Twin tons power New Zealand to easy World Cup triumph
New Zealand were powered to a nine-wicket triumph by an unbeaten 273-run third-wicket stand between Rachin Ravindra (123*) and Devon Conway (152*).
In response to England’s 282/9, New Zealand crossed the target in merely 36.2 overs to make a great start to the tournament.
New Zealand lost Will Young to a first-ball duck early on in their innings. However, this brought in Ravindra, who joined forces with Conway to light up the first Powerplay. The Black Caps hit 13 fours and two sixes in the first Powerplay. Both the sixes came from Ravindra’s bat, one against Mark Wood and the other against Moeen Ali.
Having helped New Zealand to 81/1 in the first Powerplay, the duo didn’t relent and maintained the scoring rate closer to eight over the next few overs. They also achieved their personal landmarks of half-centuries in the 12th and 13th overs respectively. The scoring rate dropped a tad bit after the drinks break, but Conway and Ravindra got back into the groove soon after. Their unbeaten stand of 177 runs (at the 25-over mark) was already the highest partnership for two New Zealand batters in a Cricket World Cup encounter. They overtook the 168-run stand between Chris Harris and Lee Germon from 1996.
The duo continued their unstoppable run after the midway mark. They reached their respective tons during their stand as well. This was Conway’s fifth and Ravindra’s maiden ODI hundred. As the duo closed in on the target, the England bowling lost its edge. They managed to overhaul the total in the 37th over. Earlier, England were restricted to 282/9 at the back of a brilliant 3/48 from Matt Henry and meaningful contributions from Mitchell Santner (2/37) and Glenn Phillips (2/17).
During the England innings, the arrival of Jos Buttler in the 22nd over lifted the scoring rate. The England skipper took some time to get his eye in, and then went after the bowlers. His first boundary came against Ravindra, whom he carted over the rope in the 27th over. Thereafter, he kept his foot on the pedal and smashed two fours and two sixes in his innings. It seemed like the game was running away from New Zealand, but then Henry returned to get Buttler caught behind for 43. England kept up their attacking strategy, even as Joe Root and Liam Livingstone tried to go for their runs. However, incisive bowling from the Black Cap bowlers ensured that the batting side never ran away with the game. So Livingstone fell to Boult in the 39th over and Root was cleaned up by the golden arm of Glenn Phillips, when he misplayed a reverse sweep in the 42nd over.
Despite regular breakthroughs from New Zealand bowlers in the final powerplay, England managed to reach 282 at the back of an unbeaten 30-run 10th wicket partnership between Adil Rashid and Mark Wood. This was the first-ever occasion that all the eleven batters in a side had reached double figures. When England walked out to bat Jonny Bairstow began their title defence in style, hitting a six off the very second ball of the game. He lifted a wayward Trent Boult delivery, that drifted down the legside, into the stands. He unleashed an attacking range of shots to keep England closer to run a ball. His partner Dawid Malan, however, found the going tough against the Kiwi pacers. Malan eventually nicked one behind off Henry in the eighth over.
Trying to keep up the scoring rate, the England batters kept going for their shots. This included an unconventional reverse scoop from Joe Root, which went behind the keeper’s head for a six. However, New Zealand managed to get a hold of things in the second powerplay. Bairstow (33) fell to Santner in the 13th over. On the other hand, Harry Brook (25) went for one shot too many in Ravindra’s first over, and gifted a catch in the deep midwicket region after having hit 4, 4, 6 off the last three deliveries.
England’s scoring rate was further stifled after they lost Moeen to the off-spin of Phillips.
In the afternoon, New Zealand’s stand-in skipper Tom Latham called it right at the toss and decided to field in Ahmedabad.
The big news for the Black Caps was the absence of their two key players, regular captain Kane Williamson and pacer Tim Southee.
England had concerns of their own, as star all-rounder Ben Stokes, was out of the opening encounter as well. The all-rounder had reversed his decision to retire from the ODI game only recently. The World Cup opener will be a rematch between the two finalists from the 2019 Cricket World Cup. England managed to edge out New Zealand by the barest of margins on that occasions to lift the trophy.
England: Jonny Bairstow, Dawid Malan, Joe Root, Harry Brook, Jos Buttler (c) (wk), Moeen Ali, Liam Livingstone, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood
New Zealand: Devon Conway, Will Young, Rachin Ravindra, Daryl Mitchell, Tom Latham (c) (wk), Glenn Phillips, Mark Chapman, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Trent Boult Sign up at Crictos.com