New Zealand bank on experience to end T20 World Cup pain

SYDNEY (AFP): Captain Kane Williamson is banking on experience to power New Zealand into a second successive Twenty20 World Cup final as they chase glory at last.

The Black Caps, who face Pakistan in the semi-finals at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday, have long been a force in white-ball cricket.

But they have failed to turn that into world titles despite coming agonisingly close in recent years, including falling at the final hurdle to Australia last year.

It was their best showing in a T20 World Cup and followed hard on the heels of final defeats in the 50-over World Cup in both 2015 and 2019.

Williamson is confident the silverware drought can end this year with Babar Azam’s unpredictable Pakistan their next challenge.

“The team’s played some good cricket. As long as the team keeps looking to improve and build on some of these performances, hopefully we see ourselves in the next phase,” he said.

New Zealand started their campaign with a massive 89-run win against defending champions Australia and followed it up with a six-wicket victory over Sri Lanka, with a washed-out game against Afghanistan in between.

They crashed by 20 runs to England before hammering Ireland to book their last-four berth and top Group 1.

Williamson has long banked on experienced strike bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult, and the spin of Mitchell Santner, to get them over the line.

Glenn Phillips’ brutal strength has been crucial to New Zealand’s batting.

“Teams — you need a bat, you need a ball and the guys have been operating well adjusting to the surfaces really well, which I think is always very important in tournament cricket,” said the skipper.

“They’ve been outstanding… that’s the experience that’s in the camp.

“Every team you come up against has different strengths and you play at different grounds, and you’re having to really think on your feet and adjust your plans.

“But they’ve all done it for a long time.”

The Sydney wicket has been favourable to batsmen so far and with fine weather forecast for Wednesday it should prove to be so again.

– Pakistan pride –

Last-ball losses to India and Zimbabwe seemed to have ended Pakistan’s tournament before it got going.

But Azam’s men bounced back to topple the Netherlands and South Africa. Then against the odds they went through when the Proteas were stunned by the Dutch and Pakistan eased past Bangladesh.

It put the 2009 champions unexpectedly into the last four for a second straight tournament.

“Losing two games was not easy, but after that I think the team has responded well in doing whatever they can control,” said Shan Masood, the standout performer among some fragile batting.

Spinner Shadab Khan (10 wickets) and pace spearhead Shaheen Shah Afridi (8) have also been vital to Pakistan’s resurgence.

“Just playing for your country, putting that shirt on, I think for every individual in this camp, it means a lot,” said Masood.

“You play for pride, you play for yourself, you play for your country. We don’t need to look at other things.

“We just need to look at ourselves. We need to produce our best performances and we’re going to try and make up for whatever we didn’t achieve before.”