ENG vs NZ | Takeaways - Jos Buttler's bewildering World Cup and James Neesham's nifty display

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ENG vs NZ | Takeaways - Jos Buttler's bewildering World Cup and James Neesham's nifty display

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Anirudh Suresh

07/03/2019

England brushed aside the scares of an early exit as they booked a place in the semis with New Zealand putting in yet another sub-par batting performance. The Kiwis are now left with no option but to sweat over the result of the Pakistan-Bangladesh match as they wait to learn about their own fate.

Jimmy Neesham - New Zealand’s silent assassin with the ball

When Neesham took the ball today, England had already blasted their way to 107/0 off just 16 overs, with Tim Southee being whacked all over the park. But just like he has done throughout the tournament, Neesham displayed an exhibition of medium pace bowling, adjusting to the surface in no time. Despite being struck for two consecutive boundaries in the 19th over, Neesham kept his head and stuck to his plan - a move which paid dividends for him, as he got rid of Jason Roy in the very next delivery. His figures read 10-1-41-2 and by the time he stepped up to bowl his last delivery, the damage was already done, as he helped pull England’s score from 200/2 off 31 overs to 305/8.

Such has been Neesham’s performance with the ball this World Cup that skipper Williamson did not hesitate twice before throwing him the ball to defend eight runs off the penultimate over against a rampant Carlos Brathwaite - and Neesham delivered. In the game against Australia, he took the prized scalps of both Maxwell and Stoinis, to leave Australia reeling at 92-5. With 11 wickets in seven innings, Neesham is the third-highest wicket taker for New Zealand in this World Cup, and they have come at a ridiculous average of 18.18 and an incredible economy rate of 5.00. If anything, his five-wicket haul against Afghanistan serves as a testament for how good he has been with the ball in this World Cup so far. 

Lockie Ferguson and Trent Boult might be making all the headlines in the papers so far, but make no mistake, Neesham with his control and consistency, has been the silent assassin in this Kiwi attack, and deserves a humongous amount of credit for his performances. 

Jos Buttler fails to live up to his hype

If you had asked English fans on who they’d bank on to become the Man of the Series ahead of the World Cup, 9/10 people would have picked Jos Buttler to be their go-to man. Indeed, when the tournament started, he did live up to the hype, blasting 185 runs in his first 3 innings, which included a 76-ball 103 against Pakistan in a losing cause. But unfortunately, even with things being put on a platter, Buttler has failed to deliver and has left heads scratching.

Be it the match against Sri Lanka where all he needed to do was nuddle the ball around, or the match against Australia where he just needed to lend a helping hand to Ben Stokes, Buttler has not risen to the occasion and has succumbed to pressure. Against India, with 36 balls left, Buttler had the perfect opportunity to give England the finishing touch but managed to last only eight balls. 

Today was no different. Coming in to bat at 206-2 in the 32nd over, Buttler had a golden opportunity to redeem himself and push England to a score well over 300, but to his dismay, he mistimed one straight to Kane Williamson at mid-off with just 11 runs to his name, leaving all the English fans red-faced. While England’s use of Buttler has been questionable at times - not knowing if he’d bat at four, five or six, it cannot be a justification for a player of his quality, especially in situations which were tailor-made for him. 

Both England and Buttler would be pondering over what has gone wrong, as what was termed as their biggest strength ahead of the World Cup has instead turned out to be their main area of trouble. But with England having booked a place in the semis, there probably is one more chance for Buttler to set things straight, and the onus will be on him to deliver - irrespective of what the situation demands.

Chris Woakes sets the tone for England

For the third time in four matches, Chris Woakes struck within the first two overs of his first spell, instantly putting the opposition on the back foot. While Jofra Archer and Mark Wood have given the team the much-needed pace, it won’t be an overstatement to say that Woakes has been the most important member of this English bowling attack. Woakes has troubled the batsman early-on with both swing and seam, quite a lethal combo for any batsman to come up against.  

According to CricViz, Chris Woakes has found an average seam movement of 0.61 degrees in the first 10 overs since the 2015 World Cup, which is more than any other seamer to have bowled 40+ overs in the first powerplay. In the last match against India, Woakes started the innings with a wicket and three maidens, in what was an astonishing display of new ball bowling. In each of his last four innings, Woakes has conceded at less than four runs per over in the first three overs of his spell, keeping the runs under check while searching for wickets. 

Woakes pinned Henry Nicholls in front of the sticks in the very first over of the match and kept relentlessly hitting the corridor outside off stump, giving absolutely nothing for the Kiwi batsmen to put away. Woakes’ exceptional control with the new ball has also given more leeway for the likes of Wood, Plunkett and Archer to be at their most aggressive self, in their hunt for wickets. Woakes has played a vital role in England redeeming themselves and booking a spot in the semis, and if England are to go all the way in this World Cup, they need to look no further than Mr. Perfect Chris Woakes to deliver them the goods.

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