The big picture is that…England and New Zealand
Maybe there’s a parallel reality out there where that epic battle hasn’t yet come to a clear winner. At least six of New Zealand’s 2019 veterans are expected to line up in Ahmedabad on Thursday, but at least it will be difficult for the fates to be quite so cruel again. The playing conditions for the 2023 competition stipulate that, in the event of a tie this time around, the two teams will contest as many Super Overs as it takes to separate the sides.
In any case, here we are, four years later, with the 50-over World Cup picking up with a match that really never ended. It’s not a winner-takes-all situation, but it most definitely is a winner-takes-a-huge-step-towards-their-endgame one. Early losses in this round-robin structure might increase the risk later on, as England learned during their error-filled voyage through the group stage in 2019. especially if you give one of your most likely competitors for a top-four finish an advantage.
In any case, it makes perfect sense to start the 2023 World Cup with this matchup since, just like that Lord’s score, the ODI narrative has been in a deadlock ever since that historic day. Even now, does 50-over cricket have a place in society? In the T20 zeitgeist, the optional attitude many of the game’s best performers have taken to the format in recent years (Ben Stokes and Trent Boult foremost among them) would appear to support the new president of cricket’s ancient regime’s claim that this stage is the sole place for it.
Although upwards of 120,000 spectators could still cram into the Narendra Modi Stadium to watch the action unfold, judging by the current air of mild indifference permeating the tournament build-up, we might have to wait until October 14 to see the venue in full swing. Nevertheless, it is still one hell of a stage — the biggest stage, quite literally, in the case of this curtain-raising contest at the stadium.
It’s amazing to think that this is not the first time that these two teams have kicked off a World Cup in Ahmedabad. In 1996, during the first administrative flexes of the BCCI, Mike Atherton’s England faced Lee Germon’s New Zealand at the ailing Sardar Patel Stadium (as it was known before its massive renovation), in a match that would later come to symbolize the sea change that was sweeping the sport.
What just occurred: It’s unlikely that a cricket match will ever be as exciting as the 2019 World Cup final.
As a matter of fact, New Zealand prevailed by 11 runs, due to a century from Nathan Astle, but they were soundly defeated by every other significant opponent they faced, including Australia in the quarterfinals. The less said about England, the better. In their record of World Cup misery, not even their awful performance in 2015 comes close. With a cutting-edge brand of play that momentarily elevated them to the top spot among white-ball teams worldwide, they had advanced to the final four years earlier in Melbourne. Unfortunately, they were far behind the competition at the subsequent event due to a complacent failure to adapt. a sign of impending humiliation? We can only wait and watch.
This time, at least, a clear and very valid warning is present in relation to England’s lack of evolution. This is the final performance of their golden era, the group of world-beaters who got together in 2015 to shatter the timid script that had caused them to falter for six straight seasons on the international arena.
Eight years later, it’s clear that these players are aging. Eight of those players may still be in England’s starting XI on Thursday, along with another six who participated in the most recent ICC world final to take place in India, the infamous 2016 match between West Indies and England in Kolkata, where Carlos Brathwaite took down Ben Stokes with four consecutive sixes to prevent his team from receiving early credit for their new risk-taking strategy.
But despite some inevitable evolution along the way, England’s T20 World Cup victory in Australia last winter has made sure that even the newcomers to their squad have been instilled with that winning mentality. Gus Atkinson and the unfortunate Reece Topley are the only two members of their 15 to have so far missed out on hoisting a world championship trophy.
Will Ben Stokes be fit or not? All eyes are on him.
Of course, none of that implies that England’s advancement this time around is inevitable. Even taking into account the fact that they have abandoned 50-over cricket since 2019 and increased their reliance on visualization to cover the vacuum in the competitive schedule, there are more concerns regarding their readiness than they may have anticipated at this late stage of preparation.
