Against all odds, New Zealand now find themselves in the World Cup final, and all that stands between them and glory is the mighty English team. England might be firm favorites heading into this encounter, but make no mistake, the Kiwis are here to make history of their own at Lord’s on Sunday.
Get busy hitting, not blocking
Block, block, block, swing and miss, block, block, OUT. In case you're wondering, that's the pattern in each of Martin Guptill's last three innings of this World Cup. Desperate for runs, Guptill has completely gone against what made opponents fear him, and is now almost suffering an identity crisis of sorts. His partner Henry Nicholls' defensive nature and Guptill's lack of form has meant that the Kiwis have approached matches with a pre-meditated "tuk tuk" approach, which has resulted in them scoring an average of just 34.5 runs in the first powerplay, in their last three matches.
Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer have been impeccable with the new ball in their last three encounters, but an argument can be made that they have been allowed to settle, and New Zealand can ill-afford to do that come Sunday. But interestingly, in the three matches England lost in this tournament, they conceded an average of 53.6 runs in the first powerplay - meaning the new ball bowlers were unsettled early, and the Kiwis would need to look no further than this statistic.
Skipper Kane Williamson would need to give license to his openers to go big from the word go, and for that, he would need to draft a certain Colin Munro into the side. Both Guptil and Munro thrive on taking the attack to the bowlers early, and if there ever was a time for them to cut loose from ball one, it is now. Yes, with it comes the danger of losing an early wicket, but this is no alien territory for skipper Williamson, who has come to bat before the 10th over a staggering eight times so far this World Cup, making him a virtual opener.
Thanks to Williamson’s invincibility, the Kiwis will have nothing to lose with this approach, and even a quickfire 25 or 30 from either men would go a long way in shaping up the match. Big matches are all about stomping your authority early on, and if Guptill and Munro can deliver a sucker punch right at the start, they can catch England off guard, and make them rethink their tactics.
Get Jason Roy early = Win the match?
Life, death, taxes and Jason Roy powering England to victory. Well, that has been the case in the whole of 2019. In ODIs, the opener has batted 11 times in 2019, and has went on to post a score of 50 or more in nine occasions. Co-incidentally, England went on to lose the other two matches where Roy posted single-digit scores, and in this World Cup, two of England’s losses came in the absence of Roy, and the third one came with him posting a single digit score.
If New Zealand are to stand a chance in the Final, they would need to get Roy early, and in order to do that, they would need to put relentless pressure on the opener, meaning they need to trust their two best bets to dismiss the man - Trent Boult and Mitchell Santner. Boult has got the measure of Roy in two of the last four attempts, and the opener has just scored one fifty in 11 attempts against the Kiwis.
While Roy has shown no susceptibility to the incoming ball in this World Cup, he has had his troubles in the past, and one can argue that he hasn’t been tested enough with swing in this World Cup. Boult can unsettle the best of batsmen with his movement, and without a doubt, would be New Zealand’s best bet to get rid of Roy.
Roy has also been dismissed by the ball turning away many a time in the past - a reason which prompted New Zealand to open with Mitchell Santner in the group stages. The move almost paid dividends as Santner was inches away from knocking Roy over in the very first ball of the match, but the left-armer was removed off the attack after just an over - a tactical blunder from the Kiwis, perhaps. Against Pakistan, Roy blasted Shadab Khan for eight runs off the first over, but Pakistan persisted with the leggie and reaped rewards for it, as he trapped in him front in his second over.
As strange as it sounds, despite Matt Henry picking up the MOTM award in the semi-final, the Kiwis’ best bet might be to open with Boult and Santner at either end, and rather than trying to hunt Roy in the wild, they might just be better off trying to tame him with swing and spin.
Allowing Liam Plunkett to settle? Not today
Since his “second-coming” in July 2016, Liam Plunkett has picked 87 wickets in just 52 innings at an average of 27 and an economy under six. What makes this feat remarkable is that Plunkett has primarily bowled as a middle-overs specialist, and has always stuck to his simple yet effective no-nonsense mantra - hit the deck hard and vary the pace. Few bowlers utilize the scrambled seam delivery better than Plunkett in ODI Cricket.
It is no coincidence that England are unbeaten in matches where Plunkett has featured in this World Cup. Time and again, the right-armer has bogged teams down in the middle overs, and the Kiwis fell prey to his tactics in the group match, as he ended up with figures of 8-0-28-1, strangling the New Zealand batsmen. However, England, as a bowling unit, have struggled when Plunkett has been gone after, effectively meaning that they have lost control in the middle overs.
In four occasions in 2019, Plunkett has conceded at more than six runs an over, and England have gone on to concede more than 300 runs in three of those matches (the fourth one being a no-result). While this might be a mere coincidence, it should definitely be an area of interest for the Kiwis, who would need to keep putting relentless pressure on England.
By going after Plunkett, New Zealand would be breaking the backbone of the English attack in the middle-overs, meaning England would need to veer to a different tactic. The Kiwis used this ploy effectively against the Windies, as Williamson and Ross Taylor took apart Carlos Brathwaite, and despite losing two early wickets, they found themselves scoring 291 runs.
Throughout the course of the World Cup, the Kiwis have had plenty of questions thrown at them, and to their credit, they have absorbed all the pressure and responded to all the answers. But come Sunday, if they are to lift their maiden World Cup title, they would need to be proactive, and hence, it might just be the perfect time for them to take the initiative and start asking the questions.
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