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New Zealand at the World Cup : A cricketing myth?

Updated: May 22, 2019

Have New Zealand been great, good, bad, or perhaps poor at the World Cup? We summarise it all for you, and let you be the judge.

Grant Elliott wins New Zealand's first ever semi final at the World Cup. Source: Cricket Australia

New Zealand have made it to the semi finals of the World Cup 7 out of 11 times. For a small nation, like they do in most sports they compete in, they tend to punch above their weight.

But despite the seven semi finals, the Kiwis have only made it to one final, and were easily beaten on the final day of the 2015 World Cup in Melbourne 4 years ago. Have New Zealand, despite their apparent success at the world cup, ever really been a threat? Or are they just big hearted cricketers who push the bigger nations as far as they can?

A look at New Zealand's history makes for quite impressive reading in some parts, with a few disappointments along the way.

In 1975 New Zealand produced the only upset of the tournament, a win inspired by the tournaments leading run scorer and captain, Glenn Turner. It saw them finish second in their group and a semi final birth against the West Indies.

However New Zealand were blown away by the might of the Windies. Bernard Julien took 4/27 as the Windies won by 5 wickets with just under 20 overs to spare. A respectable semi final birth was where New Zealand had started their World Cup journey.

In 1979 New Zealand beat Sri Lanka, and a win over India, like they did four years prior, got them out of their group and a semi final birth against England was the result.

The Kiwis weren't without their chances in the match, and had England at 4/98 before Graham Gooch (71 off 84 balls) and Derek Randall (42* off 50 balls) got England to a competitive 8/221.

John Wright’s slow 69 off 137 got New Zealand to within 14 runs when the final over started, but by the time it ended they were still 9 runs short. A close call but another semi final exit for New Zealand.

New Zealand started the 1983 World Cup in fine form. They were 3 from 4 and looked good to get out of their group, needing only a win against Sri Lanka or Pakistan to advance once again into the semi finals. However a loss to Sri Lanka before Imran Khan inspired Pakistan to a 11 run win meant New Zealand failed to get out of the group stage for the first time in three world cups.

In 1987 they were bit part players to India and Australia, with New Zealand’s 2 wins coming against Zimbabwe. India and Australia dominated this group as the 1987 World Cup became the only time New Zealand had failed to make any real impression at the tournament. It saw them eliminated with 2 wins and 4 losses in what was the first time the World Cup had been held outside of England.

It’s no secret 1992 was New Zealand’s big chance of becoming national heroes and achieving World Cup success. They were on familiar territory, and had devised a strategy that had been innovative and proved quite successful. Namely having Mark Greatbatch make quick runs, captain Martin Crowe steer the ship and clever innovations like Dipak Patel open the bowling, New Zealand had been the stand out team all tournament.

Chris Cairns and Dipak Patel celebrate a wicket at the 1992 Cricket World Cup. Source: Espn Cricinfo

They won their first 7 matches to finish the top of the 9 teams in the tournament. However tournament sport often falls back to hitting form at the right time. Sometimes, as has been the case with Australia in 2007, a team can be excellent throughout, but in 1992 Pakistan had won 1 of their first 5, before hitting a real purple patch.

Rameez Raja made 119* in a comfortable chase against New Zealand that helped Pakistan in to the finals. Then only 3 days later, going from Christchurch to Auckland, Pakistan broke New Zealand hearts when Inzamam-ul-Haq produced a brilliant half century. Not only did New Zealand get a Pakistan team peaking at the right time, it was the only time ul-Haq had passed 50 in an otherwise poor tournament for the Pakistan rookie. The best team in the tournament was out once again at the semi final stage.

In a poorly structured 1996 world cup, where all the top 8 teams were virtually assured a Quarter Finals birth at the start of the tournament, New Zealand came up against cross Tasman rivals Australia in the quarter finals.

In early trouble at 3/44, Chris Harris would play the innings of his cricketing life. Going into the match, his ODI record of 85 runs at 10.63 against Australia meant the opposition had little fear of him. In 9 innings against Australia, he hadn’t passed 20 once. Harris would make a brilliant 130 off 124 balls, something safe to say very few people were expecting.

However New Zealand would come up against Mark Waugh in the middle of a hot streak. He had made 2 centuries in the 4 world cup matches to date and another ton would mean New Zealand had lost in back to back world cups due to great opposition run chases.

After knocking off some big scalps in India and Australia, New Zealand featured in another semi final appearance in 1999. Once again in was against Pakistan, the team that had spoiled the party 7 years prior.

This time it was a clinical Pakstan who knocked out New Zealand. Chasing 242 with the loss of only one wicket. An opening stand of 194 between Saeed Anwar (113*) and Wajahatullah Wasti (84) meant the match never reached any great heights.

In 2003 there was a bit of revenge for Australia and India as their wins over New Zealand in the super 6 stage prevented them from progressing to the semi finals.

New Zealand were very good in the 2007 world cup, coasting through their group and winning 5 from 7 matches at the super 8 stage, they made it to their 5th World cup semi final. But an 81 run loss at the hands of Sri Lanka meant that their world cup had ended as it had in their previous 4 semi final appearances.

At the 2011 World Cup, New Zealand finished fourth in their group. They met a South African team who had finished first on the other side of the draw. With South Africa looking the goods at 2/108 in pursuit of 222, Tim Southee’s dismissal of Jacques Kallis would prompt Jacob Oram (4/39) and Nathan McCullum (3/24) to be New Zealand heroes, as Souths Africa lost 8/64 for a superb Kiwi win.

New Zealand celebrate an outstanding win over South Africa at the 2011 World Cup. Source: BBC News

However they were never really in the hunt against Sri Lanka, once again falling in the semi finals. New Zealand’s top 6 batsmen didn’t kick on after making starts. All 6 of them made scores between 13 and 57, meaning their 217 was going to be difficult to defend.

Sri Lanka had one or two nervous moments after going from 1/160 to 5/185, but ultimately won the match by 5 wickets, sending the New Zealander’s home the match before the world cup final for the 6th time in as many semi finals.

In 2015 New Zealand were outstanding on home soil, winning all 8 matches played in their home country. They defeated Australia on their way to finishing first in their group. Martin Guptill produced the World Cup’s highest ever score (237*) in the big win over the West Indies, which got the Kiwis to a familiar spot, the world cup semi finals.

New Zealand’s barren run at this stage would end in dramatic scenes, when South African born batsman Grant Elliott dispatched Dale Steyn into an ecstatic crowd. The Kiwis were finally into the final!

For New Zealand, the semi final would prove to be their 'final' though. In the actual final against Australia they were forced to play catch up from the opening over, when their best batsman Brendon McCullum was bowled by Mitchell Starc.

The Black Caps will once again give it their all. Image: Cricket World Cup 2019

New Zealand continues to be a nation who you know you are going to get the best out of themselves when they turn up to World Cups. They have had some great tournaments, especially when on familiar territory in home conditions.

Have they got close to winning it? 1979, 1992 and 2015 was when they got closest, but they haven’t quite risen to the occasion when it has mattered over the history of the tournament.

Have the Kiwis been a World Cup success story, or has their lack of big game victories meant they fall short of what cricket fans would consider a true success?

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