The 2023 ODI ICC Cricket World Cup began in India today with a repeat of last tournaments final kicking off the show for the next 7 weeks.
England, the current champions faced runners up New Zealand in Ahmedabad, but the performance was a world away for the victors of 4 years ago.
The Black Caps won the toss and opted to bowl with a tight bowling display limiting the England batters to a frustrating 282, despite for the first time ever in ODI’s every player scoring double figures.
New Zealand then dominated with the bat, Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra scoring massive, classy 100s, embarrassing the lacklustre England bowlers, chasing the total with 13.4 overs to spare.
So, what were the 5 key takeaways from the game-
Number 1- Where are the fans?
As the legendary Sachin Tendulkar presented the trophy just minutes before the game commenced, the Narendra Modi Stadium was bare. The largest cricket stadium in the world, which can seat an impressive 132,000 people was occupied by only a few hundred- despite two of the best ODI teams in the world and a repeat of last times final opening the tournament. Why was the crowd empty despite 45,000 tickets being sold?
The main reason is due to the date and time of the game. Most of the population in Ahmedabad would’ve been working, with crowds growing steadily throughout the day as people left work and flocked to the match.
Another reason could be that India were not playing in the first game. The stadium is sold out when India play Pakistan on October 14th and the draw of an India game opening the tournament would have been huge, with the host nation typically playing in the first game.
Perhaps the numbers were down due to the lack of an opening ceremony to start the tournament with a bang. Instead on the day before England faced New Zealand a captain’s day was held. Former India head coach Ravi Shastri and World Cup winning England captain Eoin Morgan interviewing the 10 captains from the 10 teams. The day did little to inspire the nation, with fans suspecting South Africa captain Temba Bavuma even fell asleep at one point. The player, however, claims it was just the camera angle.
Number 2- Who needs Variation?
Injuries to first choice fast bowler pair Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson looked like a worry for New Zealand fans and may still prove to be later on in the tournament but England’s deep batting lineup would have been licking their lips before the game, with New Zealand having to rely on overs from part timer Glenn Phillips. Fast Bowlers Matt Henry and Trent Boult arose in their absence and bowled superbly to limit England on a good batting wicket.
Matt Henry was the pick of the bowlers, hitting a consistent ‘test match’ length and England had no answer. Bowling a slightly back of length delivery on the top of off stump, Henry forced the England batters into a slow run rate. Dawid Malan who scored bucket loads of runs in England’s victorious warm up series against New Zealand only a few weeks ago looked flummoxed against Henry, playing and missing at a few until Henry had the opener caught behind with captain Tom Latham taking the catch. The wicketkeeper, who captained his side to a fantastic bowling display, combined twice more with Henry to pick up the key wickets of Buttler and Curran. Henry finished with figures of 3-48 of ten overs.
New Zealand were very impressive in picking up regular wickets, limiting England every time they got their noses ahead. Latham rotated his bowlers excellently, with part timer Phillips picking up two crucial wickets, Ravindra grabbing one. After a tough start to the hands of Jonny Bairstow, the experienced and electric Boult managed to grab one with some tight bowling. Latham utilised the very impressive Mitchell Santner to great effect, with the left arm off spinner utilising the speed of his delivery exceptionally well ending with 2 for 37 off 10. Santner didn’t spin the ball much and doesn’t have a delivery to bamboozle batters, but his variation of pace and unwavering line and length reaped heavy rewards.
New Zealand produced a fantastic bowling display, with Henry and Santner proving that you don’t need to change your line and length or bowl a special yorker or googly to be effective and the ever-growing focus on variation and staying ahead of big hitting batsman as a bowler isn’t always the most effective way.
Number 3- Form is temporary, class is permanent.
England produced very few shining lights in a dire performance, but Joe Root proved why he is one of the best of all time. His classy 77 off 86 deliveries top scored for England, silencing the doubters. While he will be disappointed, he didn’t stay in and boost England’s total, Root’s 77 was a demonstration of incredible batting. His measured shot decision making was clear when all others failed around him, and he delighted with some wonderous boundaries, none more impressive than his audacious reverse scoop for six.
Before this tournament Root had struggled for form, averaging only 20.5 runs in his last ten ODI games, his average falling below 50, unfamiliar territory for the Yorkshireman. In those last ten innings Root has registered scores of single figures in 7, struggling to find any consistency. His last ODI century came 4 years ago in the last world cup and the former England test captain has only played 15 ODIs since England’s victorious campaign due to test match commitments. Many had questioned his place in the team but today he showed just how un-droppable he is, and if England are going to defend their crown, he will have to play as well as he did today.
Number 4- Coming of Age Performance
A scintillating, controlled but electric performance that utterly destroyed the England bowling attack. His 123 from only 96 balls featured 11 fours and 5 sixes of the finest order. He just looked a class above. He pounced on any and every England mistake, punishing poor width and length. What’s even more impressive was the elegance of which he conducted his innings, he didn’t hack or slog, he lifted and guided and punched and pummelled, all with grace and purpose. Not bad for a 23-year-old who only made his ODI debut in March of this year.
The Kiwi who’s first name comes from his parents love of Sachin Tendulkar and Rahul Dravid looked at home. Typically, a lower order batsman, Ravindra came in at 3 in the second over of the game after Sam Curran had opener Will Young caught behind with his first ball. Then came the dismantling. Ravindra was joined by Devon Conway who scored an equally thrilling 152 from 121 balls, combining for the 4th highest ever World Cup partnership.
Ravindra, in only his 10th ODI innings, averaged only 21 before this game and had a high score of only 68. His flamboyance exploded in Ahmedabad, punishing England bowlers with stunning shots, none more impressive than his mammoth 6 over the head of Chris Woakes, who struggled against the left hander.
Number 5- Poor Bowling
While Conway and Ravindra batted immensely, England’s bowlers will be disappointed with their performance.
Chris Woakes opened the bowling and struggled to find his line. Conway crunched him for four off the first ball of the innings which was a sign of things to come for the fast bowler. His first 3 overs went for a worrying 27, as he struggled to match the stroke playing of the New Zealanders. He finished with figures of 0 for 45.
Sam Curran looked the most promising of the England quicks, picking up the wicket of Will Young with his first ball, Jos Buttler taking an impressive diving catch to his left. His two following maidens then kept the New Zealand pair quiet for the only time in the game, but he was unable to capitalise on any pressure, he too succumbing to the constant boundaries. Mark Wood’s pace, usually the strongest part of his game, stood against him, with everything he bowled seeming to find the boundary, his pace helping it on the way. His 5 overs bowled went for a whopping 55 runs, 11 per over.
Jos Buttler opted to pick three spinners today but none of Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid or Liam Livingstone found any joy, with no real chances created by any of them.
Buttler looked weary by the end and his team will need to improve in all areas if they are to fight for the crown, New Zealand however, will be thrilled.
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