New Zealand know that pressure situations await in the knockout stages of the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup and Jimmy Neesham insists they could not have had better preparation than a thrilling encounter with the West Indies at Old Trafford.
As per ICC release, the Black Caps all-rounder was one of the many New Zealand heroes in the game, bowling the penultimate over and taking the final wicket of Carlos Brathwaite in a remarkable five-run victory.
Prior to holing out while going for a winning six, Brathwaite had hammered a magnificent 101 to take the Windies from a perilous position to the brink of an unlikely victory.
That was when Neesham intervened however, giving New Zealand another narrow win after Wednesday’s final-over success against South Africa, the perfect tune-up for a likely semi-final.
He said: “There was a little bit of talk before the South Africa game that our middle order was untested and we’ve now had two games in a row where our middle order has come through and done a really good job for us. So that is a bit of a tick in the box.
“In a topsy turvy game like this, you always try to keep your cool and understand that if you make guys make tough decisions and put the percentages in your favour then you give yourself a chance of coming out on top.
“It was a chance for us to practise a pressure scenario and to come out on the right side is really pleasing.
“I certainly prefer being out there to sitting in the shed watching guys finish the job off, it’s a lot less nerve-wracking. You want to tick all those boxes during the tournament so that when you get to the semi-finals you don’t see any scenario you haven’t seen before.
“We’re obviously a good chasing team, we like it because generally it gives our bowlers a chance up front to move the ball but I think we’ve shown here that on a deck that probably wasn’t all that much to our advantage, to still get an above-par score and defend it was very pleasing.”
New Zealand now sit top of the World Cup standings, and could become the first team to clinch a semi-final berth if they beat Pakistan in their next game.
Neesham played an important role in keeping them unbeaten, but he admitted there were a few nervy moments when Brathwaite clubbed his final delivery back over long on, with the West Indian about a foot short of what would have been a match-winning six.
Neesham added: “I knew from a fair way out that I’d have to bowl another over. When you’re going up against someone like that, who’s hitting the ball so well, it’s about trying to make them take their second or third option.
“I knew he didn’t get it, but I still knew that he’s got enough power that sometimes he doesn’t get it and it still goes for six anyway. I knew it wasn’t ten rows back but I still watched it all the way.
“I don’t think there’s many people in world cricket who you’d want more than a guy like Trent Boult who takes catches for fun.”