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Australia target victory over New Zealand to continue semis push

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DHARAMSALA: Australia skipper Pat Cummins believes Saturday’s World Cup clash with New Zealand will be a battle between “mates” as the push for semi-final places enters a critical phase.

Five-time champions Australia are back on track for a last-four spot having won three matches on the trot after an unimpressive start that saw them lose their first two games.

New Zealand, runners-up in the last two World Cups, have the better record so far with four wins from five games.

Australia, however, have the upper hand when it comes to clashes at World Cups over the years, winning eight of the 11 match-ups.

“I think most of the Kiwis are pretty placid and we’re pretty similar,” said Cummins on Friday on the eve of the game taking place in the Himalayan venue of Dharamsala.

“We’ve played a lot of cricket with these guys and some of them are really good mates. If anything, it makes you want to beat your mates even more. It will be intense out there.”

In 2015, New Zealand edged a low-scoring group game by one wicket in Auckland before Australia gained revenge with a seven-wicket stroll in the final.

Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Glenn Maxwell, Steve Smith and Josh Hazlewood are all survivors from the 2015 final. Cummins played in the group game.

Current New Zealand squad members Kane Williamson, Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Tim Southee also played that final.

Cummins said he was delighted by Australia over-coming early losses at this World Cup to India and South Africa.

They have since seen off Sri Lanka, Pakistan and then the Netherlands by a huge 309 runs.

“They’re obviously playing some fantastic cricket at the moment,” New Zealand skipper Tom Latham told reporters on Friday.

“They didn’t probably start as well as they would have liked, but I think the form they’ve shown in probably the last three games is obviously the Australia that we know.

“They fight till the end pretty much every time and I guess every time we play each other it’s always a challenge. They’re a quality side, one of the best sides in the world for a reason and you certainly can’t take them lightly.”

New Zealand spinner Mitchell Santner is one of the tournament’s leading bowlers, with 12 wickets at an average of under 17.

“Obviously conditions back home obviously don’t suit spin as much,” said Latham. “It’s another great opportunity for him tomorrow and hopefully he can stand up again.”

Kane Williamson, New Zealand’s regular captain, has featured just once at this World Cup, retiring hurt on 78 against Bangladesh when struck by a throw while running between the wickets that left him with a broken thumb.

That was Williamson’s first match in seven months following a serious knee injury, with Latham saying Friday that the star batsman remained “a work in progress”.

New Zealand are about to finish a five-day break between games with the squad using some of that time to visit the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, at his Dharamsala base.

Asked what had been discussed with the Buddhist monk, Latham replied: “Not field placements!” He added: “It was obviously a really special time heading up there and having a look around the monastery…I think everyone that went, I’m sure in years to come they’ll think this was an amazing experience.”

Published in Dawn, October 28th, 2023


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