Neesham: 'You don't come halfway across the world just to win a semi-final'

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“There’s one game to go and I’m sure there will be a bigger outpouring of emotion if we manage to get across the line”

“Try and hit every ball for six”. This was Jimmy Neesham‘s plan after he got together with opener Daryl Mitchell, with New Zealand needing 60 off the last 29 balls in their semi-final against England. Neesham faced 11 balls, clearing the fence three times and finding it once.

Neesham threw his hands, hips, shoulders and every muscle into his leg-side swipes. His first six off Chris Jordan was a mis-hit over the midwicket boundary, but he loaded up again and hoicked a four between deep midwicket and wide long-on. He unleashed another no-holds-barred hoick and for a moment it looked like Jonny Bairstow would track it down at wide long-on, but his knee brushed the rope when he had caught the ball before he could relay the catch to the converging outfielder inside the field of play.

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Neesham also lined up legspinner Adil Rashid and mowed him into the grassbanks beyond midwicket for his third six.

“I just said to Daz [Daryl Mitchell], I hit CJ [Chris Jordan] for a six second ball and Daz sort of came down and said: ‘what do you think?’ I just said I’m going to try and hit every ball for six,” Neesham told NZC’s in-house media team, ahead of New Zealand’s final against Australia. “It doesn’t always come out of the middle but chunked a couple and got enough to get over the rope. Yeah, ended up doing reasonably comfortably in the end.”

Neesham’s triptych of sixes also helped free up Mitchell, who had struggled in the early exchanges against Chris Woakes and Jordan. Rashid got rid of Neesham with an in-to-the-pitch wrong’un, but Mitchell ultimately blasted New Zealand to a memorable victory with 6,6,4 against Woakes.

“I think that’s the situation you want to be in when you open the batting,” Neesham said. “You just want to be still there having faced 40-50 balls at the end and he was obviously seeing it very nicely and striking it well. It was just a case of hoping we hadn’t left the run too late, but like I mentioned before plenty of time to spare in the end.”

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While some of his team-mates were having the time of their lives in the middle in the 2015 World Cup, Neesham watched that semi-final against South Africa from the Eden Park grass banks. He later fell out of love with cricket and even contemplated retirement. Okay, let’s not bring up the 2019 heartbreak. In 2021, he was viciously swinging balls into the Abu Dhabi grass banks.

The tables have turned, but Neesham was not ready to celebrate just yet. After Mitchell struck the winning runs, the entire New Zealand side broke into celebrations, but Neesham didn’t indulge in any of it. He simply stayed expressionless in his chair in front of the dug-out. Neesham – and New Zealand – have their eyes on the big prize.

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“It’s a situation worthy of celebrating I guess – winning a semi-final – but you don’t come halfway around the world just to win a semi-final,” Neesham said. “We’ve got our sights pretty firmly set on the game in a few days’ time… I’m personally, and we as a team, are not getting ahead of ourselves. One game to go and I’m sure there will be a bigger outpouring of emotion if we manage to get across the line.”

Neesham stressed that it’s not in New Zealand’s nature to get carried away by the euphoria of the semi-final victory and he backed his side to regather themselves for the final on November 14.

“Look, I think we’re experienced at it,” he said. “We’ve done so well and so consistently in tournaments across five or six years. We know how to I suppose hit the reset button and put a win or a loss behind us pretty quickly. We’ve got pretty robust strategies around how to prepare for games with scouting, planning, and all that kind of stuff. So, those strategies will all kick over the next couple of days and we will get back on the training paddock tomorrow I think and prepare as best as we can.”

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo

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