World Cup excitement building

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Like many New Zealanders, North Otago cricket manager Hamish McMurdo is eagerly awaiting the Black Caps opening Cricket World Cup clash against Sri Lanka on Saturday.

McMurdo, who also manages the Waitaki Boys’ First XI, predicts a New Zealand win, but expects a tougher test than last month’s series against Sri Lanka with some world-class talent returning to the fold.

“It won’t be as easy as we might perceive it to have been in the past few games because they’ll have people like [Lasith] Malinga back and then [Kumar] Sangakkara is world class, our players are good but he’s just incredible, but then again I expect the home crowd to get us through, but it won’t be an easy game,” he said.

Scotland will be the Black Caps’ second World Cup opponents on Tuesday and McMurdo is anticipating another difficult encounter with a familiar face in the Scottish line-up.

“They [New Zealand XI] only squeezed past Scotland in a warm-up game in October, I know it was just a warm-up game but it will make them wary,” he said.

“I still think they will come through but pressure’s an interesting thing, those teams have nothing to lose and that’s what makes them dangerous.”

“They’ve got players like [Preston] Mommson and Matt Machan who used to play for Waitaki Boys’ and they’re classy players who play professional cricket day-in day-out for counties, if they go on their day they can be quite devastating, they [New Zealand] will have to play really well every game.”

The Black Caps will also lock horns with old enemies England and Australia on February 20 and 28 respectively.McMurdo believes the difference in winning and losing those ties will be minimal, but expects the encounters to be fiery.

“I think that’ll come down to all the little things in cricket that can affect a game, like the toss, the weather on the day, the luck of the bounce, if they lose a wicket through a snick or something like that,” he said.

“Those are the sorts of things that are going to have the biggest effect because those teams are really close as we know.” he said.

“It just depends who fires on the day individually and catches win matches,of course, if someone takes a blinder it changes the game, they’re going to be exciting to watch.

“As far as Australia, I think our advantage is their arrogance, we’re just dirty old fighters.”

McMurdo cited strong partnerships as a key to success with the likes of Kane Williamson, Luke Ronchi, Grant Elliot and Martin Guptill having major roles to play.

“I think we’ve got consistency right the way through but the special people will be the Williamson-Taylor combinations and the Ronchi and Elliot [combination], they’re going to be the special partnerships,” he said.

But, despite a strong belief in his side and hopes of a Black Caps fairytale victory, McMurdo believes the Aussies are favourites to lift the World Cup come March 29.

“Australia has to be the favourite, because that’s where the final is going to be, on their track,” he said.

“My head says Australia but my heart says New Zealand, they’ve got something going for them.

By James Ford

PHOTO: Hamish McMurdo