New Zealand wary as England look to go 2-0 up
England will be brimming with confidence after having beaten World Cup finalists New Zealand in Birmingham on Tuesday and would be keen on proving that it wasn’t a one-off ahead of their second ODI. 14 sixes, 38 boundaries, a run-rate in excess of 8 and the highest ODI score to top it all - it seems England have finally shed the horrors of a wretched World Cup campaign by getting rid of the definite passivity that had become such an obvious trademark of their playing style.
But for someone who has followed English cricket quite closely, the grim, debilitating patch that follows such false dawns is equally evident, however the players’ vow that they are on the cusp of a new era where there’s no room for England’s old-school coyness. Right from the start, England have made it clear that they won’t be playing this series as the underdogs - be it their team selection or the on-field tactics, they have shown remarkable promise in both departments.
Setbacks are inevitable with such a young side, but the fact they are willing to give everyone a fair chance at scoring runs reveals their progressive intent. With the missing pieces of the puzzle finally falling in place, fans will expect similar fireworks from the English blades at Kia Oval.
England’s innings in the last ODI could be broken down into two parts - the first one, in which Joe Root and Eoin Morgan expertly manoeuvred the side out of troubled waters with a century stand and the second, in which Adil Rashid and Jos Butler took an instant liking to New Zealand’s bowlers and shred them to pieces with some powerful hitting en route to their side’s first score of 400. And to think that England achieved this feat without their openers- Alex Hales and Jason Roy firing all guns only adds to the excitement of the prospects at hand.
Butler would be high on confidence after his marauding 66-ball hundred and would be eager on replicating his performance in the second match. While Morgan and Root would hold the key as England try to kick the shackles that have dogged England’s limited overs campaign for a while now.
Their bowling also looks different and certainly more reassuring with Steven Finn leading the charge with a 4 wickets in the last game. He was ably guided by spinner Adil Rashid whose figures of 4 for 55 put him in a good stead ahead of the Ashes this year. Chris Jordan and Liam Plunkett went wicketless in the previous outing and would be itching to open their accounts as well.
In contrast, New Zealand looked completely out of touch in their massive 210-run defeat against the hosts and would want to set things straight in the second game. Why McCullum chose to ball first on a pitching teeming with runs is still a mystery but he would want his bowlers to put up a better show this time around.
Tim Southee was seen bowling at full tilt in the nets and is expected to return for the second ODI after an injury kept him out of the previous game. That should strengthen the visitor’s bowling which looked rather ineffective on a wicket that had barely anything in it for the bowlers.
Trent Boult returned with match figures of 4 for 55 and will look to emulate that on Friday. However fast bowler McClenaghan and spinner Santner who went for over 8 runs an over would have to get their act right if New Zealand are to entertain any thoughts of containing a resurgent English batting.
New Zealand’s meek surrender could be partly attributed to the failure of their batsmen who looked overwhelmed by the prospect of the run-chase right from the offset. Except for Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor who tried to resist to the best of their abilities, none of the other batsmen seemed to put the bowling to sword and caved under pressure. The batsmen have to put up a better show this time around if they want to square the series.
New Zealand have gone off the boil but Morgan and his men would know that they cannot underestimate an aggressive side like the Kiwis and they will have to be on top of their game as they look to go 2-0 up in the series. On the other hand, New Zealand haven’t been cornered like this in the recent past and the game on Friday will indeed be a test of their character and tenacity to fight back when the odds are against them.
Suffice to say, we have a cracker of a game on our hands.