What is it about the Black Caps and World Cup semi-finals?

1:07 pm on 11 July 2019

Opinion - The Black Caps are incapable of simply winning or losing - they insist on nail-biting, nerve-destroying, adrenalin-exhausting, rollercoasters that are edge-of-the-seat thrillers.

Captain's Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson.

Captains Virat Kohli and Kane Williamson Photo: PHOTOSPORT

Read more:

  • Black Caps beat India to reach Cricket World Cup final
  • Look back at how the match unfolded with RNZ's live commentary
  • Black Caps's win 'stunning, extraordinary' - world media reacts
  • If any New Zealand cricket fan thought Grant Elliot's brilliant rearguard rally against South Africa in 2015 was their peak, the 2019 Black Caps fielding against India just did them one better.

    In 2015, New Zealand faced Steyn, Philander, and Morkel - the most devastating bowling attack in the world.

    This time around New Zealand was up against Sharma, Kohli, and Dhoni - the most devastating batting attack in the world. Despite Virat Kohli being the greatest chasing batsman of all time (25 centuries in second innings), the Black Caps decided to bat first, scoring 239.

    Rohit Sharma has scored 209 and 264 in One Day Internationals (ODI) by himself. In his last three outings he scored 102, 104, and 103.

    Dhoni averages 50, Kohli 60. This was going to be a massacre. And it appeared one person was to blame ... Ross Taylor.

    Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor during the Black Caps win over India.

    Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor Photo: Photosport

    Taylor, commentators insisted, was batting too slow for the pitch. His batting partner, Kane Williamson was also going at a slow pace; but it was all about dot balls. Taylor had faced too many dot balls, which we knew because it was updated more than the score.

    "What is he doing?" "He's batting weird!" "Does he know it's the semi-final?" "The pitch looks tough but it can't be that tough!"

    When Williamson got out, commentators said it was Taylor's fault. The possibility that Williamson had dictated the pace, decided one of them had to accelerate, and (as the in-form batsman) taken it on himself to do so, seemed irrelevant. Taylor was costing New Zealand a place in the final by completely misreading Old Trafford.

    Then India's top order collapsed to 24/4, Sharma and Kohli went for one run each, and Dhoni almost saved them with a slow measured innings, looking every bit like Taylor.

    The Black Caps won, to go through to the World Cup finals, Jeremy Coney cried and plaudits were given to the bowlers, the fielding, and Williamson's captaincy for reading the pitch.

    Colin de Grandhomme celebrates the run out of MS Dhoni after a direct hit by Martin Guptill.

    Colin de Grandhomme celebrates the run out of MS Dhoni after a direct hit by Martin Guptill. Photo: PHOTOSPORT

    Taylor's match-high 74 off 90, and its criticism, was an afterthought. But what is it about "Rosco" that made New Zealanders struggle to keep the faith?

    Martin Crowe (his mentor) and Stephen Fleming (his predecessor) are cricketing legends, which might be why New Zealand fans don't always appreciate Taylor; a misplaced sense of loyalty to figures of the past. Or maybe it's his quiet manner. His tongue-out celebrations are the loudest parts of his personality.

    It can't be something as ethereal as "Kiwiness". He's a family man, called Ross, from Masterton, that's A+ Kiwiness. Perhaps it's, sadly, the remnants of his controversial removal from captaincy in 2012.

    But it is Kiwi fans who particularly fail to acknowledge his greatness. Talk with cricket fans from other nations, and they'll heap praise on Taylor.

    Indians remember his consecutive winning ODI centuries (112, 102) from their 2014 tour, Pakistanis his 131 in the 2011 World Cup, and the English his eviscerating 181 last year.

    Martin Crowe and Ross Taylor

    Martin Crowe and Ross Taylor Photo: PhotoSport

    That match-winning 181 was also the second-highest score a Kiwi has ever made in ODIs, the fourth-highest chase total of all time (behind Kohli and Dhoni) and was judged Cricinfo's ODI batting performance of the year. He is the current NZ ODI Player of the Year.

    At 35, he's played 227 ODIs for New Zealand, made more runs than any other batsman (8361), more scores of 50 (70), and more centuries (20). Only nine times has he been out for a duck.

    Most of his records will eventually fall to Williamson who, seven years younger at 28, has proven to be one of the batsmen of his generation and arguably the greatest in New Zealand history. But that simply makes the Williamson/Taylor middle order the best double act New Zealand has ever had.

    Yes, even better than Crowe/Fleming.

    When he steps out to bat at the World Cup final, it's most likely the last time we'll see him on the big stage (though I really hope he proves me wrong). Every single Kiwi should be standing when he does.

    *James Nokise hosts Eating Fried Chicken In The Shower for RNZ, has won the Fred Award at the 2019 NZ Comedy festival and is a Billy T Award-shortlisted comedian.

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