New Zealand have never progressed to the knockout stage of a World Cup having won all their matches in the group stage. They have a chance when they turn out for their final pool clash on Friday at Hamilton. Without doubt, they will be on top of their game, and their confidence would also be pitch high, having defeated Australia, Sri Lanka and England in the series to go with the wins against two lower ranked sides. In that sense, Bangladesh should be an easier challenge, but it would not be since the Asian nation would also be on a high having defeated England famously to make the quarter-finals. Although the Kiwis have got the better of Bangladesh in home conditions, their away record against the team is poor, something Bangladesh would be keen to capitalise on.
The biggest threat for Bangladesh from the game would undoubtedly again be from New Zealand's batting sensation, their skipper Brendon McCullum. The Kiwi opener is in the form of his life, and has been smashing fours and sixes at the drop of a hat. He has put to pieces the best of attacks in the World Cup, and Bangladesh would certainly be concerned about the way he is batting. They need to get him early to augment their chances of causing another major upset in this World Cup. The word going around is that Bangladesh might try out spin against him. It would be an interesting ploy to see how McCullum reacts if the pace is taken off the ball.
The good news for New Zealand is that even in the event of McCullum registering a rare failure, they have other men to make up for him even though their impact may not be as deadly. McCullum's opening partner, Martin Guptill, has been a passenger at the non-striker's end, but he got some runs in the last game. Kane Williamson too has chipped in with key contributions during the course of the series. If anything, the middle and lower order will be a concern for the Kiwis. They haven't been tested much, but against Australia in a crucial game, the poor form of Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott, Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi got exposed. Kiwis would be keen to set it right.
One of the key factors why New Zealand have been super successful in the series is because their batsmen and bowlers have complemented each other very well. Tim Southee and Trent Boult have been lethal as a pair. While Southee destroyed the English hopes, Boult stood up against Australia. Veteran spinner Daniel Vettori did not go into the World Cup high on form, but he has proved how legends can turn things around. Not only has the left-arm spinner restricted the runs, he has also picked up wickets after stifling the opponents. Even the relatively inexperienced Adam Milne has stood up, and made a contribution.
On paper, and given the conditions New Zealand have a definite edge over Bangladesh. But, the latter would be taking the confidence from the England win into the game, and will look to ride on that wave. They have a few match winners of their own, who are eminently capable of causing an upset. Tamim Iqbal has hit form at the right time while both Mahmudullah and Mushfiqur Rahim are bringing all their experience into play in this World Cup. Shakib Al Hasan hasn't set the tournament on fire yet. With the ball, Rubel Hossain was exceptional against England, and also has enjoyed success against New Zealand. Mashrafe Mortaza and Taskin Ahmed too are in form. Can they pull things together against the rampant Kiwis is the big question.
--By A Cricket Analyst