After the eradication by strangulation of South Africa on Saturday morning, the nation's cricket fans are trying to contain themselves and focus on their day jobs as we fantasise about being a mere 100 overs of magnificent cricket away from a World Cup final. Dare to dream, one more time...
Of course there is a significant obstacle in the way in the form of 11 Sri Lankans, many of whom have been in scorching form with bat and ball. They are due an off day.
So much more is on the line than when these two teams met in India a mere 11 days ago.
The crucial element, aside from having lady luck aboard for the semifinal ride, will be pressure and expectation. Can New Zealand soak up the former, and then impose it on the Sri Lankan XI? We have nothing to lose - but Sri Lanka do. Skipper Sangakkara is aware of it: "It's a question of playing good solid cricket, concentrate on doing the best. If we keep our heads and we perform as well as we can, we can turn it into a solid performance." But if they lose their heads...
If the Kiwis can chip out a couple of wickets early, field like demons, and have Brendon McCullum go thermonuclear in the powerplays, the kiloPascals could begin to weigh heavily on those fragile-looking Lankan shoulders.
Well what a night, and what a morning. You little beauties! The New Zealand team's choking of South Africa was simply extraordinary. It was a huge upset as the over-confident Saffers succumbed to a combination of patient batting, consistently demanding bowling, tight field sets, a sprinkling of good fortune and a fielding effort that defied belief.
The key period of the match, and the time when New Zealand jemmied open the door with their slow bowling crowbar, came in the 24th over. Kallis lofted Tim Southee for a certain six, only for that former keeper for a soccer team, Jacob Oram, to thunder around the rope and intervene. He reined in a fantastic outfield catch at deep, deep midwicket. The wigged one's 50 was denied and the rot started to set in.
Duminy arrived, looking as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs, and was bowled by Mattress McCullum playing a totally irresponsible shot. The choke was on.
Faf du Plessis replaced him and with the second ball he faced he managed to singlehandedly and simultaneously derail his side's chase by running out de Villers and engaging in a confrontation that got the white line fever boiling in Black Cap bellies. Here's a lesson for him: only get in an argument with the bowling team when you've scored a run.
It was appropriate that the killer blow - the eradication of in-form de Villers - was instigated by Martin Guptill. Yes Jacob Oram was mighty and the obvious contender on paper for man of the match, but for me Guptill's feline tendencies in the ring saved dozens of runs. An indelible image etched on my memory from the match is of him diving away in the covers time after time, pouncing, then back-flicking the white ball back to the bowler. He served to incrementally build up huge pressure and frustration on the batsmen, culminating in the attempt for a high-risk single.
We're going to keep grumpy Graeme Smith out of form. A high score of 45 in the tournament so far and just once past 50 in 11 bats in 2011. Let's keep that up for one more day, eh?
The Jacques Kallis wig. Apparently he got paid in the region of NZ$200,000 to sport the hair plugs - they have certainly helped him turn back the clock and secured him a slot in The Cricket Observer's Advanced Hair XI: Gooch, M Vaughan, Ponting, Kallis, M Crowe, Sehwag, Matthews, Warne, Naved ul-Hasan, Bollinger, Hamid Hassan. A shame the hotspot technology hasn't made it to Bangladesh for the game, a la Doug the Rug.
Pat Symcox's selective memory. In the Champions Trophy in 1998, he opened the bowling and has been raving on about it as if he was the leader of the revolution. "We opened with a spinner in that final - I was in that side and so was Paul Adams," he recently gloated. Symcox is commentating at the World Cup and is a massive fan of the exclamation mark over on Twitter. (I've never forgiven the real estate agent for bowling a wide deliberately as New Zealand beat South Africa at Eden Park in 1999.)
Prediction: our resident wild man big ol' Jesse Ryder is going to channel Stephen Fleming and deliver a sublime, inspirational innings to KO the Saffers. Incredibly, Ryder has never faced more than 93 balls in a one-day international. Even Craig Spearman did that! Once. Against Zimbabwe. Tonight's the night for Jesse.
