If England thought life would be any easier once they left Melbourne, they had best think again. The Westpac Stadium – The Cake Tin, as it is known to locals – may not have the capacity of the MCG, but 33,000 passionate New Zealand supporters will ensure the atmosphere remains just as hostile.
In drawing both World Cup hosts in their opening two matches, England were presented with a tough start to the tournament. Whether their fragile self-confidence has recovered from the mauling in Melbourneremains to be seen but, if it hasn’t, the problem will only be compounded by a New Zealand side with the skill, the belief and the support to make it their year.
The difference in mentality between the teams is illustrated by their aims. While England talk of trying to qualify for the quarter-final and then taking it from there, New Zealand are trying to win with a good net run rate to ensure they qualify as high as possible in the group.
While New Zealand have named their XI – the same team that won their first two matches – England fielded a side at the MCG that had never appeared together before and are keeping their options open ahead of this match.
While New Zealand know that, with two wins behind them already, another victory will give them a foot in the quarter-finals, England will know that if they lose they have no room for error left in the competition. Lose a game against an Associate side, or even to rain, and they could be facing an embarrassingly early exit.
And while New Zealand look experienced, hungry and well balanced, England look uncertain of their team, their tactics or their ability to win such games. Most of all, they look reliant for experience on a small group of players not all of whom are in the best of form.
But while New Zealand are the strong favourites going into the game, the teams are actually level on 104 points in the ICC ranking table.
New Zealand, though, have two batsmen in the top 10 of the ratings (Kane Williamson at six and Ross Taylor at eight), while England have only one in the top 20 (Joe Root at 15). And England have three bowlers in the top 20 of the ODI rankings (James Anderson at four, Steven Finn at 12 and James Tredwell, who is unlikely to play, at 17), while New Zealand’s highest rated is Kyle Mills, who is unlikely to play, at 20. Trent Boult, who looked so dangerous against Scotland, is down at No. 56.
It might also encourage England to recall that the last time they playedan ODI series in New Zealand – in early 2013 – they won 2-1.
New Zealand: WWWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
England have had troubles against the left-arm quicks of one host nation – the Mitchells, Johnson and Starc – in the lead-up to this World Cup, and in their second game they will be confronted with a New Zealand version of that annoyance. Trent Boult swings the ball later and to a greater degree than Johnson or Starc, and the deliveries he used to get two in two against Scotland‘s top order would have threatened far more experienced batsmen. But while England’s right-handers will keep their eyes peeled for the one that darts in from Boult, they will be equally tested by the deliveries that slant away from them.
It seems that for England, the form of the captain of the captain – whoever it might be – is destined to remain the talking point. The fact is,Eoin Morgan – or Eoin Rogers as the mayor of Wellington referred to him – has scored two runs in his last five innings in all cricket and passed five only once in his last eight ODI innings. It is not a sustainable run of form.
New Zealand have confirmed they will play the same XI that defeated Sri Lanka and Scotland. While there might have been a temptation to rotate the squad – this will be their third game in seven days – McCullum pronounced himself happy with a side that offered aggression at the top of the order, “craft players at No. 3, 4 and 5” with “power” to follow. They also have a well-balanced attack offering swing, pace and left and right-arm variety. The only argument for change might have been to give some of the support players a game in case they are needed at a latter stage of the tournament.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Brendon McCullum (capt), 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Grant Elliott, 6 Corey Anderson, 7 Luke Ronchi (wk), 8 Daniel Vettori, 9 Adam Milne, 10 Tim Southee, 11 Trent Boult.
Having shaken up their settled XI at the last moment before the Australia match, nothing can be taken for granted this time. But it seems unlikely England will make another change. Gary Ballance adds some solidity to the batting and, though they miss the option offered by Ravi Bopara’s all-round skills, Joe Root can contribute a few overs if required. Alex Hales has impressed the management in the nets and Chris Jordan enjoyed a prolonged spell with the ball and the bat in practice, but it is hard to see a way in for either of them at present.
England (probable) 1 Ian Bell, 2 Moeen Ali, 3 Gary Ballance, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan (capt), 6 James Taylor, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Steven Finn, 11 James Anderson.
Pitch and conditions
While McCullum suggested the drop-in pitch would be full of runs, recent scores at the ground paint a less clear picture. Pakistan werebowled out for 210 about three weeks ago while, a couple of days earlier, Sri Lanka made 287 and then bowled New Zealand out for 253.
Only five times has a team exceeded 300 on this ground and only once has it occurred since the end of 2005. In both recent games the ball appeared to hold up just a little. It may well not be the batting paradise some people are predicting.
The weather is excellent, though strong winds are always likely in Wellington – even in the enclosed stadium – which can make life hard for fielders and bowlers.
Stats and trivia
- New Zealand have won nine out of the last 11 completed ODIs at this ground
- England have lost both of the ODIs they have played on the ground
- England have been bowled out in 12 of their last 18 ODIs; New Zealand have been bowled out three times in their last 16
- The lowest score at an ODI on the ground is 89, made by England in 2002
- Local hero Ross Taylor, who averages 100 in ODIs on the ground, requires 64 runs to become the fourth New Zealand player to score 5,000 ODI runs
“Tough times don’t last, but tough blokes do. He’s a champion player. He’s one of my better mates from around the world in terms of cricket.”
Brendon McCullum on his “champion” friend Eoin Morgan
“We got criticised greatly in 2014 for not being proactive enough in the first ten overs. So now it’s a bit ironic to hear we have to calm down.”
England’s batting coach, Mark Ramprakash, defends the team against accusations of recklessness in the first 10 overs