By Niall Anderson
New Zealand's perfect start at the Cricket World Cup has been washed out.
The Black Caps' 16-year wait to play India in a World Cup match rolls on, with their clash at Nottingham's Trent Bridge called off at 3.00pm, after a frustrating day where the covers came and went from the ground with exasperating regularity.
After a morning free of rain, the wicket was uncovered for the first time all week, revealing a brown pitch in good shape, but as soon as the players wandered out to get a glimpse at it, the covers came back on as the rain resumed.
Having started the tournament with three wins from games, against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan, this was meant to be New Zealand's big test against a top side.
The Black Caps had delayed naming their side until they got to see the conditions, but fans were left none the wiser about what their XI would have been, as the players never even got to start their warm-ups on the field, nor was the toss taken.
The pitch was never the issue either, with the sodden conditions underfoot after multiple days of rain leaving the umpires concerned about player safety.
A pitch inspection at 10.30 became a look at 11.30, before a gander at 12.30, a peek at 1.30, a squizz at 2.30 and a final verdict at 3.00, each time returning with the same result – the ground was not ready for play.
As showers came and went and the groundstaff dragged the covers on and off for the umpteenth time, finally, after nearly five hours of waiting, the match was abandoned and the points were shared.
And that's not the worst thing for New Zealand's hopes of making the semifinals.
While the players wanted to play – and the challenge of playing one of the tournament's top teams would have surely been beneficial – the Black Caps were underdogs for the clash, and taking a point against one of the tournament's best teams is a result not to be scoffed at.
The Black Caps now sit on seven points through four games, remaining unbeaten atop the ladder, and are now in a strong position to make the semifinals. They likely only need to win two, though perhaps three, of their final five games to earn a semifinal spot – with their upcoming matches against South Africa, West Indies and Pakistan likely to be the decisive clashes.
They're set to have a full squad to pick from for those games as well, with Tim Southee and Henry Nicholls fully fit, and both will make strong cases to be included to play South Africa on Wednesday in Birmingham.
They would have been a good chance to play today, but New Zealand's 16-year Indian World Cup drought has been extended, in the ultimate irony, by the rain.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission