In 1997, English rock band Chumbawamba released their most successful song Tubthumping, the chorus of which goes, “I get knocked down, but I get up again, you are never gonna keep me down.”
22 years on, a climacteric match between England and New Zealand at the Riverside Ground, Chester-le-Street is on the horizon, and both teams will want to relate to the above lyric.
England headed into the 2019 World Cup as favourites, but have been knocked down thrice. They got up once, in their 31-run victory against India, and now need another win to guarantee themselves a place in the semi-finals. A loss here, and Pakistan and Bangladesh will have a chance to finish above the hosts.
On the other hand, New Zealand were unbeaten in their first six matches of the tournament, with five wins and a washout against India. Since then, losses against Pakistan and Australia have knocked them down. And before it’s too late, the Kiwis need to get up again.
Two of England’s losses, against Sri Lanka and Australia, came when opening batsman Jason Roy had to sit out due to a torn hamstring. The 28-year-old returned against India, and the difference was visible.
Roy got a lucky reprieve when he was caught-behind and India decided to not use a review. He made India pay, notching up a 57-ball 66 in a 160-run first-wicket partnership alongside Jonny Bairstow, setting up a much-needed win for Eoin Morgan’s side.
Roy’s return also kicked Bairstow into action, with the Yorkshireman slamming his first World Cup century. This opening pair has been so prolific that they are already third in runs scored by any partnership in ODIs for England. Among all the pairs in the top five, no other has a better average or strike rate than this duo.
A tactic teams used earlier in the tournament against England was to introduce a spinner early on. It’s something New Zealand should consider: since Roy’s return to the ODI team in September 2017, he has been dismissed within the first 20 balls of his innings just thrice in 16 innings at home and on two of those occasions, it was against a spinner.
FERGUSON KEY FOR NEW ZEALAND
While England’s prowess with the bat is known, they will be up against the team with the best bowling average (26.5) and the best economy rate (4.9) at this World Cup. It’s fair to say that New Zealand, compared to other teams, have played in conditions which haven’t favoured batting as much. But their execution and planning with the ball have been fantastic.
Trent Boult made the headlines with a hat-trick against Australia, but it’s Lockie Ferguson who has been the most impressive New Zealand pacer. Ferguson has picked at least one wicket in every game at the World Cup, with no bowler taking more scalps than him between overs 11-40.
It’s important for the Kiwis to restrict England in the middle overs, as the hosts have the tendency to take the game away from the opposition during this part of the innings. Since the 2015 World Cup, no team has a higher run-rate than England’s 5.8 between overs 11-40. Therefore, New Zealand will need Ferguson at his best here.
WORLD-CLASS WILLIAMSON, BUT A FRAGILE MIDDLE-ORDER
While England have a world-class batting line-up, the opposition has Kane Williamson.
Former New Zealand captain Daniel Vettori recently termed Williamson New Zealand’s greatest ODI player. Williamson is just 28, yet that comment doesn’t sound over the top. In six innings so far at the World Cup, the Black Caps skipper has scored 454 runs at an average of 113.5.
In ODIs in England, he turns into a beast. He averages more here (74.6) than any country where he has played at least five innings. But the most breathtaking fact is that he has scored 40+ in each of his last 15 ODI innings in England.
Williamson’s amazing form has actually masked New Zealand’s middle-order failings. While Ross Taylor, Colin de Grandhomme and James Neesham have made the odd contribution with the bat, wicketkeeper-batsman Tom Latham is enduring a nightmare. Among all batsmen who have played at least five innings this World Cup, no one has a lower average than the Christchurch-born cricketer.
England have won all four Cup games when Liam Plunkett has played, while losing three out of the four games which didn’t feature the Yorkshire pacer. Playing a role akin to Ferguson, Plunkett has been the cornerstone of England’s bowling in the middle overs.
No fast bowler has taken more wickets (53) than him between overs 11-40 since the 2015 World Cup. And he showed his value upon his return against India, picking up three important wickets. With New Zealand’s middle-order struggling to score big, England will be banking on Plunkett to capitalise.
Even with a loss, both teams still have chances to make it to the final four. But during this crucial stage of the tournament, you’d rather “be singing when you’re winning”.
England have no reason to change their team after a convincing win over India.
Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett, Jofra Archer, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood.
On a Chester-le-Street pitch that is unlikely to assist spinners, New Zealand might bring in Matt Henry or Tim Southee for Ish Sodhi.
Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Colin de Grandhomme, James Neeshan, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult.