By Kieran Wellington
- After a victory against the previously unbeaten India, England will seal semi-final berth with Black Caps win
- Hosts have not beaten New Zealand in World Cup since 1983
- Kane Williamson’s men are on a two-match losing streak and could still miss out on the last four themselves
CHESTER-LE-STREET, DURHAM, – England’s aggressive style returned against India, but the hosts will need a repeat to secure a Cricket World Cup semi-final place versus New Zealand
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Further sudden death for hosts
One down, three to go. That will be the message indelibly etched into the minds of England, who after back-to-back defeats against Sri Lanka and Australia, toppled the undefeated India at Edgbaston on Sunday.
The equation was simple for Eoin Morgan and his England side as they rolled into Birmingham; win four matches and with it a first ever Cricket World Cup trophy. Having achieved a vital win now come New Zealand, fresh from defeat at Lords in the Trans-Tasman clash at Lords on Saturday, as the Black Caps play Russian roulette themselves to advance the last four.
After two under-par – possibly even abject – displays in the sixth and seventh Group games for England, Trevor Bayliss‘ men needed a spark. Boy, did they find that. A 160-run opening stand between the returning Jason Roy and the scorned Jonny Bairstow was the perfect tonic and evidenced why England were the initial pre-tournament favourites.
Coming up against a previously flawless India side with an arrogance of their own, Roy and Bairstow picked their moments, played with great maturity and took apart India’s spin duo, Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav, which was seen as the only achilles heel of Virat Kohli‘s men.
If Roy can overcome a forearm injury and his troublesome hamstring to take to the field in Durham on Wednesday expect England to lead from the front against another their semi-final rivals.
Black Caps on the edge
Although it is England who are currently in the perilous fourth position and clinging on to semi-final berth, Kane Williamson‘s outfit will be just as desperate to come out on top in the north-east of England.
After defeat to Pakistan – victors over England also this summer – captain Williamson will be all to aware of the precarious position his side remain in as they face the world’s best ODI side.
Despite Jimmy Neesham‘s 97 against Sarfraz Ahmed‘s men, a Kiwi loss was a tough one to take but if that was a blip, defeat against Australia at the weekend was enough to set the alarm bells ringing, with New Zealand’s progress now uncertain.
Australia managed just six more runs at Lord’s than New Zealand managed against Pakistan, as Trent Boult bowled beautifully to set up a reachable target of 244.
However, Australia, with tormentor-in-chief Mitchell Starc at his best, exposed the Black Caps’ fragile middle-order as they lost their last seven wickets for just 39 runs to utterly capitulate at the Home of Cricket.
Morgan’s men will be keen, much as Australia did to them last week, to re-open wounds still fresh in the minds of players like Martin Guptill.
Four years ago, Guptill was the top run-scorer in the entire World Cup and this time has just 158 runs at an average of 26. He is leaving those coming in after him vulnerable. This is the key difference between the two sides, and the reason a high-scoring contest will shift the balance of power further in England’s favour.
Superior England order
New Zealand have three big fish in their order but get Guptill, Williamson and Ross Taylor out, and they will struggle to post a substantial total.
The game comes at a perfect time for England, who as they showed are still formidable under pressure – even at home. The same gameplan they executed so brilliantly against India will be in effect, who also only possess two truly world-class batsmen without the injured Shikhar Dhawan.
When Virat Kohli was outwitted by Liam Plunkett and Rohit Sharma was removed by Chris Woakes, India were always playing catch-up.
England know how to wrestle the momentum away from sides with the ball, and it is becoming much harder to deflect the tide against the hosts because of a tail so long and rigid with batsmen like Morgan, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler.
After the opening efforts of the most prolific opening pair of all time – Bairstow and Roy average 65.86 in ODIs as a duo – the best average of any opening combination to have batted more than 20 times together – any side would have their work cut out.
Roy’s inclusion changes this England batting line-up from other rans, to strong candidates. The equation is that simple in sporting terms. The entire mentality of England changes with James Vince, who remains a enigma for host to solve.
Kiwi pace attack
England will not underestimating their opponents who remain dangerous in the one day game. Expect Matt Henry to come back into the side after a failed experiment from Williamson to switch to two frontline spinners at Lord’s.
That will reinforce the Black Caps’ pace attack and mean they possess the skill and guile of Trent Boult, the raw, skiddy pace of Henry and the 90mph plus aggression of Lockie Ferguson.
If Boult can mirror the performances of his fellow left-armers Jason Behrendorff and Starc by removing Joe Root and Bairstow early, New Zealand can unleash the pace of Ferguson on captain Morgan, who has twice been out to the short ball in consecutive games.
In pinning down where the match could be won and lost – outside of the contribution of England’s top-order – the winning ingredients are tricky to decipher; will swing play a big part in cool conditions? Or will it come down to which side has the greater discipline over 50 overs?
What is for certain is come Wednesday evening, either England or New Zealand could be staring down the barrel of early elimination from the competition, however that will be determined by Bangladesh’s seismic clash with Pakistan at Lords on Friday.
Durham may seldom find itself at the centre of the sporting world, but make no mistake, come Wednesday morning at Chester-le-Street the eyes of the cricketing fraternity will be locked on it.
England play New Zealand in their crucial final Group game at Chester-le-Street, Durham, with the opening ball at 10:30am BST.
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