England takes on New Zealand at Cardiff in arguably the most important match of the Champions Trophy thus far. New Zealand would feel they have to win this match to have a chance to make it to the Semi-Finals whereas England would seal a place in the Semi-Finals with a victory over the Kiwis.
How significant is this match?
English cricket was at its lowest in 2015 when the team lost to Bangladesh and crashed out of the 2015 World Cup. However, that very loss brought about a "revolution" in the way England played their ODI cricket. The "revolution" started off in England's home series vs New Zealand, where they beat the World Cup finalists 3-2. England scored a mammoth 408 in the first match of the series, and fair to say, they have not looked back ever since. This English team started playing with full freedom and no fear in their home series vs New Zealand, and hence today's match against the Kiwis in the Champions Trophy should bring back some fond memories for them. New Zealand on the other hand, will remember the fact that their 2013 Champions Trophy was ended by England, and would be looking to avenge that defeat. England would know that they could seal a place in the Semi-Final with a victory whereas New Zealand would have to depend on other results to go through to the semis if they lose today. With high stakes, this match should make for an interesting watch.
Where the match could be won and lost
New Zealand - where the match could be won:
New Zealand would be looking at two key areas where they could potentially win the match.
1) Their top order - New Zealand possess one of the strongest top orders in the world and with the ever consistent Kane Williamson piling on the runs, this would be the key to success for New Zealand. Luke Ronchi looked in great touch during his 43-ball 65 against Australia, and with Martin Guptill always threatening to score big, NZ would hope that their top order fires and takes them to a big total which they can defend.
2) Their bowling - New Zealand's pace trio of Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Adam Milne have the ability to dismantle any batting line-up in the world, and with the conditions suiting them, this could be their go-to formula for success. Moreover, the trio showed what they are capable of in the rain-reduced match against Australia, by taking 3 early wickets.
New Zealand - where the match could be lost:
1) Their middle order: Unlike their top order, New Zealand's middle order has always been inconsistent and unreliable, and that could very well prove to be their downfall. Even in their previous match against Australia, NZ found themselves at 216-2 at one stage, but collapsed to 292, losing 8 wickets in a span of just 10 overs. England would be well aware of this and would try to attack NZ's weak middle order as much as they can.
England- where the match could be won:
Their batting: England arguably possess the best batting line-up in the world right now and without a doubt, their batting will be their biggest strength going into today's game. With Alex Hales, Eoin Morgan and Joe Root firing in the last match, England would be hoping for a repeat of their batting performance, and maybe they would also expect someone like Jason Roy to chip in and get them off to a flyer. Also, with Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, England have one of the strongest lower-middle orders in the world, in contrast to New Zealand.
England- where the match could be lost:
Their bowling: Unlike their batting, England's bowling is still unreliable and a cause of concern for them. This was evident in their previous match against Bangladesh, where they conceded 305 runs. Further, with their main man Chris Woakes ruled out of the remainder of the tournament, they might struggle to take wickets at the top. It would be interesting to see if England draft Steven Finn straight into the team or bring David Willey as Woakes' replacement.
Despite putting up a valiant effort against Australia, England might just be too big a hurdle to cross for New Zealand, especially with their troubles in the middle order. Thus we predict an English win over New Zealand which would make them the first team to reach the Semi-Finals of the Champions Trophy 2017.
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