Will Stokes have the stamina to finish the race? His all-rounder status has already been destroyed by his problematic knee, and now a bad hip makes him a serious doubt for this opener. Will Joe Root regain his mojo following a worrisome slump in 50-over performance (which, dare one say it, originates from his agonizing 7 from 30 in the 2019 final)? If they can reach their destination, can the stable of fast bowlers handle a demanding itinerary that might require up to 14 internal flights and keep Adil Rashid’s numerous aches and pains at bay?
And if England believes that having played in huge games is the be-all and end-all, their competitors hardly lack in that regard either. While England was still figuring out that “building a strong basis” was too 1990s to work, New Zealand was already on the “golden generation” path when they advanced to their first final in 2015.
New Zealand’s overall World Cup pedigree (eight semi-finals or better in 12 attempts) negates the need for any warnings about the threat they pose, despite the fact that they have lost at the last in each of their three ICC white-ball finals of this period. Rewatching that Super Over will make your heart race once more if you have any doubts about your ability to go deep again.
Britain WL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
NZWLLL New Zealand
Trent Boult and Dawid Malan are featured.
England is entering this campaign on a cocktail of vibes, laced with the comforting knowledge of past triumphs while hoping to foster the not-unrealistic belief that it will all come together on the night. This follows a disjointed build-up in which their rain-affected warm-ups in Guwahati were a microcosm of their entire World Cup cycle. Nevertheless, Dawid Malan’s motivation for the event comes from an entirely other source. The pulse of that 2019 team, Jason Roy, was replaced by him last month after he burned his way into the starting XI with a haul of 277 runs in three innings against these same opponents. In the process, he became the joint-fastest England batter to 1000 ODI runs.
Malan, who is 36, is the second-oldest player on a team that has already been the target of several “Dad’s Army” jokes, and unlike veteran pro Moeen Ali, he is the most recent addition to England’s inner circle. There may be a lingering impression that Malan’s strategies don’t really align with the attitude of ego-freedom that Eoin Morgan implanted in the team in 2015 and that Jos Buttler has since continued, but if that’s the case, Malan has made solipsism into a strength. No player in the previous four years has made it more of a goal to master 50-over batting, and Malan’s haul of five hundreds at 61.52 in 21 innings is world-class by any standard, especially at a time when interest in the ODI format has waned. Apart from the assurance he will exude at the top of England’s order, it is obvious that he is hungry right now. That might eventually turn out to be a component that the golden generation would be missing.
Against England last month, Trent Boult was at his lethal best•Getty Images
Trent Boult acknowledged that watching extended footage of the 2019 final on the stadium’s massive replay screen during the weather delay of New Zealand’s ODI series in England last month left him feeling a little irritated. Little wonder, really. No player, with the possible exception of New Zealand’s Super Overfall guy Martin Guptill, will have had to relive more “what ifs” from that crazy day than Ben Stokes. This includes both the infamous ball that Stokes deflected through deep third for six priceless overthrows and Boult’s management of that final-over mayhem.
The catch that eluded Boult’s opening delivery of England’s chase, a nasty, jagged inswinger to Jason Roy that led to one of the most accurate not-out lbws in DRS history, is less well known. The breadth of a seam preserved Roy’s on-field respite, but that one delivery set the stage for an intensely tense England performance. Furthermore, Boult offered up a reminder of his enduring class upon his return to England last month, as if anyone needed one. After declining a central contract to play on the T20 freelance circuit, he hadn’t represented New Zealand since the T20 World Cup in November. However, he suddenly burst onto the scene with eight wickets in two matches, including five for 51 at The Oval, even as Stokes was once again tearing it up in his career-best 182. His presence is a mark of distinction that confirms New Zealand’s right to once again be treated very seriously.
Team news: Williamson is not ready, while Stokes is unsure
In addition to each of England’s front-line seamers receiving a clean bill of health before their rain-interrupted warm-up match against Bangladesh on Monday, Buttler acknowledged that Stokes would not be playing because of a hip complaint. As is characteristic of Stokes, he can certainly play despite the discomfort, but as his captain acknowledged, the beginning of the competition is “not the time to take major chances… if he’s not ready to play, he’s not fit to play.” Harry Brook, England’s World Cup bolter, may play sooner as a result, and the storyline may also change significantly after the disappointment of his first absence from the squad in August. Speaking before practice, Buttler emphasized how effective Gujarat’s seam attack was under home circumstances, which was a foreshadowing that four quicks might be the way to go and that Liam Livingstone would likely beat out Moeen Ali for the second spinner position.
Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Joe Root, Ben Stokes/Harry Brook, and Jos Buttler are likely England starters (capt & wk), The six Liam Livingstone, Samuel Curran, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Adil Rashid, and Reece Topley round out the top five.
In the warm-ups, Kane Williamson offered his supporters cause for optimism, but he is not yet fully healthy to play.
Both the not quite and the fit-and-firings contribute to the definition of the New Zealand team. After sustaining a knee ligament injury in the IPL, Kane Williamson has scored 91 runs off of 101 balls in two encouraging warm-up matches against Pakistan and South Africa, but he isn’t quite ready for a competitive return. Tim Southee is also out after dislocating his thumb during the England series. Rachin Ravindra and Mark Chapman, two of the 13 available players, appear to be the most likely to be left out, with Will Young slated to open with Devon Conway.
Will Young, Devon Conway, Daryl Mitchell, Glenn Phillips, Tom Latham (captain and wicketkeeper), James Neesham, and Santner Mitchell, Ish Sodhi 8, Trent Boult, 9 Matt Henry, 10 Lockie Ferguson, and 11
Pitch and circumstances
The weather in Gujarat is expected to be comfortingly hot and dry after the rain that has predominated the lead-up to this World Cup, both at the Asia Cup last month and the recent warm-ups in Guwahati. The only remaining query is whether the teams will wager on red or black. On the Ahmedabad playing square, both types of soil are present, as England learned the hard way during their Test tour in 2021. The black strips can be slower and lower whereas the red strips typically offer more pace and carry. The middle strip that has been set aside for this match, however, offers a fascinating blend of each species, adding an additional degree of pressure to an already high-stakes game. Choose between three spinners and four seamers depending on which attribute is most dominant. The strip, which served up 385 runs over 35 overs in the 2023 IPL final, is the same one that was set up for that match.
numbers and trivia
The World Cup head-to-head between England and New Zealand is nearly identical to the final score of the 2019 match. Along with that remarkable tie, England has faced off in ten other matches, winning four of them outright and losing five of them.
From 1983, when the two sides first faced off in the tournament’s opening match, England had lost five consecutive World Cup matches to New Zealand before they defeated them at Chester-le-Street in the group stage of 2019.
Do you recall Tim Southee’s time as the destroyer-in-chief for England in Wellington?•Getty Images
In their most recent World Cup triumph over England in Wellington in 2015, Tim Southee and Brendon McCullum sealed victory in a total of 45.4 overs, making it possibly New Zealand’s greatest-ever thrashing.
After winning the series 3-1 at home last month, England enters this game with a streak of three straight victories over New Zealand in one-day internationals. The series opening loss, an eight-wicket thrashing with 26 balls remaining, was their only loss, by extensive margins of 360 runs combined.
Trent Boult, who just played in his 100th ODI against England, still has three more wickets to take to achieve 200 in the sport.
“If he is not fit to play, he is not fit to play, and we will make the appropriate decision. If he is, we can decide that. At the beginning of the competition, it is not a good idea to take a major chance on someone. It will be a long tournament, so you might start to take more of a chance with injuries as it gets closer to the finale. At training, we’ll observe how the men line up before deciding what to do.”
Ben Stokes may not be risked in the opening game of a difficult season, according to Jos Buttler.
“We keep things quite level in this group, which is a plus. We’ve been doing it for a while, so despite the significance of tomorrow, it’s just another game to us, despite the fact that it’s a big occasion. And if we can consistently perform what we do well, we’ll hopefully give ourselves a decent chance to win the game later on.”
The captain of New Zealand, Tom Latham, is not overexcited by the occasion.
ESPNcricinfo’s UK editor is Andrew Miller (@miller cricket).