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Confident England eye fiery start against injury-hit NZ

Source: PTI
Last updated on: October 04, 2023 20:22 IST
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IMAGE: England's Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes arrive at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Airport in Ahmedabad on Tuesday. Photograph: Amit Dave/Reuters

A golden generation of England cricketers who have transformed the white ball format template forever will begin their 50-over World Cup title defence against an injury-battered New Zealand in a repeat of the 2019 final in Ahmedabad on Thursday.


England are an ageing side alright, but few will dare to bet against Jos Buttler's men successfully defending their World Cup title in a few weeks time.

Still in the hunt to win their first World Cup in white ball cricket, New Zealand have more than one reason to worry about.

The Kiwis will be missing their two key players in captain Kane Williamson, who though had played the warm-ups, and senior pacer Tim Southee in their ranks as both are still on the recovery path after respective surgeries.

Southee's fitness will be monitored closely as he is recuperating from a recent surgery on his fractured thumb. He had dislocated his finger during the ODI series against England last month.

But that is only a tip of their bigger concerns. The Ahmedabad pitch is generally an ally of batsmen, and England have a bionic batting line-up for whom skull-crushing their rivals is a favoured hobby.

The whole ferocity surrounding their batting has only gone up after the return of Ben Stokes, as he had decided to come out of retirement for the big event.

IMAGE: Will Ben Stokes who has come out of ODI retirement to play in the World Cup fire England to another world title? Photograph: Andrew Couldridge/Reuters

The maverick all-rounder has a troublesome knee that may curtail his role as a bowler in the tournament, but Stokes loves big occasions.

He had left indelible marks on two World Cup finals in 2019 and T20 World Cup in 2022, and to count him out to do an encore will be naive.

But Stokes will not be the only batting Cyclop, the Kiwis will have to negate on the morrow. England have one of the longest batting orders -- including explosive batters in Liam Livingstone, Jonny Bairstow and Harry Brook along with the more conventional batters like Joe Root and Dawid Malan.

Additionally, their experience of playing in the IPL will certainly add to their ability to understand and adapt to the varied conditions at eight different venues for nine group stage games.

Then they have a slew of all-rounders like Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran, who played a decisive role in Australia during last year's T20 World Cup.

Their bowling unit also not to be undermined. Mark Wood's express pace and recent IPL experience gives England the edge, but leg-spinner Adil Rashid will also be a vital cog in their bowling department.

However, England will miss their leading wicket-taker from the 2019 edition -- Jofra Archer. The pacer is on a comeback trail after injury, though he has been included in the squad as a reserve.

IMAGE: Kane Williamson during New Zealand's training session at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad on Wednesday. Photograph: Andrew Boyers/Reuters

On the other hand, without Williamson and Southee, New Zealand certainly lost a big chunk of experience and fire but the Kiwis have consistently punched above their weight in the ICC tournaments.

Their final appearances in the 2015 and 2019 50-over World Cups and in the 2021 T20 World Cup will underscore that point.

Daryl Mitchell's form combined with the sturdy Devon Conway at the top will give New Zealand confidence, but stand-in captain Tom Latham's lean run could be of some concern as the left-hander has averaged just 25.93 with only three fifties in 17 ODIs this year.

But they have some strength-boosters in their line-up. James Neesham and Glenn Phillips are hard-hitters and they also know the Indian conditions well, courtesy the IPL stints.

Will Young is also having a good run this year in ODIs, scoring 578 runs in 14 matches at 44.46 and he can provide the Kiwis with a solid option at No. 3, where he averages over 53.

The absence of Southee is a big miss for the Kiwis especially with the new ball.

But the Black Caps will hope that pacers Matt Henry, who has 10 wickets from 14 matches, veteran Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson, last edition's highest wicket-taker for them with 21 wickets, can make their presence felt.

Boult's form is encouraging too for them, as the left-arm pacer has warmed up well for the World Cup with 10 wickets in five games.

On paper, England might have an edge as it was shown in the recent ODI series which they won 3-1. But when it comes to England and New Zealand, past records can be safely tossed away through the window.


England: Jos Buttler (captain, w/k), Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow (w/k), Harry Brook, Liam Livingstone, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood, Reece Topley, Gus Atkinson.

New Zealand: Tom Latham (captain, w/k), Devon Conway (w/k), Will Young, Kane Williamson (not available vs England), Mark Chapman, Daryl Mitchell, James Neesham, Glenn Phillips (wk), Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee (under fitness monitoring), Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry.

Match: Starts at 2pm IST.

Where to watch: World Cup 2023 will be broadcast live on Star Sports channels. The live telecast is streamed on the Disney+ Hotstar app.

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