New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum vowed today his side will stick with their aggressive approach as they look...
New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum vowed today his side will stick with their aggressive approach as they look to maintain their perfect record at this World Cup when they face arch-rivals Australia.
The Black Caps are top of Pool A with three wins out of three, including an eight-wicket thrashing of England, heading into their showdown with fellow co-hosts Australia in Auckland in front of what is set to be a capacity 40,000 crowd at Eden Park on Saturday.
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New Zealand are set to field an unchanged side with swing bowler Tim Southee, who took a stunning seven for 33 against England — the third-best World Cup return — fit following a minor shoulder injury.
“It’s an aggressive confident style where we are as positive as we can be, trying to endear ourselves to a public with the manner in which we play,” said McCullum, who did exactly that with the fastest World Cup fifty, off 18 balls, against England.
Australia’s former World Cup-winning captain Steve Waugh has tipped New Zealand as the favourites for Saturday’s match but McCullum wasn’t interested in such talk.
“Look, I have said all along, favourites or underdogs, it’s irrelevant once the game gets under way,” McCullum insisted.
“Our focus is very much on how we try and execute the game that has served us so well over the last little while. If we do that, we will be hard to beat.
“It doesn’t mean we are going to win but we are going to be hard to beat if we perform to the standards we know how.
“Both teams are desperate to win tomorrow.”
McCullum added his team, bidding to give New Zealand their first World Cup title, were in confident mood because of their recent record.
“The fanfare and anticipation is big but the guys are in a good space because of what we’ve done previously.”
Big crowds for New Zealand home matches are rare but McCullum said the Black Cpas would not be over-awed by the magnitude of Saturday’s match.
“There’s no real nerves, we’ve been playing some good cricket of late, living the dream really and getting the opportunity to play for your country in a World Cup at home and tomorrow is going to be a great event, 40,000 people and playing against Australia.
“It doesn’t really get better than that, so the guys are excited.”
Dynamic Australia opener David Warner, never shy of tossing in a verbal barb before or even during a match, suggested the visitors would try to make McCullum have a “brain explosion” with the bat.
But the opener refused to rise to the bait, with McCullum conceding: “I probably am guilty of the odd brain explosion while batting. I’ve read reports throughout the week but believe Australia’s been nothing but respectful and complimentary about our group.”
“Warner is an outstanding cricketer who has performed well in all three forms of the game over a period of time. He is a dangerous player that we need to make sure we keep him quiet but so is Aaron Finch and so is Steve Smith and Michael Clarke and the rest.
“We have to make sure we are able to execute the plans we want, and if someone does get away then we have a plan for shutting them down.”
One particular challenge at Eden Park is defending the ground’s exceptionally short straight boundaries.
“You need to be smart with the lengths you bowl,” said McCullum. “The square boundaries aren’t overly long either. If you focus too much on back-of-a-length then those players are capable of good horizontal bat shots.
“You’ve got to be smart about using the short ball.”