Black Caps' time to make final

6:25 am on 7 February 2015

New Zealand have contested all 10 editions of the Cricket World Cup but never got past the semi-finals - will 2015 be any different?

Brendon McCullum will have to dominate opposition attacks if the Black Caps are reach the World Cup final.

Brendon McCullum will have to dominate opposition attacks if the Black Caps are to reach the final. Photo: Photosport

Can the Black Caps reach the Cricket World Cup final for the first time and even go onto to win the tournament?

In a word 'yes'. But that comes with a few provisos. In fact, it comes with some rather large provisos.

There's going to have to be plenty of Brendon McCullum magic and a large dose of luck.

For the Black Caps to triumph, they're going to have to topple world number one Australia and get past South Africa, who on paper, are the strongest side at the tournament.

To achieve wins over those two nations, Captain McCullum is going to have to dominate at the batting crease and take the game away from the opposition.

Assuming he gets plenty of support from the likes of the Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, their bowling and fielding standards remain topped up with a decent dose of luck and, 'hey presto', you have it.

But, to beat Australia and South Africa, the Black Caps simply can't play well, they have to play exceptionally.

Kane Williamson celebrates his maiden test double century with teamate BJ Watling.

Kane Williamson celebrates his maiden test double century with teamate BJ Watling. Photo: Photosport

Williamson and Taylor are in good form.

Williamson - in the recent one day series against Sri Lanka and Pakistan - averaged 70 and scored two centuries.

He is crucial to the Black Caps batting.

The 24-year-old is world class and sits inside the International Cricket Council's top ten ranked batsmen in both the one day and test formats.

Williamson should get New Zealand to competitive totals during the tournament should McCullum fail.

Competitive versus exceptional

But competitive totals of 260 are unlikely to be enough against Australia or South Africa.

Williamson will hold an innings together but he won't destroy a bowling attack and leave an opposition in disarray like McCullum can.

Competitive totals, backed up by consistent bowling and fielding efforts will be enough for New Zealand to beat the likes of Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, and the West Indies - as the Black Caps have proved over the past year with series wins over all of those nations.

England too can be accounted for with a competitive rather than an exceptional effort.

Remember, India are ranked second in the world currently but were humbled by the Black Caps here last year while Sri Lanka and Pakistan have also been easily dispatched this summer.

Mike Hesson says they don't plan on using any ghostly taunts against Pakistan's Haris Sohail.

Mike Hesson Photo: Photosport

Black Caps coach Mike Hesson has laid out his batting plan and that is for McCullum to attack from the outset.

While he scored a century in the second one day match against Sri Lanka, his last six innings have haven't been nearly as lucrative with a top score of just 31.

He's generally scoring at more than a run a ball but he will need to remain at the crease for a lengthy period if the Black Caps are to beat the likes of South Africa and Australia.

For batting, Hesson has obviously settled on his first choice order with McCullum and Martin Guptill, who to everyone's relief finally found some form in the last one day match against Pakistan, the opening combination.

Williamson will bat at three, Taylor at four, allrounders Grant Elliot and Corey Anderson at five and six, followed by Luke Ronchi at seven.

That's a settled and solid lineup, but one that will need to fire all at the same time - when playing South Africa or Australia.

Morne Morkel

Can the Black Caps cope with the likes of Morne Morkel in full flight? Photo: Photosport

Hesson doesn't have a first choice bowling lineup, opting to rotate players according to their opposition and conditions on match day.

Pace bowler Tim Southee and the veteran spinner Dan Vettorri are likely to be the only ones guaranteed starting spots.

It will be horses for courses with the remaining pace bowlers Adam Milne, Trent Boult, Kyle Mills, Mitchell McClenaghan and spinner Nathan McCullum all in with a chance to start depending on the opposition and pitch conditions.

Beating the giants

Hesson has said their buildup for the tournament has gone as well as they could have wished.

And, yes, the Black Caps have performed well over the summer but the nagging question is how they can perform against the likes of South Africa and Australia.

South Africa boast three batsmen inside the world top 10 - AB de Villiers and Hashim Amla, who are first and second on that list, with Quinton de Kock at nine - while Dale Steyn and Morne Morkel sit inside the top 10 bowling list.

The New Zealand batsmen may have scored runs this summer but it wasn't against the quality of Steyne, Morkel or Australia's Mitchell Johnson.

South Africa celebrate a wicket against West Indies on 16 January in Durban.

South Africa celebrate a wicket against West Indies on 16 January in Durban. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Remember Sri Lanka, who the Black Caps beat 4-2 in their seven-match series, were also without genuine fast bowler Lasith Malinga.

The bowlers haven't had to contend with AB de Villiers in imperious form or Australian opener David Warner in full flight.

Coming out of winter, the Black Caps did play South Africa here in October and the results weren't pretty.

Admittedly there was some experimentation going on with the batting order and they were without Taylor and Williamson but South Africa won both games comfortably.

But the World Cup is not a series against one team - it's a series of one-off matches and that format will suit the Black Caps.

They've reached the World Cup semi-finals four times previously but never managed to make the title match.

Playing at home, in good form, with a dose of McCullum magic and a slice of luck - this would seem New Zealand's best chance yet to finally go one better.

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