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Kiwis have semi-final place within grasp
John Mehaffey | March 31, 2007 00:17 IST
New Zealand have a fifth World Cup semi-final spot within their grasp and the tantalising prospect of going one place further for the first time after their win over the West Indies on Thursday.
The Kiwis share the lead, with four points, at the top of the Super Eights with Australia following a seven-wicket victory over the hosts.
Captain Stephen Fleming estimates another two wins from their next four matches might suffice to secure a semi-final place.
"It's still pretty hard to work out. Eight (points) with a good run rate could be enough but it could be a log jam. Ideally we need 10," he told a news conference.
"If we continue the way we're playing we're not far away. I think that's the exciting thing, each game you tick off it becomes one closer to the semi-finals but the final is what we're after."
New Zealand were semi-finalists in 1975, 1979, 1992 and 1999. Surprisingly they did not get that far in 1983 and 1987 during the decade which remains the most successful in their history.
Fleming, New Zealand's longest serving and most successful captain, said he thought the present team was the best prepared he had been associated with.
The New Zealanders beat an under-strength Australia side 3-0 at home earlier this year and earned their points in the World Cup after easy wins over England and West Indies.
Fleming even found something positive to say about the injuries to batsmen Lou Vincent and Ross Taylor, which forced the selectors to fly Hamish Marshall to the Caribbean.
"It hasn't been the usual suspects that have been injured," he said in a wry reference to the constant stream of injuries suffered by New Zealand pace bowlers in recent years.
"It's been the bowling that has been hard to replace. But our bowling is pretty much sewn up. I much rather have it this way than any other way."
The bowler who has created most concern over the years is Shane Bond, who has reported fit for duty in the Caribbean after missing more games than he has played.
Bond's splendid one-day record was sustained with three wickets on Thursday, the result of genuine speed and lavish swing, and at the other end of the scale there were also three wickets for left-arm spinner Daniel Vettori.
Jacob Oram and Scott Styris provided an medium pace alternative when James Franklin was hit out of the attack by Chris Gayle.
"They bowled incredibly well," Fleming concluded. "I was just pleased we could take wickets at key times. It was a long batting order and we expected them to come pretty hard at us."
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