Opinion: Consistency is key for Black Caps at Cricket World Cup

2:20 pm on 27 May 2019

By Simon Hampton

It was as clear as the London sky on a baking early-summer bank holiday weekend.

Trent Boult appeals for a wicket in the Black Caps World Cup warm up match against India. 27.5.19

Trent Boult appeals for a wicket in the Black Caps' World Cup warm up match against India. Photo: AFP

As Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor cruised towards India's first innings of 179, the crowd thinned out, the empty seats becoming more and more visible.

Earlier in the day it had been a different story, as a near-capacity crowd at The Oval - mostly supporting India - waved flags, cheered and clambered toward the boundary fence when an Indian player showed the slightest indication of signing autographs.

It was a typical, fervent Indian crowd yet this wasn't a typical Indian performance. They were outplayed by a New Zealand side whose seam bowlers showed that on their day, and in the right conditions, they are among the world's best.

The Black Caps were quick to play down the significance of their result over India, and these matches do mean nothing after all. Yet a convincing win will help to ease a few justified question marks over their lack of build up to the tournament, having only come together as a full squad a few days earlier.

One advantage of that has been the buoyant spirit in the team, training sessions have been full of laughter and banter, and the team is enjoying each other's company.

They also know far tougher tests lie ahead, and in a long tournament that features nine games against every team, consistency will be the key.

Tom Latham hooks

The Black Caps' wicketkeeper batsman Tom Latham is under an injury cloud heading into the tournament. Photo: Photosport

Showing they can topple the likes of India when it counts will be huge, but ensuring they don't suffer any surprise slip ups in other games will be just as important.

A few shock losses to the likes of Sri Lanka or the West Indies, sides they should beat, would make qualifying for the tournament's top four and even tougher challenge than it already is.

They'll have one more hit-out against the West Indies on Tuesday in Bristol, before jumping on a bus across to Wales for their tournament opener against Sri Lanka in Cardiff on Saturday.

Tom Latham's unlikely to play on Tuesday, but his availability for the tournament opener remains unknown.

Tom Blundell faced just two balls before Henry Nicholls hit the winning runs against India in what was his first unofficial one day international, and it'd be valuable if he gets to spend some time in the middle in Bristol - particularly if he's to fill the number five spot in the order that Latham would vacate.

Matt Henry was the only fit player not to have any involvement in the India warmup, so he may well get a taste of the English conditions on Tuesday.

The Black Caps should beat the West Indies most days, though being a warmup it won't be a major cause for concern if they don't.

As it's been all along, the focus is entirely on Sri Lanka on Saturday. Their opener in Cardiff is followed by matches against Bangladesh and Afghanistan, giving them three matches to start the tournament that they should win.

It genuinely will be cause for concern if the Black Caps are leaving any of those matches early.

*Simon Hampton is a freelance journalist covering the Cricket World Cup for New Zealand media. He has previously worked for Newshub and Newstalk ZB in Wellington.

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