The ICC Champions Trophy is rightly known as the battle of the champions as it hardly has any room for errors. A team just can’t afford to step a foot wrong and has to be up to the mark in order to evolve as champions. New Zealand punched above their weight in the opening game against Australia but the incessant rains denied them a victory, which looked quite achievable. They were unfortunate as the game didn’t conclude a result but a lot of credit to them being in such a comfortable position undoubtedly goes to their top-order and bowlers.
New Zealand batted first and did a commendable job in posting a challenging total of 291 runs on the board riding on Kane Williamson’s scintillating century. And some other useful contributions from other batsmen at the top and Ross Taylor. Though New Zealand had a good score on the board but were well short of 25-30 runs than what they eventually achieved. Neil Broom, Jimmy Neesham, Corey Anderson and Mitchell Santner failed to get runs with the bat, which affected New Zealand’s run. But their bowlers did a commendable job in getting three crucial wickets and put Australia on the back foot in nine overs. But the game ended in no result as rain played the spoilsport.
Both, New Zealand and Australia walked away with a point each but the former would have been clearly disappointed with the result as they were looking favourites to win the game. New Zealand had their next game scheduled against the tournament favourites England at Cardiff. They needed to bring their best game out against England and did most of the things right in order to emerge victorious. New Zealand bowlers did a decent job in restricting the star-studded English batting line-up to 311 in 50 overs. Jos Buttler got some crucial runs lower down the order along with some handy contribution from Liam Plunkett to steer England to a comfortable position.
New Zealand had the firepower to chase down 312 on the bating-friendly surface of Cardiff and needed a solid start. Though they were not lucky enough to get one as Luke Ronchi was dismissed for a duck but Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson did well to weather the early storm. Some brilliant captaincy from Eoin Morgan and good execution of plans brought an end to Guptill’s innings on 27. In came Ross Taylor at four and along with Kane Williamson built a solid platform to set the tone for a successful run-chase. Williamson continued his good run and scored a crucial 87. And, when Ross Taylor walked back to the pavilion on 39, New Zealand needed 143 runs from 98 deliveries with six wickets in hand.
Getting 143 from 98 deliveries as per the evolving batting standards is quite achievable. New Zealand had the powerful strikers like Jimmy Neesham, Corey Anderson, Neil Broom and Mitchell Santner to bat. Considering the amount of batting New Zealand had to come, one could have expected them to hunt the target down and walk away with two much-needed points. But it wasn’t to be as they succumbed to an 87-run defeat. They failed to even put up a fight. The four batsmen just garnered 49 runs combined between them, which clearly speaks about their ineffectiveness. And if we combine both the games (against Australia and England) then New Zealand’s No. 5,6,7 and 8 just got 85 runs between them in two games.
Neesham and Anderson are widely reckoned as one of the most powerful hitters of the game but failed to weave any magic when New Zealand needed them the most. Broom failed to anchor the innings against England and floundered after a poor start. Santner also failed to do anything substantial with the bat and the poor performances of these four batsmen cost New Zealand massively. They now have one game scheduled against Bangladesh, which is a must win one for them but still, their success will highly depend on Australia’s encounter against England.
England have made it to the semi-final after beating New Zealand and now only one team from Group A will make the cut. Australia have two points in their basket with both their games ending in no result. If Australia manage to win against England they will chisel their path into the semi-final, which means New Zealand victory against Bangladesh will turn out to be futile. New Zealand will go through only if they register an emphatic win against Bangladesh and England beat Australia in their next encounter.
If the game between Australia and England also happen to be washed out or ends in no result due to rain, and considering New Zealand win against Bangladesh, then the net run-rate will come into play as both the teams will have an equal number of points.
New Zealand will have to come out hard against Bangladesh and win by a big margin. They are certainly under hot water and their fortunes in the Champions Trophy is now tied on a thin thread. They still have a slight chance of getting through and in order to do so, their middle and lower middle-order will have to step up. With their top-order, especially Kane Williamson being in form, New Zealand will be a force to reckon with all the units clicking. Neesham, Anderson, Santner and Broom are one of the finest white ball players and have to step up in their next crucial encounter.