The first week of the 2019 Cricket World Cup produced its share of surprises, with England losing to Pakistan and South Africa losing its first three games. But for two of the tournament’s fancied teams, it was business as usual as India and New Zealand remained unbeaten.
India, the 1983 and 2011 champions, were widely regarded as the main challengers to England for this year’s tournament, and nothing we’ve seen so far has suggested they are overrated. Virat Kohli’s side kicked off with a comfortable win over South Africa, restricting them to 227 and knocking off the required runs with 15 balls to spare, before successfully defending a solid total of 350 against Australia, bowling out the reigning champions for a crushing 36-run win.
The Black Caps, who reached the final in 2015, have been equally impressive. They made short work of Sri Lanka in their opener, winning by ten wickets, and followed that up with a hard-fought, but ultimately straightforward win over Bangladesh and a stroll against Afghanistan.
But that combined unbeaten record is set to come to an end on Thursday when India and New Zealand go head to head at Trent Bridge, Nottingham. India are rated as strong favourites, which is reflected in the prices offered by bookmakers. BetCris have Kohli’s men priced up as -220 favourites, with New Zealand available at +172.
Few line-ups in world cricket look as impressive on paper as India’s. Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli are a formidable trio, and they are backed up by the experience of MS Dhoni and the dynamism of KL Rahul, Kedar Jadhav and Hardik Pandya, while the twin-spin threat of Yuzvendra Chahal and Kuldeep Yadav backs up wily seamers Bhuvneshwar Kumar and Jasprit Bumrah. They also have a third world-class seamer in Mohammed Shami, although they are likely to stick with their current line-up for this game against a team that is strong against pace bowling.
New Zealand may never have won the World Cup, but they’ve regularly punched above their weight, and they’re doing so again. The retirement of Brendon McCullum hasn’t slowed their batting down, and a top order that features the class of Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor is bolstered by a deep batting order packed with hard-hitting all-rounders, along with a battery of seamers.
The Black Caps also have the option to make changes, with Ish Sodhi a possible addition if they want to bolster their spin-bowling, but that is unlikely to happen against India, and they will be confident of causing the Indian top order difficulties in seam-friendly English conditions, given the form that Matt Henry, Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson have shown so far this tournament.
Having already overcome one Antipodean rival in Australia, India will be confident that they can assert southern hemisphere supremacy over Australia’s neighbours, but the Black Caps are not to be underestimated and cricket fans could be in for quite a treat in Nottingham this week.