Injury-hit New Zealand are soldiering on as they aim to beat Pakistan and cement their place in the final stages of the World Twenty20.
Caps fit for New Zealand
LONDON // When New Zealand's injury and illness malaise reached its nadir earlier in the week, Brendon McCullum reasoned that their best preparation for the World Twenty20 Super Eight would be to recruit "a couple more physios". They did that, getting MCC's own physiotherapist in on loan while they were at Lord's. They even borrowed an extra player from the Lord's ground staff to aid the effort, ferrying drinks and acting as cover as an emergency fielder.
The MCC's flagship training programme is generally peopled by young English aspirants. Yet, by coincidence, this rookie recruit was Michael Bracewell, the nephew of the former New Zealand Test players Brendon and John. The Black Caps have stumbled on with Ross Taylor (hamstring) and Daniel Vettori (shoulder) being retained in the squad in the hope they may play a part in the business stages of the competition.
Another player with Indian Premier League experience, Jesse Ryder, has gone, but his replacement, Aaron Redmond, provided reason for optimism with a blistering half-century on debut. If there is one benefit to all the injury trouble, it is that even less attention is paid to the threat of the New Zealanders - perennially tagged dark horses - than usual. Today's match against Pakistan at the Oval is the ultimate contrast of cricketing cultures. While every move made by the Pakistani players is analysed by millions and every defeat mourned by the nation, New Zealand's players generally fly under the radar.
Their coach, Andy Moles, reports that "a few people" have been staying up to watch their matches in the night back in New Zealand, and expects attention to grow the further they advance in the competition. Pakistan-esque fanaticism this is not. "While the pressure is usually on our opposition, we just go about our business, and we are capable of beating anyone," said the former Warwickshire batsman, Moles.
Meanwhile, Ireland remain convinced they are capable of pulling off another upset in the tournament, despite their 83-run defeat to New Zealand on Thursday. Ireland have two more chances, starting against Sri Lanka at Lord's tomorrow, to pull off their second shock victory of the tournament. Captain William Porterfield said: "We know what's required at this level. We had an off-day against New Zealand. It was a game we thought we could win. But we'll bounce back."
Porterfield believes Ireland are paying for their high-profile successes in the 2007 World Cup - where they knocked out Pakistan - and in this tournament. "None of these teams are going to take us lightly - India came at us the same the other night," he added. "Teams are taking us more seriously and giving us that respect. But we are still capable of upsets, if we play to our potential. We want to win in the Super Eights. We're not just here to make up the numbers. "
email@example.com New Zealand v Pakistan, starts at 8.30pm, ART Prime Sport