By Niall Anderson
They would have some problems with the performance, but at the Cricket World Cup, only results matter for the Black Caps.
So, while they came close to throwing away a relatively simple chase of 245 for victory over Bangladesh, their eventual two-wicket win did the job – barely - vaulting New Zealand to the top of the World Cup ladder, as they became the first team to bag their second win at The Oval today.
It was undoubtedly closer than it should have been, but when taken holistically, it was still a solid enough victory, as the Black Caps avoided any repeat of South Africa's upset defeat to the same foe at the same ground three days earlier.
Unlike in their opening win over Sri Lanka, the Black Caps didn't have it all their own way, but by striking at key intervals with vital wickets, producing a stunning display in the field, and possessing the skills of Ross Taylor, they did enough to give themselves a significant buffer for when the wobbles arrived.
Matt Henry produced the best bowling figures with 4-47, but it was the efforts of Lockie Ferguson (1-40), Mitchell Santner (1-41) and Colin de Grandhomme (1-39 from eight) who strangled Bangladesh during the middle overs, restricting boundaries and putting them behind an acceptable run rate. It was a rather ruthless expose of Bangladesh's batting blemishes, as they were restricted to a below-par 244.
And, with New Zealand having chased down 16 of their last 17 targets smaller than 245, they were always favoured to take care of business, and despite some seriously nervy moments, there was never a time where Bangladesh owned the ascendancy.
In a repeat of Cardiff, it was the Black Caps bowlers who put them in a dominant position, after Kane Williamson won the toss and decided to insert Bangladesh. There was perhaps less swing and pace in the wicket than he was expecting however, and Henry and Trent Boult didn't have the same early success as they managed against Sri Lanka.
At 45-0, 110-2 and 150-3, Bangladesh's position looked promising, but each time they were pegged back – first by accurate bowling, then by timely breakthroughs.
Shakib Al Hasan was the only Bangladesh batsman to reach 30, as time after time his teammates departed just after getting themselves in. For some, that meant their innings were colossal wastes of time, as Mushfiqur Rahim (19 from 35 balls) ran himself out, before Mahmudullah wasted overs 31 to 43 by mustering a miserable 20 from 41 balls.
From there, lusty blows were few and far between. From the 38th over, 34 balls consecutive balls went by without finding the rope, before Boult and Henry returned to wrap up the tail and leave Bangladesh probably 30 runs short of a truly competitive total.
As it turned out, the Black Caps had some issues reaching the target. Martin Guptill (25 from 14) and Colin Munro (24 off 34) gave New Zealand a quick start, but both fell in the first 10 overs, and when Williamson looked to have been run out at 61-2, Bangladesh would have been right in the contest.
However, in a huge let-off, Bangladesh keeper Rahim had accidentally knocked off the bails before the ball arrived, and while Williamson was well short, Bangladesh's big blunder had given him a life.
99 runs later, they finally got their man. Williamson was caught in the deep for a not particularly convincing 40 off 72 balls, and when Latham holed out to square leg in the same over, for a four-ball duck, the pro-Bangladesh crowd went wild.
They had further reason to celebrate shortly afterwards. All throughout, Taylor had remained steadfast, passing 50 for the 68th time in ODI cricket on his way to 82 from 81 balls. But, when he was strangled down the legside, the Black Caps still needed 54 to win – a task made even trickier when de Grandhomme (15) and Neesham (25) both departed to needlessly aggressive shots.
That left Santner and Henry requiring 27 from 39 balls, with just two tailenders left in the sheds. Henry lasted until the equation was seven from 21, but Ferguson arrived, watched two wides sail past him, then nicked a four to third man to level the scores.
Santner did the rest - driving Mustafizur Rahman through the covers to see the Black Caps home with 17 balls to spare – and sending them top of the World Cup ladder. Just.
This article was first published on nzherald.co.nz and is republished here with permission