Monday 23 April 2007 

Kiwis Convinced They Can Recover From Australia Loss

New Zealand have gone from World Cup dark horses to Australia's main challengers after several clinical displays so far in the tournament.

The only aberrations were the loss to Tuesday's semi-final opponents Sri Lanka and Friday's crushing 215-run defeat by defending champions and possible final opponents Australia.
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The loss to Australia was the heaviest defeat between test nations in a World Cup but it was a meaningless match at the end of the Super Eights when both sides had already qualified for the semi-finals.

Shane Bond was also missing with a stomach complaint and the Kiwis will be desperate for the fast bowler to be fit for the final four encounter at Sabina Park, Jamaica.

Captain Stephen Fleming was not overly worried by the Australia defeat.

"I look forward to the Sri Lanka game with a lot of confidence. It hasn't dented our confidence that much, as I say we are dangerous when we bounce back," Fleming told reporters.

Without Bond, though, the Kiwis lack a real strike bowler and look vulnerable.

Michael Mason, returning after missing three games with a calf injury, was given only three overs against Australia and went for 27 runs.

Mark Gillespie conceded 67 from six and although James Franklin took three wickets, his eight overs cost 74.

DECENT QUALITY

On the plus side, New Zealand have far more secondary bowlers to turn to than any other side and they are all of decent quality.

Even medium pacer Craig McMillan, less used than all-rounders Scott Styris and Jacob Oram, took three for 23 in the win over South Africa and was man of the match.

Oram was rested against Australia because of a bruised right heel but is expected to be fit for the Sri Lanka semi-final.

Their batting depth is also key with tidy wicket keeper Brendon McCullum at number seven looking in excellent form this tournament.

His big hitting capabilities were demonstrated by the quickest World Cup half-century off 20 balls against Canada in the group stage.

Left-arm seamer Franklin, who struggles when the ball does not swing, has kept his place in the side because of his clean hitting down the order. He was used as a pinch hitter against Australia, coming in at number six, although he was out for six.

Fleming said Sri Lanka were probably not as strong as his side in the batting department.

"I think they're the most balanced bowling attack here, they're unorthodox and provide lots of challenges to our batters but the flip side of that is that their batting is not as strong," he said.

"If we can get into them early then we can create some pressure."

© Reuters 2007