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A week of it 

Top order angst 
If you follow NZ cricket fans on the internet, you'd think we were Afghanistan, not semi finalists, having lost our mojo worse than the 37th film in the Austin Powers franchise.  

Yes, it would be nice to have more men in form, and we battled against Australia and England in particular, but there are reasons to be cheerful. If everyone shows up, we're capable of beating anyone. With some luck at the toss, we will get conditions that help our bowlers, who are world class. We had Australia on the ropes at least twice and can learn from where we went wrong. We are not South Africa, the West Indies or Sri Lanka, who've all performed far below their capabilities. 

Before the tournament, the consensus was we were battling for the fourth semi final spot. That's pretty much what's happened, even though the luck we rode through the early stages has deserted us in the last two games. Imagine if Mitch Santner had bowled Jason Roy first ball, instead of missing the stumps by a centimetre. I'll defend your right to whinge on the internet (if I must), but we're still in the tournament after all, and two games away from winning the thing. Much rather that than being on a plane home. 

Good question
Asking Kane Williamson questions at a press conference game is like throwing stones in a lake. There will be ripples - not a splash - and in seconds the lake will return to a peaceful state, like your stone never existed, batted away like the great man tucks a leg-side delivery away for four, all along the ground. A prime example:

(Click here if the embedded video isn't working for you) Funnily enough, Kane's knowing zen-like comeback is only the second-best knowing zen-like comeback of the year, behind The Cure's Robert Smith

Taking time off 
The All Blacks announced a training squad of about 73 players this week. It's obviously Very Important and that with a World Cup Year dominating us all, but the most interesting bit was Liam Squire not making himself available, as he didn't feel he was fit, and had some personal issues to sort out. 

Professionalism has made the All Blacks more relatable. Not the hanging out in groups of four pouring blue Powerade over their Ford Falcon's bonnets bits, but the having a job bit. They're not mystical creatures pounding over the land on all fours in a relentless quest for a black rugby jersey, but guys like you or me (OK, much bigger and stronger) turning up to work, doing the best for their families and wanting to do well.

Sure, there's a lot more scrutiny and a lot more free kit than what you or I get for doing our jobs, but there are more parallels now than ever before. 

Thanks for reading - Richard
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The week's best NZ sport writing

Seeing an honest-to-goodness fight right in front of you at a club match is pretty full-on in fairness. Bruce Holloway was at the North Shore United v Manakau United brawl that saw eight red cards, three yellow and three sin bins [NZ Herald]

Steve Tew led rugby in New Zealand - as high profile a job as it gets here - for the last decade or so. His retirement announcement was met with begrudging praise - but Paul Thomas appreciated his strong leadership [NZ Listner] 

The Crusaders are the champion team that play in a really rubbish stadium says Tom VInicombe [Rugby Pass]

Just a couple of years into his captaincy, Kane Williamson is facing his biggest test so far - Andrew Fidel Fernando looks at how the transition from Baz's team is progressing [Cricinfo]

Rod Latham, Gavin Larsen and Chris Harris's tear stained Eden Park lap of honour is burned on the brain of all NZ cricket fans - Simon Day wrote a tour diary of the 1992 World Cup, the tournament that started a million cricketing love affairs [The Spinoff]

This sounds like a plot for a cool early 80's film - large Dunedin fertiliser company want local rugby club to jog on and leave their park of 130 years behind. They're not budging [RNZ]

Michael Donaldson was once a slave to the fitness tracker, those blinking bits of plastic keen to give you the bad news - but then took back control of his life by cutting the cord [Stuff]

Video nasty

Learn to play the shenanigan. Easily the greatest internet video you'll see this week.  

Long read

Meet the Instagram influencers of Byron Bay, who seem to be living out a fantasy life of kitchen design and holistic parenting, basically Big Little Lies with more sponsors' product and less covering up murder and that [Vanity Fair]

Selected weekend fixtures

  • The Super Rugby final is on Saturday night, with the nation's Crusaders *cough* taking on Argentina's Jaguares, it's at half seven on SKY
  • It's Pakistan v Bangladesh tonight in the cricket world cup - because of the mysterious Net Run Rate, if Bangladesh bat first, the BLACKCAPS will be guaranteed a semi final spot. If Pakistan bat first and have the biggest ever win in the history of ODI's, they'll probably still miss out. Clear? In that case, we'll most likely play old mates Australia on Tuesday night at 9.30pm in the semi final, COME ON 
  • The women's football world cup final is between USA and the Netherlands and is on at 3am Monday morning on SKY

Bring back the gif 

When colleagues say they're just going to watch a cricket replay after work.  
Sport Review newsletter is the best of New Zealand sport writing and content, in your mailbox every Friday at 8am, just in time for the weekend. 

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