Horror final, but what a campaign
Though Brendon McCullum’s boys fell badly at the final hurdle, what a memorable six weeks of cricket they gave New Zealanders.
It was a pity New Zealand, so good for so long, came unstuck against the brilliant Australians in the World Cup final at Melbourne on Sunday night, but I’ll retain vivid memories of their play during their nine matches. There were many heroes. Little Kane Williamson smashed speedster Pat Cummins back over his head for a six to win a cliffhanger pool match against Australia by one wicket at Eden Park.
On the same ground, Grant Elliott meted out similar treatment to Dale Steyn to get New Zealand past South Africa in the semi-final with one ball to spare. What a night that was.
Tim Southee and McCullum were sublime against England. Southee took 7-33 from nine overs and McCullum smashed 77 off 25 balls (eight 4s and seven 6s) as New Zealand rushed to victory with 38 overs to spare.
Martin Guptill was the top runscorer in the tournament, helped by a century against Bangladesh and that breathtaking 237 not out in the quarter-final against West Indies in Wellington.
Trent Boult, bowling left-arm pace, was equal top wicket-taker in the tournament and has become a world figure in cricket. I admired McCullum hugely. He batted brazenly and brilliantly, slamming four halfcenturies and always looking to put New Zealand on the front foot.
As a captain, he attacked ceaselessly, sometimes packing in four slips in his relentless search for wickets. He has revolutionised one-day cricket thinking.
His fearlessness rubbed off on his team-mates.
Now they’re New Zealand sports heroes, from the still emerging talents of Corey Anderson, Matt Henry and Adam Milne to the departing Daniel Vettori, who bowled his left-arm spin so frugally and craftily.
Often when New Zealand sports teams embark on these epic campaigns, they come up trumps.
I’m thinking of the 1956 rugby series against the Springboks, the 1976 Olympic hockey gold medal, the 1981- 82 All Whites’ long march to the Football World Cup finals, and the 1995 America’s Cup saga.
This time they were a match short, though they were the first New Zealand team to make a Cricket World Cup final, and we’ve been trying since 1975.
New Zealand cricket has turned a corner. The team has belief, and so do its supporters.
That final was a huge occasion, on a par with the third test of the 1981 Springbok series, the 2011 Rugby World Cup final, and two Football World Cup play- offs, against China in 1982 and Bahrain in 2009.
Our cricketers have often been poor cousins to the All Blacks, but not this time.
Through seven rounds of Super Rugby, sports fans’ attention hardly left the cricket. How often has that happened?
There was some incredible cricket during the tournament. I’ve chosen this tournament team: Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Kumar Sangakkara, Steve Smith, AB de Villiers, Glenn Maxwell, Corey Anderson, Daniel Vettori, Morne Morkel, Mitchell Starc, Trent Boult. I know - five New Zealanders and only three Australians, but that’s how it fell.
Apologies to Brendon Taylor of Zimbabwe, Imran Tahir of South Africa and Indian pacemen Mohammed Shami and Umesh Yadav – close but no cigar.
Rare moment: Some fleeting joy for New Zealand in their heavy World Cup final defeat. Trent Boult and Daniel Vettori celebrate the capture of Aaron Finch’s wicket.