One match from the promised land: New Zealand's T20 World Cup journey
New Zealand, long seen as the underdogs at global events, have in recent years established themselves as one of the teams to beat, showing remarkable consistency across formats.
They were runners-up to Australia in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2015, but their brand of fearless cricket under Brendon McCullum set themselves up to build on their success.
Since 2015, they have been finalists in the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019, only losing to England on a boundary count, and beat India to claim the ICC Test Championship in 2021. They are currently ranked No.1 in Tests and ODIs, and No.4 in T20Is.
Led by the astute Kane Williamson, they have a world-class bowling attack, and batters who on their day can change the game.
They did not come into the 2021 T20 World Cup as favourites, but quickly established themselves, with wins against high-profile sides India and England.
Falling one win short of a World Test Championship/T20 World Cup double, here's how their journey unfolded.
Match 1 v Pakistan: Lost by five wickets
Asked to bat first in tricky conditions, New Zealand never quite got going. Their batting, identified as one of the main areas of concern before the tournament, looked shaky against the pace and variations of Haris Rauf (4/24).
The total of 134/8 was modest, but New Zealand made a fight of it with pace off in the Powerplay, and the spinners chipping away in the middle overs. With 44 needed from the last five, the game was delicately poised, before Asif Ali dealt in sixes. He finished with 27 off just 12 balls, taking the game away from the Black Caps.
Match 2 v India: Won by eight wickets
New Zealand's spin twins Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner strangled the Indian line-up by bowling good lengths and targeting the stumps, before Trent Boult prevented them from hitting out at the death.
An Indian total of 110/7 meant the pressure was never really on the New Zealanders, who had the more favourable batting conditions. Daryll Mitchell just missed his fifty, but his 49 in 35 balls proved enough, even as Williamson expertly manoeuvred the field.
Match 3 v Scotland: Won by 16 runs
Martin Guptill battled the heat and exhaustion to make a match-winning 93 off 56 balls. His innings was the core of the New Zealand 172/5 against a spirited Scotland attack, with only one other batter making more than 15.
Scotland put in one of their best performances and got to 156/5 in their 20 overs. But on a day when he became only the second man to get more than 3000 T20I runs, they had no answer to Guptill's brilliance.
Match 4 v Namibia: Won by 52 runs
For the second match in a row, death-overs batting ensured a win for the Black Caps. They were 96/4 in 16 overs when Jimmy Neesham and Glenn Phillps targeted the shorter boundaries to add 67 in the final four.
Neesham also gave them the breakthrough in Namibia's chase, striking just after the Powerplay. The bowlers then chipped away at regular intervals, with all of Southee, Boult, Santner, Sodhi and Neesham among the wickets.
Match 5 v Afghanistan: Won by eight wickets
Williamson's men confirmed their place in the semi-final and ended Indian hopes with a comprehensive win against Afghanistan.
After Afghanistan chose to bat, the New Zealand new ball bowlers got swing early on but quickly embraced a short-ball attack. Najibullah Zadran stood tall with 73 off 48, but found little support at the other end as New Zealand kept them to 124/8.
Afghanistan's spinners struck twice, but Williamson and Devon Conway ensured there was little further drama as they steadily completed a clinical win.
Semi-final v England: Won by five wickets
Neesham was in the middle when New Zealand heartbreakingly lost the 50-over World Cup, but he made up for it somewhat in another death-overs special for New Zealand. This time he had Daryl Mitchell for company.
Chasing a target of 157, New Zealand needed 57 in the last four overs. Liam Livingstone, with his mix of off-spin and leg-spin had made their task difficult with 2/22 until then. Neesham, though, came with attack on his mind. He smashed his second ball for six, and having transferred the pressure on Chris Jordan, took him for 23 in the over.
He couldn't finish the task, but Mitchell, striking sixes off Adil Rashid and then Chris Woakes, ensured a thrilling finish with an over to spare.
Earlier, the bowlers led by Southee had done well to deny the English batters a six till the 16th over.
Some scars of 2019 had been erased, but as Neesham said later, they still had unfinished business in this tournament.
Final v Australia: Lost by eight wickets
New Zealand got off to a slow start, kept quiet by the excellent Josh Hazlewood who gave away just 11 runs in his first spell of three overs in the Powerplay. However, he dropped Williamson and the New Zealand captain made Australia pay, changing gears to race away to 85 in just 48 balls. Starc came in for particular punishment, going for 60 in his four overs, as New Zealand posted 172/4.
172 at the halfway mark seemed a defendable target, and when Trent Boult evoked a false shot from Aaron Finch (5), New Zealand had their tails up.
Out walked Mitchell Marsh for Australia, and New Zealand's hopes were quickly dashed. Hitting Adam Milne for six off his first ball, Marsh raced out to 14* of his first three balls, and didn't look back in an unbeaten 77 (50). David Warner also passed fifty before falling to Boult, though the damage had been already done. Glenn Maxwell (28* from 18 balls), swiped a ball through third man with a switch hit for the winning runs, and New Zealand were chased down with seven balls to spare.
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