We pick five talking points as New Zealand take on the West Indies in the fourth quarter-final of the World Cup in Wellington on Saturday.
1. New Zealand are embracing the favourites tag
Normally, at this stage of a World Cup, the two opposing teams will be desperate to hang the favourites tag around the other one’s neck. This won’t work this time around, as everyone knows New Zealand are the heavy favourites to book a place in the semi-finals. Brendon McCullum’s men have embraced the hype surrounding them, revelling in the pressure and home support that engulfs their every game. They play without fear, but also with a fare amount of risk. One gets the feeling they will have to self-implode in order to miss out on a ninth consecutive win.
2. West Indies’ unpredictability is their strength
Where New Zealand have been as consistent as ever, winning eight ODIs in a row so far, the West Indies have been the complete opposite. They are a team in disarray, missing key players who never made the trip to the World Cup and who’s confidence won’t be sky high when they glance at their results in 2015. However, anything is possible. If the Windies get a sniff against the Black Caps, they might cause a mighty upset. They are unpredictable, which makes them dangerous. When it’s their day, they can beat anybody. New Zealand will be hoping that day isn’t on Saturday.
3. Chris Gayle will be key
There is a question mark surrounding Gayle’s fitness for the quarter-final, although one suspects the West Indies will risk him regardless if he’s 100% fit or not. Gayle is experienced and a match-winner. He remains a key wicket for the opposition, while he can also take wickets with the ball. A team-sheet without his name on it will look less intimidating, so expect him to play in what will possibly be his last World Cup match. West Indies will need him to front in the big moments if they want any chance of winning.
4. New Zealand’s bowlers hold the key
The Black Caps are a pretty complete side. They have a strong top order, but their biggest strength probably lies in their bowling attack. Trent Boult and Tim Southee have been superb in the tournament to date, while Daniel Vettori’s experience rounds out a pretty decent bowling attack. The West Indies will have to overcome that bowling attack, especially if they chase a target.
5. A team effort is needed
For the West Indies to triumph on Saturday, they will have to play as a collective. Captain Jason Holder will have to rally his troops and hope they pitch up mentally for what is sure to be an electric atmosphere as New Zealand play in front of their home fans. Everything will be against them, but if Holder and his men can absorb the pressure and perform as a team, they will give themselves a chance of being competitive rather than being blown away by McCullum and his aggressive tactics.