An encouraging start to New Zealand’s World Cup warm-ups with a convincing win over India at the Oval on Saturday night. Not such a good outcome in their second match when the West Indies pummelled their way to 421 at eight and a half runs an over. This wasn’t an official ODI, but had it been this would have been the highest score conceded by New Zealand, and it would have been amongst the Top Ten ODI scores made against anyone.
New Zealand could take some consolation from another good hand by Kane Williamson and a further noteworthy hundred by Tom Blundell who seems to have that happy knack of rising to the occasion when it is in front of him. After his Test debut hundred at the Basin Reserve in 2017, this makes two hundreds in three matches against the West Indies.
Against India, the spinners Sodhi and Santner were almost surplus to requirements, but all the fast-medium contingent had worthwhile spells. Jimmy Neesham will have taken some confidence into to the tournament proper with his three wickets in support of spearhead Boult, who was again the pick of the crop mid-week against the team from the Caribbean.
If there was a disappointment in the India match, it was that Colin Munro wasn’t able to seize the opportunity to cement his place at the top of the order, falling lbw to Jasprit Bumrah only three balls and four runs into his innings. With Latham likely to miss at least the opening Cup encounter, a telling contribution from Munro would have been helpful as New Zealand sort out a re-jigged batting order.
Since he was run out for 87 against Sri Lanka at Mt Maunganui last summer, Munro has been bowled or lbw in five of his six subsequent ODI innings, not including this dismissal in the unofficial warm-up match. To place that in perspective, he’d previously been bowled or lbw only eight times in his 40 innings preceding that run out at Bay Oval. He wasn’t given a second chance against the West Indies, but with the top order struggling to 33/3 late in the tenth over one suspects the door is not yet fully closed.
Plenty of interest in these warm-up matches – it’s always hard to know how much can be taken from them, but England won’t have enjoyed going down to Australia.
The Australians will in turn have been delighted to have drawn first blood, all the moreso with Warner and the remarkable Steve Smith proving the two top-scorers. Another hundred for Smith, after his good form against the New Zealand XI in Brisbane at the start of the month, underlines what a formidable batsman he is. From an Auckland perspective, good to see James Vince top-scoring with 64 for England, after his short spell with the Aces last summer.
South Africa’s win over Sri Lanka went according to the form book, but Afghanistan’s upset victory over Pakistan will have sent out a warning that they will be a force to be reckoned with, and that this World Cup is likely to bring its fair share of upsets. Certainly no one would have predicted the two pre-tournament favourites, England and India, and the ICC Champions Trophy holders Pakistan, all losing their initial warm-up games.
Speaking of Afghanistan and their 20-year-old leg-spinner Rashid Khan, interesting to read in this week’s ‘Wisden Cricket Weekly’ the thoughts of Australia’s Adam Zampa: “He spent about 45 minutes with me and at the end of it I was so glad I did that because now I know that I will never ever be able to bowl like Rashid Khan.” In 59 ODIs Rashid already has 125 wickets at an average of 15.33.
Elsewhere in England, Somerset have beaten Hampshire in the Final of the Royal London One Day Cup and the County Championship has resumed as a backdrop to the World cup preparations. Jeetan Patel had 6/94 (from 40.3 overs) and 2/107 against Hampshire, but couldn’t prevent his Warwickshire side losing by a mammoth 314 runs.
Again there was local interest in Surrey’s drawn match with Kent, with two recent Aces in action. For Kent, Daniel Bell-Drummond scored a handy 37, but he was out-trumped by Surrey’s Sam Curran with 3/54 and an innings of 80 before leaving the field with a hamstring injury in Kent’s second innings.
Interviewed in India where they were playing in the Women’s T20 Challenge, White Ferns Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine have both emphasised their desire to play Test cricket. These two stalwarts of the women’s game, world class cricketers both, have never played a Test match despite representing their country since 2006.
Their timing might not have been ideal, given the publicity over recent days about New Zealand Cricket’s budgetary constraints, but the sentiment is hard to argue with. Bates was promoting more general application of the structure in place for Australia versus England series, where one test match is slotted in alongside a number of ODIs and T20 Internationals, with the series being decided by points allocated across each format. She acknowledged the cost issues, but regretted not having had the opportunity to prove herself in this format.
It’s easy to see why. In 110 ODIs Bates has 4,041 runs at 43.5. Debbie Hockley played 118 ODIs, scoring 4,084 runs at 41.9. But Hockley also played 19 Tests, averaging 52 and rightfully has taken her place amongst New Zealand’s greatest ever cricketers. It is easy to understand Bates’ frustration at not being able to measure her own performances in Test match company.
Incidentally, the last time the New Zealand women played a Test match was in August 2004 when they drew with England at Scarborough. In that match New Zealand batted first and made 215, with Rebecca Rolls scoring 71 and Paula Flannery 46 in what would be the only Test match either of them would play.
England’s openers Charlotte Edwards and Laura Newton both scored hundreds, adding 163 for the first wicket, but after that no one else got to 20 and New Zealand were only 70 behind. Then rain intervened, with the third day washed out and bad weather returning again on the fourth and final afternoon after New Zealand had negotiated their way to 149/3 with captain Maia Lewis scoring 60.
It had been just under 70 years since the New Zealand women had played their first Test match, against England at Christchurch in February 1935.
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