New Zealand vs England: Hosts face defending champions in a must-win match

England (L) New Zealand (R) © Getty Images

Eden Park in Auckland will witness a clash on Sunday that will see New Zealand and England battle it out to remain in the race for the semi-finals. The side that wins tomorrow will most likely seal one of the semi-finals berths because of the remaining fixtures for these two teams after Sunday.

While the defending champions will compete against Pakistan and Bangladesh after Sunday’s fixture, the hosts will also get a shot at Pakistan in their last match of the round-robin stage. 

What’s at stake

Had someone told you that the match on March 20 would turn out to be a must-win clash, you wouldn’t have believed it, right?

But that is how the tournament has unfolded for both sides. Marred by inconsistencies, both sides have been trying to rework their game plans. But it hasn’t really yielded fruitful results and hence the two teams find themselves in jeopardy.

Battered Bates

If a veteran of 140 ODI games, who has done incredibly well over the past many years gets plagued by a poor run of form in perhaps the biggest campaign then it is bound to hurt you. And the same has been the case with the White Ferns. Having scored a match-winning ton against India recently, Suzie Bates was looking all geared up for the World Cup. But apart from her quick-fire 79 that won her the player of the match award against Bangladesh, Bates hasn’t delivered at all. Her other four outings have only yielded 28 runs. 

However, Sophie Devine has thrown her weight behind the 34-year old despite her string of low scores and Bates would want to repay the faith. 

Devine – The dasher

Leading a team in World Cups is not a cakewalk. And if you are the skipper of the side that’s hosting it then the expectations skyrocket further. But despite the pressure and a flurry of defeats, Devine hasn’t bowed down to setbacks. She notched an outstanding century in the tournament opener and nearly won the game for her side. Even in the last game, she was the one who propelled her side to a respectable total as she scored a sensational knock of 93. Although the skipper has under-bowled herself in the tournament, she has backed her bowlers to the fullest, shown a lot of heart as a leader, and has also given glimpses of her tactical nous. 

On the other hand, the defending champions got the much-needed win that they were desperate for since the beginning of the tournament. Although they defeated India by four wickets, the manner in which they won was not convincing. 

ALSO READ: Keep Calm and Carry On, England

The Charlie Dean show

It was certainly a Charlie Dean show that helped the Heather Knight side to get off the mark. Playing only in her second game of the tournament, Dean spun a wily web around the Indian batters and outfoxed them. The right-arm off-spinner bagged a match-winning four-fer and made life easier for the English batting order.

But despite chasing a modest total of 135, the English openers went cheaply and it all fell on the shoulders of skipper Knight and Nat Sciver. The duo stitched a 65-run stand to make it doable for the other batters. But rather than making it easy for their skipper, the English lower order crumbled as soon as India saw the back of Sciver.

Battles within the battle

England will most likely pick Dean for Sunday’s game after her amazing display and that’s what will pave the way to an intriguing clash. Dean will partner Sophie Ecclestone and the duo will be up against arguably New Zealand’s best player of spin in Amelia Kerr. Kerr was unstoppable during the recently culminated ODI series against India. She racked up 353 runs in the five-match series at a jaw-dropping average of 117.67 and had sucked the life out of the Indian spinners, making them ineffective.

So when the duo of Dean and Eccelstone will take the field tomorrow to make inroads in the White Ferns’ batting order they will have a daunting challenge ahead of them in the form of Kerr.

New Zealand had lost to England 4-1 the last time the two sides were up against each other but it won’t matter much at this stage as both sides have been through a lot since then. Interestingly enough, both New Zealand and England have lost to the same oppositions thus far. And the other similarity is that they have failed to seize the defining moments of the games that they have lost. 

What they said

“Yeah, definitely. I mean, we’ve had 10 weeks of our backs against the wall, fought a lot in Australia. We gave everything in the Ashes. Although we went from there probably not being in the best headspace, we are certainly learning to show fight, adapt quickly and move on pretty quick from disappointments. So you can’t be in form all the time. But what you can do is always show fight and keep turning up and that’s what we’re doing and might not be pretty at times but that’s just how we got to do it and how we get past each game. Hopefully things will improve.”

–  Katherine Brunt on England’s ability to play under pressure.

“Yeah it was good to get to Auckland yesterday and have a bit of a run around Eden Park and we know where we’re at as a group and what we have to do so I think with the World Cup and in tournaments like these you just have to bounce back and look forward to the next game, which is what we’re doing.”

– Amelia Kerr on the mood in the camp.

Players to watch out for:

Amelia Kerr: The 21-year old allrounder came into the ongoing World Cup on the back of some phenomenal displays both with the bat and ball in hand. She looked her menacing best against Bangladesh, when she scored an unbeaten 47* from 37 balls, she also scored a sublime fifty against India, and a well-made 42 against the Proteas in the last fixture. She has also picked up eight wickets thus far and hence is capable of denting England on both fronts.

Heather Knight: Knight started her World Cup campaign in a decent manner with a knock of 40 runs against Australia. But failed to make any substantial contributions in the next two games as she scored five and nine respectively. But players of Knight’s class can’t be bogged down for too long and that’s what we saw against India. She held up an end firmly and scored an unbeaten 53* to steer her team to their first victory of the ongoing campaign. With form now on her side, the New Zealand bowlers will have their work cut out tomorrow.

Numbers:

Head to head: Played 78 matches, England 40 – 36 New Zealand; 1 No result, 1 Tie

Predicted XI:

New Zealand: Sophie Devine (c), Suzie Bates, Amelia Kerr, Amy Satterthwaite, Maddy Green, Frances Mackay, Katey Martin (wk), Hayley Jensen, Lea Tahuhu, Jess Kerr, Hannah Rowe

England: Danielle Wyatt, Tammy Beaumont, Heather Knight (c), Natalie Sciver, Amy Jones (wk), Sophia Dunkley, Katherine Brunt, Sophie Ecclestone, Kate Cross, Charlotte Dean, Anya Shrubsole