The batting power play (BPP) will be a weathervane. The Cricinfo analysis to March 15 was eye-opening. Our Cup batting in the BPPs has been superb - better than anyone else's in the tournament and monstering 10.60 runs per over. Can we do it again? SAF is just behind on 10.18 but they are streets ahead of all other teams in the tourney with regard to their bowling, giving up an extraordinarily miserly 4.93 RPO compared to our 7.94 (which is not bad).
Well that was pretty bloody disappointing. When we got a flukey wicket early with Tharanga run out at the non-striker's end after a deflection, the omens looked good. With Mills resting and Vettori incapacitated, we would take anything less than 280 and back ourselves to get close with the bat. But it was a horror show - another one. We've mastered this against Sri Lanka, having lost six of our last seven against them and only managing to crack 220 once in that sequence.
What was the third umpire thinking with that Nathan McCullum caught and bowled? A really shoddy piece of umpiring. The chap involved, Amiesh Saheba, is no stranger to controversy or getting things wrong - he was the umpire who criticised Sreesanth (remember "Slapgate"?) then denied it, despite a reporter capturing the interview and the verbal slapping on tape. I think I'd rather have the commentators make the call: at least we get to hear them talk us through their decisions.
I was thinking that having partners and kids arrive on the players' doorsteps just before the momentum-killer that was the Sri Lanka match might not be a good thing, but then you read a piece like this where Paul Collingwood's kids say: "'We hope you lose tomorrow, daddy. Then you can come home." I think the benefits of having family nearby outweigh the badness.
"I knew I hit it, but as always I wait for the umpire to give me out. That's the way I've always played the game." For the record, and it pains me, I'm with Ricky Ponting on this one. Trusting the fielder's word was a nice idea before referrals and million-dollar paydays but it feels a little antiquated this week. A batsman's entitled to the benefit of any doubt and if he has reason to question his outness, he's entitled to stand his ground. The incompetence here was the umpire's and nothing to do with the batsman. Of course, it makes Sachin Tendulkar a complete legend for walking instantly when he feathered a jaffa from Rampaul on Sunday night - don't get me wrong, I thought that was fantastic, but it's not compulsory. With video technology as an option for both teams, the sort of moronic mistakes that denied McCullum the wicket should never happen.
I admit I cringed a little when I was 10 feet up a ladder painting the house on Saturday morning and none other than Martin Crowe was on the wireless, talking cricket in between raving on about totally awesome coffee machines. He dredged up the hoary old "Murali is a chucker" argument, and pinned the loss on this. Admittedly, Crowe has been blistering against Murali for a long time, so his criticism is certainly credible and not knee-jerk. However, the grapes would have appeared a little less sour if he had unleashed the day before the spanking rather than the day after. As he said at Lord's back in 2006: "I don't care about 15 degrees here or 10 degrees there. If to the naked eye a bowler is chucking, he should be chucked out."
The other half of Beige Brigade head office, Mike, is in India firing up for the big Kiwi-Lanka game at Wankhede Stadium in Mumbai. He sent through some tips last night and they provide an insight into his near delirious state as well as the types of things on the radar when heading to watch willow on leather flying around Mumbai...
- He won't be able to pack his regular trio of trusty companions: his camera, his mobile and the manbag. Mumbai police have banned some pretty weird things for the game, including mobile phones as they want people to "enjoy the match without any gadgets". In addition, "any handbag carried by men" will also be confiscated at the entrance.
- He will be packing a new trio of trusty companions: crayons, white paper and a box of Imodium, an opioid drug to stave off the Indian version of Montezuma's revenge.
- He is cranky that Kyle Mills reckons he could actually play the game, but is effectively resting his quadriceps for the quarter-final. Wouldn't you rather have the curly-haired javelin thrower in the XI to help us beat Sri Lanka, keep the winning momentum going, and see NZ do its utmost to finish in the top two of the group?
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