In some respects, this is almost like a quarterfinal, the Birmingham no-result throwing a spanner in the works a little bit
Shane Bond played 18 Tests, 82 ODIs and 20 T20Is for New Zealand from 2001 to 2010. He took 87 Test, 147 ODI and 25 T20I wickets. Bond always kept his best for Australia: dismissing Ricky Ponting in all of the first six ODIs they played against each other; took a hat-trick in Hobart in 2006-07 and also bagged six for 23 in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2003
Despite having had to make do with just one point from its rain-ruined opening game against Australia, New Zealand will approach its clash against England with enhanced confidence. Kane Williamson and his boys will perhaps feel they were denied a point at Edgbaston by the weather, but that’s done and dusted. They will, however, take a great deal of heart from the manner in which they competed against Australia, traditionally tough nuts to crack for New Zealand in neutral territory.
Before Friday’s washout, New Zealand had lost 18 of its last 19 clashes, since 1999, to Australia on neutral patch. To have, therefore, held its own in its opening Group A encounter will be a huge confidence-booster for the Black Caps. I will be at the Cardiff Wales Stadium to watch the action first-hand, and I am really excited at what lies ahead.
In some respects, this is almost like a quarterfinal, the Birmingham no-result throwing a spanner in the works a little bit. Especially in the last two years, despite England’s vastly different approach to white-ball cricket, games between the two teams have been very tight, and I expect another close, well-contested encounter.
Chris Woakes being ruled out of the tournament will be a very big loss for the home side. As a cricketer, it is these events that you train and prepare so hard for, and when your tournament ends after just two overs, like it did for Woakes, it can be a bitter pill to swallow. Woakes has been a vital cog in the England wheel for the last one year in both Test cricket and the 50-over format. I feel for him, but that’s how the game goes sometimes. As someone who has had his fair share of injuries, all I can tell him is to stay positive and look at this as a temporary blip, because it won’t help anyone if his mindset is otherwise.
New Zealand will have taken note of a few things from England’s opening win against Bangladesh. For starters, Jason Roy has been struggling for form, and is coming off a string of low scores. If New Zealand can get stuck in early on and pick up a couple of quick wickets, then even England’s heavy-hitters can feel the pressure.
The Cardiff strip will also be of interest, and I won’t be surprised if New Zealand changes things up a bit and considers someone like Jeetan Patel. The off-spinner is no stranger to conditions, having played county cricket so long and quite successfully, and if the wicket is slow, then there is the opportunity to back up Mitchell Santner’s left-arm spin with Jeetan’s off-spin.
For England, who will fill the boots of Woakes is the big question. Personally, I would go with Adil Rashid. I think playing the leggie in 50-over cricket is a great option, a leg-spinner is just a different type of bowler. Particularly in Twenty20 cricket in the recent past, leggies have had plenty of success through the middle overs, and to see Rashid back in the XI in place of Woakes wouldn’t surprise me at all.
Both teams match-up in similar vein – there is a lot of power-hitting, plenty of all-rounders and good fast bowlers through the line-up. New Zealand, like we’ve said previously, hasn’t picked a leg-spinner in its squad -- I think it should have – and with Rashid not playing in the last game, both sides have left the attacking spinner on the sidelines. England, at least, has the chance to rectify that in its next outing.
In some ways, despite its eventually comfortable win against Bangladesh, it was a pretty nervous start by England. Both the teams were feeling their way in the first game, not really knowing what to expect. Bangladesh came very hard at the top and hit out at England, and that’s something New Zealand has been doing, too. They throw their bats around at the top of the innings and catch the opposition off guard. If they can get off to another cracker through Martin Guptill and Luke Ronchi, then all the pressure of the world will be on the home side.
England knows that if it gets past New Zealand, it will as good as eliminate the Kiwis and clear one obstacle on its path to the semifinal. In saying that, the deeper we get into the tournament, the higher the pressure and the expectations on the home side. Had New Zealand lost to Australia, say, it could have come down to net run-rate, but the one point from that game has kept the group wide open. England has two big guns to come in the shape of New Zealand and then Australia, it is all about how it handles the pressure.
England will really want to win this game because its final league opponent is Australia. In a tournament like this where every game is tough and competitive, you don’t want to leave your qualification hanging in the balance going into the last game. Especially if that last game is against Australia. That will be the underlying pressure for the host, and New Zealand would do well to try and make the most of that. © ICC Business Corporation FZ LLC 2017. All rights reserved.
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