India, New Zealand battle for points table supremacy

NOTTINGHAM - Both India and New Zealand, who have won all of their games at the ICC Men’s World Cup 2019 so far, will look to maintain ascendancy as they take on each other at Trent Bridge on Thursday.

Chances to get a full 100-over game seem bleak as there might be heavy and thundery showers later in the day. With bowlers from either team capable of exploiting overcast conditions, much like West Indies did against Pakistan here, both captains will look to field first.

Team India put up a clinical performance against Australia, registering a 36-run win, but Shikhar Dhawan’s thumb injury has given them a major jolt ahead of their next few matches. KL Rahul, who had been slotted to bat at no.4 up until now, is likely to open the innings with Rohit Sharma. He will face a tough challenge first up against a potent New Zealand pace attack.

While wrist-spinners have provided breakthroughs at crucial junctures in both the games so far, it will be interesting to see if Virat Kohli goes in with the same combination on Thursday, considering the short boundaries and overcast conditions on offer at Trent Bridge.

New Zealand are currently leading the points table with three wins from as many games. With Lockie Ferguson and Matt Henry leading the bowling charts with 15 wickets between them in the tournament so far, and with Jimmy Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme providing able support, Kane Williamson has enough bowling options as he’ll be up against a strong Indian batting line-up.

With their top-order doing bulk of the scoring in the first three matches, the middle order is likely to be tested against a well-rounded Indian bowling unit.

Jasprit Bumrah, the Indian pacer who currently tops the ICC ODI Rankings for bowlers, has been giving his best results in the World Cup so far, providing timely breakthroughs. With his subtle variations and the ability to extract movement and bounce, Bumrah will be a tough challenge for New Zealand batsmen on Thursday.

One of the best batsmen of the modern era, Williamson’s ability to score runs in any conditions makes him New Zealand’s most reliable player. With his smart play and the ability to counter spin-bowling, the Kiwi skipper will look to hold the innings together against India.

Variety is the spice of life and Ross Taylor says New Zealand have the diverse batting combinations to go deep in the World Cup. Left-hand, right-hand batting combinations can be vital in the one-day game, with Australia coach Ricky Ponting this week revealing southpaw Usman Khawaja’s key role in balancing their order.

“Shikhar and Rohit have got a very good partnership, and they complement each other well because they’re right and left handed,” said Taylor. “Shikhar is a big loss to India. He has a great presence, he plays very well at ICC tournaments and has a very good record in England. In terms of our line-up, we’ve had a similar, balanced side for a long time and when you do have a left-hand, right-hand combination it puts pressure on the bowling side in different ways. At a lot of these grounds they have a short boundary to one side, and if you have two right-handers you can’t exploit it as much, whereas when you have right or left you can take advantage.”

Taylor is ranked third in the ICC ODI batting rankings, with only India’s Virat Kohli and Sharma placing higher. The ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019’s group phase has been highly competitive with eight nations already recording wins and nine getting points on the board.

Taylor’s Black Caps top the tree with three wins from three, but the 35-year-old still sees a host of rivals very much in contention to lift cricket’s greatest prize at Lord’s on 14 July. “I think it’s early on but realistically, seven teams are still in the hunt,” said Taylor. “If you get onto a roll towards the end of the group stage, you can get into that crucial semi-final. Then whether you’re top seed or fourth seed, you’re only two wins away from lifting that cup. I think I could mention five or six teams who are playing well. But at the end of the day, we’re three from three, very happy with where we’re placed while knowing we’ve got some big challenges ahead.”

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