Mumbai: Ross Taylor's century and the 110-run win over Pakistan has renewed confidence within the New Zealand camp and even has some Kiwis thinking about topping Group A at the World Cup.
Top-order batsman Martin Guptill is under no illusions about what's at stake in New Zealand's remaining two group matches. A win over Canada on Sunday is a must, even if they're saying it's not a given with the absence of injured skipper Daniel Vettori.
A win over 1996 champion Sri Lanka is the other target ahead of the quarterfinals. Vettori is expecting to have recovered from mild cruciate ligament strain he picked up fielding against Pakistan in time to lead the New Zealanders against Sri Lanka.
Wins over Zimbabwe and 1992 champion Pakistan since a lopsided, seven-wicket loss to defending champion Australia has lifted New Zealand out of the doldrums.
"That game gave us a bit of a kick," in the behind, Guptill said. "Really turned it around for us. Got a good win against Zimbabwe and to follow it up with a good win against Pakistan like that is fantastic.
"At the moment we're on top of the world. Hopefully we can replicate that last game in the next game."
Asked where he thought New Zealand could finish in a group that contains the three teams that between them have won the last five World Cups, Guptill said "I want to say top."
"But we've two more games to come. ... If we get a win against Canada, then anything could happen against Sri Lanka."
Sri Lanka tops the group ahead of the weekend with seven points from five matches. New Zealand and Pakistan are one point behind, with Australia on five points after two wins and no result in the washed out match against Sri Lanka.
Guptill said Canada presents an unusual challenge because it is such an unknown quantity, and is coming off its own confidence-boosting win over 2003 semifinalist Kenya. It was Canada's second win ever at the World Cup.
Still, nothing short of a comprehensive win will do.
"We'll take Canada first. After we beat Canada," Guptill said, "then we can go and deal to Sri Lanka."
New Zealand had a horror patch in ODIs ahead of the World Cup, failing to win a match in tours to India and Bangladesh and then losing at home to Pakistan.
Guptill said John Wright's influence was starting to have a positive impact on the batting group. The former New Zealand test batsman and India national coach joined the New Zealanders ahead of the World Cup to take some pressure off Vettori, who had been running the team as captain and quasi coach.
"Having coached India for five years and played international cricket — he knows his stuff," said Guptill, who opened the cup with an unbeaten 39 against Kenya, then followed a disappointing 10 against Australia with half centuries against Zimbabwe and Pakistan. "He's just given us that confidence in ourselves to go out there and do what we need to do. It's been fantastic for us as a batting group."
Guptill said Taylor's devastating unbeaten 131 against Pakistan was evidence of that.
"Ross hasn't scored a big hundred like that for a while now. For him to get it, it's not only given him confidence but also the rest of the team," Guptill said. "Everyone is sticking their hands up when we need them."
And Jacob Oram's partnership with Taylor against Pakistan was ominous for opposing bowlers, Guptill said.
"We saw a little glimpse of what Jake can do the other night. He batted very well there at the end with Ross and hit some big bombs. I said to the other guys that I think Jake's back, so hopefully that's a good sign of things to come."
The Canadians have taken some confidence from a narrow loss to Pakistan and the solid, five-wicket win over Kenya.
"Our performances against Kenya and Pakistan gives us belief. Overall, we are confident going into the match," Canada's Delhi-born skipper Ashish Bagai said after arriving in Mumbai. "Batting has been the problem for us in the first three games. Hopefully, we have sorted that out."
Bagai and Jimmy Hansra both scored half centuries against the Kenya, with Bagai finishing unbeaten on 64 as Canada surpassed Kenya's 198. The relatively poor form of John Davison has caused some concerns for Canada, but Bagai is confident the veteran performer, who once held the record for the fastest century in a World Cup, was only one innings from hitting form.
New Zealand selectors weren't expected to settle on a starting lineup until at least Saturday, wanting to look closely at the Wankhede Stadium wicket before deciding on how to replace Vettori.
Luke Woodcock could slot in as a like-for-like replacement with his left-arm orthodox, but he has only played two ODIs and hasn't taken a wicket — a long way from Vettori's status as the leading wicket-taker for New Zealand in limited-overs internationals. The other option could be seamer Hamish Bennett, who has 20 wickets at an average just shy of 21 in 11 ODIs.
"It's up to the selectors what they think fits best for this wicket and this game," Guptill said.