In Match 29 of the 2019 Cricket World Cup, West Indies are set to clash against New Zealand on Saturday, June 22 at Old Trafford, Manchester.
West Indies’ early promise seems to have been negated by their defeats against England and Bangladesh, and now their campaign is on the ropes. New Zealand, in contrast, are sitting at the top of the points table, but they can’t let this slip away as they are slated to play England and Australia next.
It was supposed to be Andre Russell’s World Cup given the talent he possesses, but so far it’s been a nightmare for the West Indian all-rounder. His career has been marred by injuries and, unfortunately, it has followed him at the ongoing World Cup too.
It all started at Trent Bridge against Pakistan two weeks ago. Russell took two wickets in his first three overs and began the slump that saw Pakistan bowled out for 105 inside 25 overs. It was a big statement from the Windies and things looked bright, but not for Russell. He has suffered from knee injuries over the years and after the Pakistan game required further medication.
In their second game against Australia at Trent Bridge, Australia were starting to take control after losing five wickets inside the first 10 overs. Steve Smith and Alex Carey, slowly but steadily, were building a partnership that looked threatening. Jason Holder brought Russell back but the latter ended up on his haunches and eventually had to leave the field.
When he came out to bat, West Indies required another 98 in 15 overs. He smacked Adam Zampa for a towering six off his second ball and followed that with a boundary. He followed the same tactics against Pat Cummins before he mistimed a big hit against Mitchell Starc. After the game, many cricket pundits including Michael Slater pointed out that “Russell got it so wrong” but they were forgetting the fact that the Kingston-born cricketer was playing with a knee injury.
After their defeat against Bangladesh, Jason Holder was quoted as saying: “He gave his all, Yea I can’t say much more about his effort, he gave his all”. A hypothetical situation; but if Russell was fully fit, he could have won those crucial moments with both bat and ball, and saved the Windies campaign from going to tatters. A cricket match, though, is never won with contributions of merely a single individual.
Opening pair need to click
The opening pair of Evin Lewis and Chris Gayle haven’t gotten going in the tournament so far. The duo, on average, have added 21 runs for the first wicket. Both players have shown glimpses of their potential but haven’t made their knocks count.
Gayle’s weakness against left-arm pacers will not help their cause, given that the opposition here has Trent Boult. In this World Cup, Gayle has a dismal average of 13 against left-arm pacers.
Shai Hope has been the backbone of the team. He is the top run-getter at the tournament for the Caribbean side after amassing 186 runs, but his strike rate of 68 is a major concern.
Inform middle order
Nicholas Pooran and Shimron Hetmyer form the bed rock of the middle order. Both have a strike rate of close to 100 and they can destroy any bowling line-up on any given day. Pooran played the perfect anchor’s role in the game against England but got out at the wrong time. Hetmyer’s 26-ball 50 against Bangladesh is a testament to his ability.
Windies pacers need to re-think their strategy
West Indies’ pacers were superb in the first two matches, using the short-ball strategy to great effect. But they were certainly found wanting against England and Bangladesh. On both occasions, the opposition were able to predict the West Indian plan of bowling back of a length deliveries and came well prepared.
Holder’s side have missed hitting the good lengths on a consistent basis in the last two matches (10% difference observed from the first three matches) which again indicates their one-dimensional approach of either going too full or too short.
Form of Colin Munro a Concern
New Zealand’s only worry in the batting department will be the form of Colin Munro. His inability to see off the new ball has been a headache for Kane Williamson’s side. Munro is one of the fastest starters in the game, with a strike rate of 106 in his first 20 deliveries. So, it’s understandable why the Kiwis want to keep faith in him. But it isn’t worth it if 55.2% of Munro’s dismissals are within the first 20 balls of his innings.
Martin Guptill, on the other hand, is certainly finding his mojo. He played a 59-ball 33 knock against South Africa which shows that he is ready to fight it out if run scoring gets tough.
Kane class apart
Williamson showed glimpses of his best form during his unbeaten 106 against the Proteas. Although he took 138 deliveries to score those runs, New Zealand was certain for a win if he stayed until the end which he did. In 2019, his average of 60 is the second best for a number three batsman after Virat Kohli.
Ross Taylor is the key for the Blackcaps in the middle overs. In the last three years, his average has not gone below 60 in ODIs and he has scored over 600 runs in each one of those years.
Tom Latham and James Neesham don’t have much to show in the runs column and they will need to step up if New Zealand lose quick wickets.
New Zealand’s bowling, the best in the tournament.
New Zealand’s bowling looks a class apart in this World Cup. They are the only team to have bowled out their opponents in all their matches. The pace duo of Boult and Matt Henry have ensured that the Kiwis have the second best strike rate (45) after West Indies (25) in the first ten overs.
Since 2017, Boult has taken the most wickets in the first PowerPlay. But in this World Cup, he hasn’t been able to provide breakthroughs, especially in the first ten overs. New Zealand might endure a huge problem if the explosive pair of Gayle and Lewis are not removed early.
In the middle overs, New Zealand have the services of Lockie Ferguson who is more of a hit-the-deck bowler. In 2019, he is the highest wicket-taker (13) between overs 11-40 and he picks 27% of his wickets by bowling short deliveries and yorkers.
Colin de Grandhomme has been an added advantage. In this World Cup, his economy rate of 4.2 is the third best in the tournament. But Williamson has to think twice before using him as the West Indies possess a strong middle-order.
Both the teams are going into the game with a few shortcomings, but it all boils down to the performance on the field. The Kiwis might hold a slight edge, but the unpredictable Windies could spring a surprise.
West Indies- Andre Russell is likely to miss the crucial encounter. “I don’t think he is fit enough to go tomorrow” Windies captain Jason Holder was quoted saying in the pre-match press conference. If such is the situation they Ashley Nurse might be called upon as Russell’s replacement
Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope (wk), Nicholas Pooran, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder, Andre Russell/ Ashley Nurse, Darren Bravo, Sheldon Cottrell, Oshane Thomas, Shannon Gabriel
New Zealand- The Kiwis are certain to go with the same squad that played South Africa.
Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), James Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson