin O’Brien, which triggered a catastrophic collapse on what was a tough batting pitch.

Yet batting seemed comfortable at the start of the match, as New Zealand got off to a comfortable start. Peter Fulton, having struggled in his two previous outings as an opener, opened his account with some fine drives and wristy flicks over the onside field. Stephen Fleming, fresh off a hundred against Bangladesh, also added some early runs of his own, and New Zealand strolled to 57 runs in the first power play. However, Fleming seemed too eager to raise the scoring rate and in an attempt to force the pace, cracked a wide half volley from Boyd Rankin to point.

The Ireland opening bowlers experienced similarly contrasting performances. Rankin, physically looked tired, and his opening spell was signaled with four wides in his first two overs. He frequently strayed down the leg side, and was punished, particularly by Fulton. David Langford-Smith, on the other hand, was a real handful. Seaming and swinging off a good length, whilst bowling in the right areas, he slowed the New Zealand’s run rate dramatically.

Two quick wickets fell to Langford-Smith’s excellent bowling. Firstly Hamish Marshall, who came out with a bang, blazing 2 quick boundaries, succumbed to the pressure, and mistimed one to Eoin Morgan at cover. Shortly thereafter, the in form Scott Styris nicked one behind, and all of a sudden the much fancied New Zealanders were struggling at 84/3.

In the face of this, Peter Fulton decided to change his role from attacking opener to sheet anchor, and received some solid support from Craig McMillan. McMillan, in a familiar position at this world cup, played an unusually reserved innings, until he woke up in the 22nd over and launched a four and a six off the bowling of Rankin. Then seemingly incapable returning to his defensive tactics, he sliced a ball from McCallan to third man on the full, and had to depart with the score at 118/4.

The arrival of Oram signaled a period of consolidation for a New Zealand side that was threatening to fall over for an insubstantial total. The pair batted for 14 overs, and added 54 runs, striking only one boundary during the partnership, as the spinners applied the squeeze. Both Kyle McCallan and Andrew White took full advantage of the slowness in the pitch. Just as they had done in their match against England, Ireland threatened to hold New Zealand to a gettable total.

Their hopes were improved further when Fulton’s long vigil was ended by a quicker delivery from McCallan which thumped into his pad right in front. His 83 was the crucial performance in what had otherwise been a poor kiwi batting effort. Things were made worse for the kiwis when Oram’s stuttering innings ended with a mistimed drive to long off. His departure for 20 off 48 balls was followed shortly by Daniel Vettori who gloved a wide form White, and at 189/7 off 43 overs, New Zealand were looking likely to join India, Pakistan and South Africa in the list of upset teams at the world cup.

However, then McCullum and Franklin set about making up for their comrades poor efforts with a sizzling partnership full of aggressive strokes and excellent timing. After consolidating for a few overs, the kiwi duo took full toll of some poor bowling by Trent Johnston who went for 31 runs in his last two overs. Franklin started by flicking one to fine leg, and driving another straight down the ground. He followed the next over by swinging one ball to square leg, before launching a massive six over long on. McCullum joined the fun, by smashing one to cover and then another to long on, before finally holing out at mid wicket. By that stage the damage had been done, and from nowhere New Zealand had exploded to 263 from their 50 overs.

The punishment did not end there for Ireland, as they soon had to face a rampant Shane Bond with the new ball. The kiwi spearhead made short work of Jeremy Bray, who nicked a perfect outswinger to McCullum in Bond’s first over. He then maintained good lines, before unsettling William Porterfield with a nasty bouncer which was top edged to Styris at slip. At the over end Franklin kept up the pressure, and was once again unfortunate not to pick up a wicket, making good use of the early swing and seam.

Eoin Morgan looked the most likely to break the shackles, playing a couple of classy strokes off of Bond. But he was then undone by the metronomic consistency of Oram, nicking a good length ball just outside the line of off. By this stage Ireland had slumped to 35/3, and were looking in danger of not making triple figures. However the O’Brien brothers, Niall and Kevin, soon righted the ship, and together constructed a threatening partnership.

Of the two, Niall, looked the more settled from the start, while Kevin struggled especially against the left arm angle of Franklin. However, after an unsteady beginning, Kevin then launched into some wonderful strokes including an astonishing straight drive off Franklin which sailed a mile over long on.

Slightly worried by his seamer’s lack of penetration, Fleming brought on the spin duo of Vettori and Patel, and pair did slow the run rate for a while. However, Kevin’s determination to dominate the Black Cap bowling could not be restrained, as he again smashed Patel this time down the ground for his second six. He soon followed this with a 3rd off Styris, and astonishingly, and worryingly for New Zealand, the required run rate began to dip down to manageable levels.

However, with Kevin just one run short of a richly deserved half century, a dreadful mix up with his brother led to his dismissal. The run, called by Niall was never there, especially not to Hamish Marshall. Before Kevin could respond to the danger, the ball was whipped into the bowler Styris and New Zealand ended the threatening partnership.

From there, Ireland’s promising performance came sadly undone. With the run rate rapidly escalating, and without his brother to bully the bowling, Niall O’Brien was caught trying to slog Patel to mid wicket. Vettori, who had bowled well during Kevin’s onslaught, then proved too much for Ireland?s middle and lower order. White, Gillespie and Rankin were all caught in front, and McCallan was bowled as the Irish lost their last 7 wickets for just 24 runs.

The victory leaves New Zealand at the top of the Super 8’s points table, and Ireland at the bottom. But the Black Caps will be well aware they will have to play much better as they head into the crunch end of the tournament, with matches against Sri Lanka, South Africa and Australia still to come. Ireland once again showed they have what it takes to compete at this level, though they also showed their lack of experience as their greatest weakness.

New Zealand 263-8
Peter Fulton 83, Brendon McCullum 47, James Franklin 34*
Dave Langford-Smith 2-41, Kyle McCallan 2-35, Andrew White 2-45

Ireland 134
Kevin O’Brien 49, Niall O’Brien 30
Daniel Vettori 4-23, Shane Bond 2-18, Jeetan Patel 2-32

New Zealand won by 129 runs

Cricket Web Man of the Match: Daniel Vettori 5 (7) & 4-23

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