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Australia have edge in trans-Tasman battle

Wisden India logo Wisden India 02-06-2017 Saurabh Somani
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Group A: Australia v New Zealand

Date: June 2 (Friday)


135 matches; Australia 90; New Zealand 39; No Result 6


The last time these two sides met was in February this year, with New Zealand winning the Chappell-Hadlee series 2-0 against an admittedly batting depleted Australian side which was without Steven Smith and David Warner. The teams have played each other nine times in the last 15 months. The record is an equal 4-4, with one match abandoned. They also met in the 2015 World Cup final, in which Australia were comprehensively dominant. That is true to history too, with the Aussies often winning the big matches and moments against their neighbours.

New Zealand have transitioned well from the Brendon McCullum era to the Kane Williamson age, and the captain’s hallmark poise seems to have been transmitted down the ranks. That calm will be crucial for what is an extremely important Group A match. While England and Australia are the favourites to make the semifinals from the group, everybody knows that it could all go wrong quickly with one unexpected loss. And a loss to New Zealand might qualify as an upset, but it won’t be unexpected because New Zealand are eminently capable of beating one, or both, of those teams. That could open up interesting combinations in the group, particularly with Bangladesh showing that they aren’t exactly going to be pushovers.

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Smith indicated on match eve at Edgbaston that the bowling attack fans had been waiting to see – Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson – would most likely not come to pass. While having all four is exciting and seeing them bowl together might be a treat, team balance demands that at most three play. John Hastings, Marcus Stoinis and Moises Henriques are all seam-up bowlers, though of varying degrees of proficiency, and given their additional batting chops, at least two of the three will definitely be in the XI, which leaves little room for the four fearsome pacers. Smith indicated that it could come down to a tussle between Hastings and Stoinis for the No. 8 slot.


The warm-up matches at Edgbaston produced very high scores. Pakistan chased down 342 against Bangladesh, and New Zealand made light work of Sri Lanka’s seemingly impregnable 356 for 8. The catch was that these were played on practice pitches – which Williamson described as “pretty good” – where one boundary was extremely short. This match will be played on one of the two centre pitches, with a much more even distribution of boundaries. If the surface stays true to recent character, it will remain a batting-dominated one. In that scenario, the team with the superior bowling attack will be fancied to do better, since it will require some special bursts from the bowlers to rein batsmen in.

What can aid bowlers is the uncertainty over the weather. The forecast is for some rain in the morning and a heavier shower in the afternoon, which means cloud cover. Under the clouds, the ball tends to swing more, and both Australia and New Zealand have pacers who will be able to use that movement well. Both teams will thus need to keep an eye on not just the 22 yards on the ground, but the vast expanse above too.

Watch: We are focussed on the job — Smith

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In Starc, Australia have a bowler capable of bursting through any batsman, regardless of surface, conditions or state of the match. In Williamson, New Zealand have one of cricket’s modern greats, who can adapt his game to the hurly burly of a T20 match to the long-drawn patience game of a five-day affair with equal felicity. For New Zealand in particular, this match-up will be crucial. It is very likely that Williamson, batting in the top order, will face a fair bit of Starc. A lot of New Zealand’s fortunes depend on how well the captain goes because the batting line-up around him not as intimidating.

For Australia, while Starc is undoubtedly the spearhead, there are several other quality pace options to call on as well. But if the Starc threat can be neutralised, New Zealand will most certainly feel they have gained an advantage and can tackle the others more confidently. For his part, Starc is returning from a long injury layoff and he’ll be equally keen to prove that his status as pace spearhead is unquestioned even among the plethora of riches Australia have.


Australia: Glenn Maxwell

Glenn Maxwell’s ODI strike-rate is a fearsome 125.28, better than several batsmen’s T20 figure. The Big Show hasn’t quite fired against New Zealand yet, eight matches and seven innings producing a meagre 56 runs. An average of 9.33 and a strike-rate of 83.58 isn’t a reflection of what he’s capable. New Zealand’s bowlers may have had the better of him so far, but there is also the fact that only once has Maxwell faced them outside New Zealand. That, coincidentally, was at this very ground in the last edition of the Champions Trophy in 2013, when he made his only score of note against the Kiwis, 29 not out off 22. Will Friday herald a step up? Nobody would want to bet against it.

New Zealand: Corey Anderson.

One of the features of New Zealand teams past that always made them a competitive outfit in ODIs was the plethora of allrounders, men who could bowl deceptively gentle seam-up and be relied on to score useful runs. Corey Anderson is a step-up of that version. He can bat, and bat big. He scores at better than a run-a-ball in ODIs, and he can build an innings too. Now that he’s begun bowling again, his left-arm pace can also be a handy asset, especially if the weather gods turn a kindly eye towards seamers.


David Warner is coming off yet another splendid IPL season. For Australia, though, the opener and vice-captain hasn’t been in the best form. His destructive ability is second to none, and on batting-friendly surfaces, he has the capacity to tear any attack to shreds. He will shoulder the main responsibility of run-scoring alongside Smith, but he will also be looking to prove that the destroyer in him is alive and well. If the pitch is of the kind that produces a 300-plus plays 300-plus contest, Warner will have no better avenue to stamp his authority all over again.


Australia: Steven Smith (capt), David Warner (vice-capt), Pat Cummins, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade (wk), Adam Zampa.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Neil Broom, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, James Neesham, Jeetan Patel, Luke Ronchi (wk), Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.

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