New Zealand were not coming into the tournament with the strongest of ODI runs. In their last few series, they lost to India 2-3 (October, 2016), Australia 0-3 (December 2016) and South Africa 2-3 (February/March, 2017). Nevertheless, they had won against Bangladesh and Ireland, and secured a 2-0 series win against Australia in early February of this year. Finalists in the last World Cup, this team was struggling to find their footing recently. The exodus of greats like Brendon McCullum, Daniel Vettori and Grant Elliott had left an indelible void. However they were in no way short of superstars, with the likes of Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill in their ranks as well as a bowling line-up that boasted Trent Boult and Tim Southee. Despite their troubles, New Zealand showed promise with the likes of Corey Anderson brimming with potential and waiting to rise to the occasion in a big tournament like this.
Winless. Rain. Surprise chase.
In their first match against Australia, guided by Williamson, New Zealand posted a competitive total of 291 (innings reduced to 46 overs). However, the mini-collapse constructed by a Hazelwood blitz foreshadowed some of their persistent batting weaknesses. Before the washout, New Zealand were in command with Australia cornered at 53 for 3 in just under 10 overs. Ultimately, sharing a point each between them, New Zealand’s standing did not reflect their performance on the day.
Dark clouds loomed ceaselessly through the 54 overs bowled during the Australia New Zealand game
Their next match was against the formidable English side, then-favourites for the tournament. Chasing a target of 310, New Zealand suffered a comprehensive defeat - all-out for 223. Now relying on a must win and some net run-rate magic, New Zealand still backed themselves against Bangladesh, only to be knocked out in a thrilling run-chase chase courtesy a 224-run partnership between Shakib-ul-Hasan and Mahmudullah.
Bangladesh players mob Mahmudullah after he led them to a famous win against Kiwis
New Zealand seemed to over-rely their captain and, as brilliant as he is, Williamson was unable to do it alone. There were small contributions from the likes of Taylor, but none ever converted into something meaningful. The middle-order, the weakest link, was prone to collapses and unable to finish, always falling short of a winning total—be it a sub-par 266 against Bangladesh or 87 shy in the run-chase against England. New Zealand appear to be a shadow of the team that dominated the 2015 World Cup, struggling to find the right combinations. Perhaps it was also the initial washout against Australia that saddled them with a disadvantage, however in their next two matches the Kiwis never looked like a winning side: losing to England by a significant margin and unable to capitalise on a great bowling start by Boult and Southee in their game against Bangladesh.