As New Zealand’s luck wanes their determination to march on seems to get stronger. Already depleted by the loss of big guns Jacob Oram, Jesse Ryder and Daryl Tuffey, New Zealand suffered a body blow when all-rounder Grant Elliott broke his thumb in the game against England. Elliott, Man-of-the-Match in that game with figures of 4 for 31, has not been ruled out yet but Scott Styris has been flown in as cover.
New Zealand eye a rare finals appearance but will meet their nemesis Pakistan in Saturday’s semifinal at the Wanderers. The Pakistanis, led by Younis Khan, have played imaginative cricket, and but for their well-known tendency to implode, would be outright favourites.
While some batting slots remain a concern, and a majority of the workload falling on Younis, Mohammad Yousuf and Shoaib Malik, the bowling department has operated with such imagination and verve that no opposition seems unbeatable. In Shahid Afridi and Saeed Ajmal, they have a pair of spinners who can attack or defend.
The return of Mohammad Asif has left Younis with an interesting question to answer. While Asif is still bowling well below the pace he is capable of, the seam, swing and shape are enough to tempt Younis to retain him for the semifinal.
The big question, though, is who to leave out? Rana Naved-ul-Hasan’s death bowling has rivalled the best in the world and Umar Gul has been Pakistan’s most penetrative seamer over the last year. For any captain, though, this problem of plenty is a welcome one, as it means the competition for spots is high.
If the bowling is Pakistan’s strength, the batting is New Zealand’s worry, and it is time for their main man, the talented Ross Taylor, to hit the high notes. Taylor has had a quiet tournament and the Saturday’s game is a perfect stage for him to stamp his authority.