POOL A | Friday 20 February | Wellington | 03:00
Pool A’s next big clash sees a talented New Zealand outfit take on an England side low on confidence and direction. The English contingent must consider this match a must-win as a slip-up against one of the minnows in their group could prove a telling blow to their quarter-final ambitions. New Zealand will be mindful of not letting the pressure of hosting a World Cup get to them, with pundits the world over lauding this as the best chance a Black Caps side has of winning the global tournament. However, New Zealand must first navigate a tricky test against Scotland. All five of the World Cup matches to this point have seen 300+ totals scored and picking up wickets throughout the innings will be paramount for all sides looking to go far in the tournament.
To Win Match
New Zealand 9/20
As wary as captain and coach are of piling too much pressure on the young shoulders of star batsman Kane Williamson, they cannot help but be effusive in their praise. A strong World Cup performance from New Zealand’s number three will certainly provide a boost as those around him remain convinced that he will become the best Black Caps batsman in history. His 57 in New Zealand’s opening match against Sri Lanka was his fourth score above fifty in four consecutive ODIs and his fifth from six matches. His consistency is remarkable and indeed captain Brendon McCullum has stated that he wouldn’t have another number three the world over if given the choice. If New Zealand are to be a success at this year’s tournament, much will depend on the scores of Williamson as well as the performances of Ross Taylor a spot below. Guptill and McCullum are important at the top of the order but the solidity offered by the aforementioned middle-order batsmen is crucial. Grant Elliot has emerged as New Zealand’s first-choice number five, his role as innings anchor together with the ability to deliver a few quiet overs gives his side tremendous balance. Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi are dangerous when it comes to clearing the boundary as the former has proved with regularity. Daniel Vettori should be back as he’ll likely earn a rest against Scotland, while Mitchell McClenaghan must be reintroduced. He has the second-best strike rate in ODI cricket and deserves a spot among New Zealand’s pacemen.
Westpac Stadium in Wellington plays host to what should be a lively contest. Expect scores to breach the 300 mark as individuals have reached century milestones in two of the last three ODIs at the ground. Of those played in 2015, Sri Lanka managed 287 and New Zealand chased 210 in less than forty overs. Grant Elliot will have fond memories of his last appearance here, claiming 3-26 in 4.3 overs and finishing on 64 not out to take New Zealand to victory over Pakistan. New Zealand have won nine of eleven completed ODIs at the ground since 2006, including a victory against England.
VERDICT: New Zealand 9/20
The Black Caps are clear favourites with the bookies to take this one and I cannot help but agree. They have looked a polished unit recently and their consummate victory over Sri Lanka in their opening fixture could only have done them the world of good. Winning the tournament may be a step too far for New Zealand but victory over a hapless England side is pretty good value at 9/20. Get on.