Colombo, March 27 (IANS) New Zealand are supremely confident of stopping a sub-continental team from winning the cricket World Cup. After a low-key showing in the group stages, their sensational victory over Pakistan being the notable exception, they have risen in stature after beating South Africa in the quarterfinals.Now they are back in Colombo where they played most of their Group A games to take on Sri Lanka in the first semifinal Tuesday. There is a spring in their step and one of the architects of rallying them, Ross Taylor believes they can make history by first stopping the final from being a all-subcontinental affair and then winning the cup.
The Black Caps are playing in their sixth semifinal at a World Cup. In the inaugural edition they were beaten by the mighty West Indies, the eventual winners, in 1975. They then lost to England four years later, to Pakistan in 1992 and 1999 and four years ago in the Caribbean, they were beaten by Sri Lanka.
After a practise session at the historic P. Sara Oval ground here on a hot and humid Sunday, Taylor, the stand-in captain when Daniel Vettori withdrew with a sore knee, said his side is proud of their history of making six semifinals, but wants to better it this time by winning the cup.
Taylor said they will analyse England’s quarterfinal loss to Sri Lanka and prepare well to stop the co-hosts.
“Most of the times we are the underdogs,” Taylor said when told Sri Lanka are tipped to be the favourites to beat them at home.
“It (the underdog tag) is something that we almost enjoy and expect. A lot of teams expect to beat us, but we expect to beat them as well.
“We are proud of making it to the semifinal. This team wants to make history and go one step further and make it to the final. We genuinely believe that we can do that Tuesday,” said Taylor in a confident tone.
It has been a complete turnaround for New Zealand in this World Cup. From being the no-hopers they have shocked everyone by reaching the last four stage.
The Black Caps endured an 11-match losing streak before the World Cup, including the away series defeat in India and Bangladesh, where they were thrashed 0-4. They also lost the home series to Pakistan.
Asked whether playing in the subcontinent before the World Cup helped them, Taylor said: “I think so. We did not play as we would have liked to, but the self belief in the team was there. We are learning from our mistakes. I don’t think a lot of other teams gave us a chance and probably played into our hands.”
Head-to-head, New Zealand do not enjoy a good record. They lost to Sri Lanka by a massive 112 runs in their last league match in Mumbai. They have also lost their last four World Cup matches against the island nation.
“It will be sudden death Tuesday. We will take a lot of confidence from our last game against South Africa. We have got the advantage that we have played Sri Lanka in the pool and we did a few things wrong. Hopefully we can rectify them Tuesday,” Taylor said.
“We have a lot of momentum going for us. We are very happy the way we fielded and hopefully, we can continue that and put Sri Lanka under pressure.”
Taylor also said they will do their homework by watching the video footage of Sri Lanka’s quarterfinal win against England.
“We watched the match and we are analysing the way England played and where they went wrong, the areas where Sri Lanka got it right.
“I saw bit of the match. We can take some positives out of the game. The way (Jonathan) Trott batted, we can take a leaf out of it and also the way they played Murali. He was a big factor in Sri Lanka beating us in Mumbai.
“Hopefully it does not turn as much as it did out there.
“Sri Lanka are a good balanced side, they are playing at home and that will make it extra tough for us.”
About the weather, Taylor said: “It is warmer than Dhaka but not as hot as Mumbai. It is muggy but something that you have to get used in the sub-continent. I think they will play on the wicket they played England, but we have to wait and see.”
Taylor, who slammed a match-winning 131 against Pakistan, said he would like to contribute as much as he can with the bat.
“The important thing is to score runs and help the team win. Whether you score 40 or 140, batting first or second, you would like to put the opposition under pressure and help the team to win.”