Shane Bond: New Zealand’s approach impressive
It was a bit of a shame that the weather intervened to cut short a match that was developing into a potential cracker on another excellent batting surface at Edgbaston. New Zealand seemed to have the edge when play was called off, but Australia would have fancied its chances too, given the depth and firepower in its middle-order.
The one point gained – or lost, depending on which way you look at it – could prove decisive in the race for semifinal spots from Group A. But there is nothing you can do about the weather, so there is no point moping and wondering what might have been. For Australia and New Zealand, the best tack would be to put what happened on Friday behind them, and look forward instead to what lies ahead.
From a New Zealand point of view, it was an excellent start to the tournament. I was very pleased with the way they took the game to Australia up front. Especially given that it was the first game of the tournament for both sides, it was important to make a statement, and I believe New Zealand made the more emphatic one. A couple of the Australian guys have not played for a while now, and when New Zealand came out all guns blazing, they were taken a little unawares.
I liked the approach New Zealand took, through Martin Guptill and Luke Ronchi. On the evidence of the scores in the warm-up games, it is clear that if you don’t take the game straightaway to the opposition with especially the batting, you could be in big trouble.
Ronchi was pretty impressive with his strokeplay. It wasn’t that much of a surprise to me that he opened the innings, given Tom Latham’s injury and the way Luke had played in the warm-ups. He has opened for New Zealand in the past but hasn’t had the greatest success. Even so, with the wickets being as good as they are and with the scores racked up in the warm-ups, you would always back Luke to come up with the goods. He played well, taking on the fast bowlers and giving New Zealand some really good impetus.
The one area that I had looked forward to with keen interest was New Zealand’s selection, what its first-choice XI would be. It was good to see Adam Milne in the mix, Corey Anderson slotting in as one of the all-rounders, Mitchell Santner playing as the lone specialist spinner. The team had a solid look to it, there were a lot of solid options for Kane Williamson to fall back on. There was a touch of similarity to the team compositions of both Australia and New Zealand, which was pretty much was what was expected going into the tournament.
It was no surprise to see Kane go on and get another hundred. What I love about him is the effortlessness with which he scores runs. He has a high strike-rate all the way through, but he doesn’t score quickly through slogging. He gets away from you with good cricket shots and suddenly, even before you know it, he is 25 off 20. He manipulates the line beautifully by walking across the stumps and then hitting through the line, working the ball through mid-wicket or square-leg. He thus forces the bowler to bowl wider and wider, at which point he picks him off through cover and point. In many ways, he is very similar to Steve Smith – he plays good shots, but he also turns the strike over, and that allows guys like Ross Taylor to come in and build an innings.
Kane has been a wonderful player for a long time now, and that really is the beauty of tournaments like this. The rated players get a chance to showcase their class in front of a massive audience, like Joe Root did for England in the opening game, and that is a massive advertisement for the sport as a whole.
New Zealand will probably be kicking itself a little bit, like Bangladesh on the opening day, that it didn’t put the opposition to the sword when it had it on the ropes. Especially having seen the scores in the warm-ups and having got itself into a great position, it will be a little bit disappointed at not kicking on at the death, but then again, given the quality of the Australian bowling – guys like Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood – it is not easy to hit out, and more so if you have just walked in to the middle. That’s why it is important for one batsman to push on till the end of the innings, like Root did for England against Bangladesh.
It was no surprise to see the lengths New Zealand bowled in their nine overs, particularly to David Warner. In a shortened game specially, if you bowl full, you might get a little bit of swing, but generally you are inviting trouble, therefore pulling the length back was understandable because it makes it difficult to get hit on a good wicket. I was also very pleased that Adam Milne picked up a couple of wickets. It has been a frustrating year for him, he has spent a lot of time away from the game through injury. To come back, bowl well and pick up wickets will be a huge confidence-booster for him going forward.