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England, New Zealand promise clash of similar styles

Wisden India logo Wisden India 06-06-2017

Group A: England v New Zealand

Date: Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Venue: Cardiff Wales Stadium, Cardiff

HEAD-TO-HEAD 

83 matches; England 36 wins; New Zealand 41 wins; tied 2; no result 4

THE FORM

The loss of Chris Woakes notwithstanding, England still look a formidable 50-over outfit. They bat deep, and crucially, each of their top seven is capable of winning a match on his own. Woakes’s absence will mean the balance will be affected, since with him there they had a batting line-up that ran till nine and six bowlers to call on.

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Complete coverage: ICC Champions Trophy

England do have David Willey as a readymade replacement, though since Woakes’s bowling was his primary suit, England could look at Steven Finn too. New Zealand will come into this match high on confidence, but with one point fewer than they would have thought was theirs. They had Australia in all sorts of trouble in their first match, but rain arrived with New Zealand firmly in control. The format of the ICC Champions Trophy means a washout could have potentially disastrous, or happy, consequences depending on how other matches unfold. If there is another no result in Cardiff, it will mean New Zealand face a must-win against Bangladesh in their final league match. 

Both England and New Zealand are coming into the Champions Trophy on the back of series wins, though England beating South Africa will admittedly give them greater confidence than New Zealand got out of beating Bangladesh and Ireland – though admittedly without most of their ODI core. There are several similarities to both sides.

England are playing an exciting brand of cricket and have a fulcrum in Joe Root in the middle order. New Zealand may not have as many superstar names but they are undoubtedly effective, and bat deep as well. And Kane Williamson provides batting spine. Both Root and Williamson of course, are often spoken of together as part of the vanguard of batting greats of the next generation alongside Steven Smith and Virat Kohli. Bowling-wise, both have pace attacks that can break games open – as New Zealand nearly did against Australia before they were stopped by the weather. England will be favourites, but not by much. And Williamson has proved time and again, that when it comes to smarts, there are few in world cricket who can out-think him.

THE CONDITIONS

The scene at the Cardiff Wales Stadium on match eve was not pleasant. Neither team could have an outdoors training session, with heavy rain confining them indoors throughout. The silver lining to those clouds is that the forecast for Tuesday is better. But the famously fickle English weather could still have a say in how this match ends. If a truncated game is possible, it is anybody’s guess what tactics either side will adopt. In recent ODIs here, at least one team has always put up a 300-plus score, though these weren’t as frequent as in the early years of this still young ground.

Given the trend of pitches at The Oval and Edgbaston, it is reasonable to suppose that the track will favour batsmen, though you can’t know what effect spending an entire day under covers with heavy rain overhead will have.

THE MATCH-UP

ADAM MILNE v JOE ROOT

In the two overs that he could bowl against Australia, Milne showed just why he has always been spoken of highly by those who follow New Zealand cricket. He got the ball to move just enough on an otherwise unhelpful deck, and his speed meant batsmen couldn’t relax. Root’s credentials need no reiteration. He could well end as England’s greatest batsman ever, across formats, and he began the Champions Trophy in some style, hitting Bangladesh for 133 not out to make a 300-plus chase seem like a stroll. If Milne can be the surprise weapon New Zealand unleash to unsettle England’s middle order, it could make for interesting viewing.

THE WILDCARDS

England: Jason Roy Roy’s form has been the talking point through the past few ODIs now, particularly because his presence in the XI means someone like Jonny Bairstow has to sit outside. In terms of individual form, Bairstow has done better than Roy of late, but Eoin Morgan has repeatedly said on record that England are backing their opener. Even with that assurance though, Roy’s place will start looking uncertain if he fails again. On the other hand, this might just be the spur that brings him roaring back to form.

New Zealand: Luke Ronchi In the match against Australia, Ronchi did an excellent job of taking the attack head on in the initial overs. Having someone do that consistently is a luxury New Zealand had learned to live without since Brendon McCullum’s retirement, but if Ronchi can replicate his success, it creates the perfect platform for Williamson to capitalise on. Ronchi can hit the ball hard, and be unorthodox while doing it, which makes planning for him that much more difficult. And even though England have a good attack, he will have the confidence of having dismantled one at least equally good, if not superior, in Australia’s.

WATCH OUT FOR… Ben Stokes is quickly becoming an allrounder in the truest sense of the word. He seems capable of holding his spot in the XI with either bat or ball, and having him is a blessing for any team because it gives them two players in one. And that is without taking his outstanding fielding into account. The sheer number of ways and moments in which Stokes can influence a game means he almost invariably does have a major part to play in every match. Keeping him quiet will be a major challenge.

TEAMS

England: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Jos Buttler (wk), Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Mark Wood.

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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