Underdogs tag suits New Zealand, says Taylor

Colombo: The underdogs tag suits New Zealand just fine and it works to their advantage even more in crunch matches, says big-hitting batsman Ross Taylor.

"Most of the times when New Zealand play we are the underdogs. It`s something that we almost enjoy," Taylor said here today.

New Zealand play Sri Lanka, one of the title favourites, in the first semi-final of the World Cup here on Tuesday.

"A lot of teams expect to beat us and we enjoy the underdogs tag and we expect to beat them as well."

While Sri Lanka were expected to make the last-four stage, the Kiwis made a statement of sorts by knocking South Africa out of the tournament in their quarter-final match.

"We`ve got lot of momentum in our camp. We`re very happy the way we have fielded and hopefully we can continue with that and put Sri Lanka under pressure," said Taylor, whose unbeaten century in the 110-run win over Pakistan in the group stage helped the Kiwis into the knockout round.

Sri Lanka thrashed New Zealand by 112 runs in a Group A match at Mumbai, where Muttiah Muralitharan took 4-25, giving New Zealand enough indication of what could be on offer during the semi-final at the R Premadasa wicket.

However, the good news for the Kiwis is that the wily off-spinner is under an injury cloud ahead of the big game.

"Obviously it`s a sudden-death game. We are taking lot of confidence from our last game against South Africa. We`ve got an advantage that we`ve played against Sri Lanka in the pool match and we did a few things wrong and hopefully we will rectify that in the match come Tuesday."

Muralitharan finished with figures of 2-54 in his team`s crushing 10-wicket win over England yesterday, but it could have been much better had two regulation catches not been dropped off his bowling.

Jonathan Trott top-scored for England with a defiant 86 and was the only English batsman who looked comfortable against Muralitharan.

"I thought the way Trott batted was something that we can take a leaf out of. (Particularly), the way they played Murali because obviously Murali was a big factor in the way Sri Lanka beat us in the last match," Taylor said.

The batsman is New Zealand`s leading scorer in the tournament with 288 runs from seven matches.

"The main thing is to score runs and help the team win whether its scoring 40 or 140. Getting a score and putting pressure (on the opposition) whether you are batting first or second."

Tuesday`s match will be a repeat of the 2007 World Cup semifinal between the two countries when Sri Lanka defeated the Kiwis by 81 runs at Jamaica.

It will be New Zealand`s sixth World Cup semifinal appearance.

They have lost on all five previous occasions, but Taylor said now is the time to take the next step.

"We are proud of our history of making it to the semifinals. But this team want to make history and go one step further and make the final, we generally believe we can do that and we want to show that on Tuesday," Taylor said.

New Zealand`s build-up to the quadrennial extravaganza has been disastrous, with 0-4 and 0-5 ODI series defeats in Bangladesh and India respectively.

Taylor felt other teams might have underestimated them after the poor build-up, which included an 11-match losing streak.

"I don`t think a lot of other people gave us a chance, which probably made other teams take us a little bit lighter then they would normally do. That played into our hands."