Auckland There can be no argument about the make-up of the World Cup semi-finals, with the best four teams still alive, New Zealand coach Mike Hesson declared on Sunday.
New Zealand were the last confirmed semi-finalists when Martin Guptill’s stunning 237 not out set up a lop-sided 143-run victory over the West Indies in Wellington on Saturday.
They meet South Africa in Auckland on Tuesday in the first semi-final with Australia playing India in the second semi-final two days later in Sydney.
New Zealand’s demolition of the West Indies was hailed in the local news media, and led to calls from one radio station for a national holiday next Tuesday so the whole nation could watch the semi-final against South Africa.
But while the New Zealand fans celebrated their side getting through to the semis, and extending their unbeaten run to nine matches, coach Hesson said they deserved to be among cricket’s ODI elite.
“The best four teams are in the semi-finals and I don’t think many people could disagree with that,” he said as New Zealand flew to Auckland.
“South Africa on their day are exceptional, (but) put them under pressure and see what happens. The two sides are playing good cricket and it’s going to be a heck of a show.”
Hesson said New Zealand were “confident as a group” and he rated Guptill’s heroics with the bat against the West Indies as one of the finest innings he had seen.
“The way he paced the innings by setting the tone early, playing straight, adapting to the conditions and timing everything from ball 30 on. It was pretty surreal,” he said.
“There were a lot of high-fives and huddles (in the team room). It was an amazing innings which we were immensely proud to watch.”
In addition to Guptill’s 237, the highest score ever in a World Cup match, a four-wicket haul for Trent Boult and an outstanding leaping catch by Daniel Vettori were significant elements.
Vettori, the elder statesman of the New Zealand side, had to take a lot of ribbing from his teammates for the way he hurled his 1.91 metre (6ft 3in) frame into the air to pull off a remarkable one-handed catch that removed Marlon Samuels.
“I didn’t think 36-year-olds could jump that high,” Hesson quipped.
“From our point of view, I thought it was going over (the boundary) and he’d made a bit of a token jump, but obviously there was more to it.”