Cricket World Cup: Latham still an uncertainty for Black Caps' opener

6:00 pm on 30 May 2019

By Simon Hampton

Black Caps wicketkeeper Tom Latham remains day-to-day in his recovery from a finger injury, and the team's prepared to play it hour-by-hour in leaving it to the last minute to make a call on his fitness for Saturday's World Cup opener against Sri Lanka.

Opener Tom Latham faces down a bouncer in the first ODI match against Pakistan at the Basin Reserve in Wellington, Monday 25th January 2016. Copyright Photo.: Grant Down /

Black Caps' wicketkeeper/batsman Tom Latham. Photo: Photosport

"He's been progressing really nicely in terms of the batting work he's been doing and some of the keeping stuff and we'll just have to leave it until later in the week to see whether he's fit for Saturday," batting coach Craig McMillan said.

"The tournament is long and we want to make sure that, ideally, when he comes back he's 100 percent fit and he's going to last the tournament. We don't want to put him at risk."

Just a few days ago the thought of Latham being unavailable and rookie Tom Blundell stepping into the breach would've been serious cause for concern for Black Caps fans, but the Wellingtonian showed he is more than ready to step up if required with an impressive 106 against the West Indies on Tuesday.

An innings where he proved he can be the steady bat required in the middle overs, before turning it up a level as the innings progresses.

His first 26 runs came from 38 deliveries as he allowed Kane Williamson to do the bulk of the scoring, but after the skipper was dismissed, Blundell found top gear, crushing his final 80 runs from just 51 balls.

"It was a terrific knock, he batted superbly actually. To go in and put on a partnership with his captain when we were in a little bit of trouble and show some power at the end I thought was a really telling performance. That's the role in that middle order that we want to see from Tom," McMillan said.

If Latham is ruled out, Blundell will slot into the number five spot in the batting order but even if the former is declared fit, McMillan ruled out leaving Blundell behind the stumps, and moving Latham up to open.

"Tom Latham's the keeper for the tournament."

New Zealand's Tom Blundell plays a shot during the 2019 Cricket World Cup warm up match between the West Indies and New Zealand in Bristol.

Tom Blundell scored 106 against the West Indies in their warm up match on Tuesday. Photo: AFP

The Black Caps, minus Williamson who joined the team later this evening following an engagement at Buckingham Palace, arrived in Cardiff today to cold, wind and rain.

That's expected to change come Saturday, with warm and sunny conditions forecast.

The team will have their first training at Sophia Gardens tomorrow morning, eager to begin a campaign where they'll be underdogs but certainly not easy beats.

Much of the fanfare in the UK is centred round the hosts England and the likes of India and Australia, and the Black Caps won't mind the pressure being planted elsewhere, but when asked why New Zealand will win the World Cup, McMillan answers without pause.

"As a group, I look at the skill and the talent we have and I don't see any reason why on any particular day we can't beat anyone in the world so we've been to a final [in 2015], there's only one more step to take and this would be the World Cup to do it."

Check out RNZ's dedicated Cricket World Cup page for all the latest news, interviews and analysis.

*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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