(Reuters) – New Zealand coach Gary Stead has backed his misfiring side to find their lost form in the Cricket World Cup and advance to their second successive final.
Stead’s team are almost certainly going to seal the fourth semi-final spot later on Friday despite ending the group phase with three successive losses.
Pakistan would need to beat Bangladesh by 316 runs at Lord’s to overtake New Zealand on net run rate and even Pakistan captain Sarfaraz Ahmed was not convinced it was achievable.
It would be the eighth time New Zealand have advanced to the semi-finals and Stead was confident his team had put losses to Pakistan, Australia and England behind them as they head to the knockout stage.
“Our first goal was to make the semi-finals and we’re pretty sure we’re going to be there now so that in itself is a really good thing,” Stead told reporters.
“There are some individuals who obviously aren’t getting the runs and wickets that they want to.
“But cricket is a harsh game and we all know that you’re not going to be perfect every day. As long as we as a team can perform collectively well then that’s our best chance of going further in the tournament.”
Stead’s team would need to fire on all cylinders in the semi-finals, where they would face the top-qualifier, either Australia (14 points) or India (13). Both have one group game each to play.
New Zealand have 11 points, courtesy of a fast start when they beat Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan then had their game against India washed out.
Centuries from captain Kane Williamson gave them tense victories over South Africa and West Indies but since then they have failed to advance their points tally.
Critics believe they were going backwards at the wrong end of the tournament, although the side has realistically failed to produce a dominant performance since their 10-wicket win over Sri Lanka and the batsmen have struggled to score runs.
The openers in particular have failed to give them a start.
Since an unbroken 137-run stand between Martin Guptill and Colin Munro against Sri Lanka, the pair had partnerships of 35, nought, 12, nought and five.
Henry Nicholls replaced Munro against Australia but he and Guptill have only had partnerships of 29 and two.
Stead, however, was confident the batters would stand up in the semi-finals.
“We know from the opening position spot those guys have had a tough tournament,” Stead added. “(But) Martin Guptill can go out there and we know he’s capable of getting a double hundred.
“He could do that in the semi-final and all of a sudden we won’t be talking about form.
“We are under no illusions. It will be a tough tough game of cricket but if we can fire a few shots and play at the best of our ability then I think we’re a real chance.”
(Writing by Greg Stutchbury; Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)