Bengaluru, June 20: New Zealand were up against a big name for the first time in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 at Edgbaston on Wednesday.
They had beaten a hapless Sri Lanka, a spirited Bangladesh and the novice Afghanistan earlier while their game against India was washed out.
The Black Caps next faced South Africa and although the Proteas put them under some challenge, it was a priceless unbeaten century from captain Kane Williamson that drove them home.
New Zealand are now sitting at the top of the table with nine points and their run resembles the fairy tale that they had scripted in 1992 as well as in 2015.
Kiwis performance in 2019, however, deserves a bigger pat since they are playing outside home this time. The outfit has looked clinical in all their games so far and while their bowling won the games against Sri Lanka and Afghanistan, the batters came up with their brilliant touch against Bangladesh and South Africa. Overall, the 2015 finalists have shown that they have the balance in their side that could possibly even see them lift the trophy, something that eluded them in the penultimate and ultimate hurdles in 1992 and 2015.
New Zealand have been one of the most consistent sides in the World Cup even though they have never won the title. Along with Australia, they too have made the semifinals seven times so far, but while Australia went on to win make the finals in each of those seven occasions, NZ continued to choke barring the 2015 edition.
Even the West Indies, who had last made the semifinals in 1996, have won three out of the four semis they played. New Zealand's failure in converting those semifinals into trophy victories left them underrated and under-achievers, somewhat like the Netherlands in the FIFA World Cup.
New Zealand have traditionally been beaten in semifinals by teams that had big names who excelled on big occasions. In 1975, they lost to eventual champions West Indies. In 1979, they went down to runners-up England by just nine runs. In 1992, Pakistan's Inzamam-ul-Haq had shocked them. In 1999, it was again Pakistan that had routed them. In 2007, Mahela Jayawardene's century packed them home while in 2011, Kumar Sangakkara's Lankans beat them by 5 wickets.
In 2015, they were seventh time lucky as they took on another team that choked as well in the semifinals: South Africa. It was the day when SA-born Grant Elliott showed them the winning way.
One major reason for the Black Caps' losses in World Cup semifinals has been their weakness in bowling. This time, the team has one of the best bowling attacks in the fray and with one semifinal win under their belt already, the second might not to too far off.