On Sunday, India took on New Zealand at the Oval in the first of their Champions Trophy warm-up matches. After losing the toss, India took to the field and recovered from a poor start to skittle New Zealand for just 189 inside 39 overs. India then looked comfortable in the chase as they were cruising at 129-3 when the rain came. The match was eventually called off, handing India a 45 run-win after using the Duckworth-Lewis Method.
It was an interesting match and key in understanding how both teams are going to operate throughout the upcoming Champions Trophy. This article looks at five things we learnt from the match.
Luke Ronchi or Tom Latham?
At the toss Kane Williamson announced that Tom Latham was missing out, but would be involved in the next ODI. This meant that other wicket-keeper Luke Ronchi came out to open. Ronchi had opened for New Zealand in their tri-series tournament in Dublin and performed poorly. He scored 101 runs in four innings with a top score of 37, but he looked fluent at the crease. Tom Latham had opened with him throughout that series as Martin Guptill was omitted from the squad, mainly due to his role in the IPL. However, now that Guptill is back with the New Zealand side it means that only one of Latham and Ronchi can play. Ronchi took this warm up match as a good chance to put forward his case for why he should be picked ahead of Latham. Indeed, Ronchi smashed 66 off just 63 balls and looked by far the best New Zealand batsman who came out to bat. His electric performance has meant that the dilemma of who should open for New Zealand still remains a pertinent question.
Hardik Pandya’s Role
It was extremely surprising to see Hardik Pandya take the new ball for India alongside Mohammed Shami. After India’s squad was announced, many people thought that India’s new ball opening combination would consist of Shami and Bhuvneshwar Kumar or Umesh Yadav. However, Kohli turned to Pandya to start the innings at the Oval and it was not a successful move. Pandya only bowled six overs and conceded a very expensive 49 runs from them. He struggled to find his line and length early on and the New Zealand openers took the attack to him. India are very keen to find a place for Hardik Pandya in their starting XI, as the inclusion of a fast-bowling all-rounder would provide a greater balance to their side. However, India should not be using him as an opening bowler but rather someone to bowl in the middle overs. Bhuvneshwar Kumar came on soon afterwards and looked much better, hitting some great areas and swinging the ball. If India are going to win the Champions Trophy it is key that they managed their players correctly – and giving Pandya the new ball is not a good move.
A big part of India’s success, as seen in their extensive home series, relies on the use of spin to take wickets and control the opposition. Therefore, it was a huge moment when Ravindra Jadeja came on to bowl in the middle overs. The pitch didn’t offer too much turn, but Jadeja looked phenomenal, not bowling any loose deliveries and getting through his overs quickly. He hurried through four overs and picked up the wickets of Ronchi and de Grandhomme. After this magnificent spell, in which he found his line and length perfectly, Kohli took him off to give his other bowlers a chance. Jadeja picked up the most wickets in the 2013 tournament held in England and Wales and if he manages to maintain the consistency he showed on Sunday, he will definitely hold the key to India’s chances.
New Zealand Poor in the Field
When trying to defend a total as low as 189, it is key that the fielding side take all their chances. However, this was not the case as New Zealand shelled several important catches. In the second over, Dhawan cut Boult hard to backward point, but Neil Broom put down an easy chance. Dhawan then went on to score a solid 40 and he took the game comfortably out of New Zealand’s grasp. MS Dhoni was also dropped later on in the match. When he was on 7, Boult banged in a short ball outside off and Dhoni slapped it straight to the sweeper on the off-side boundary. The man out there, de Grandhomme only managed to palm it over the rope and concede a costly six. It is essential that New Zealand sharpen up in the field if they want to win the competition, they can’t afford to miss these chances once the tournament begins.
Virat Kohli is by far one of the best batsmen in the world at the moment. Yet, England is the only country in which Virat Kohli has truly struggled. He was exposed in India’s 2014 tour of England, in which he looked extremely vulnerable to the England’s seamers. Since then, though, Kohli has managed to score runs all over the world and this is the first time he is returning to England since his failure there. It was therefore an extremely tense moment as Kohli walked out to bat. However, Kohli looked in great touch and appeared to be comfortable against the New Zealand seamers. He scored runs all around the ground as he hit an unbeaten 52 in tough conditions. Kohli is by far one of the most talented batsmen in the world and the fact that he is looking in great touch will be a major worry to all the other teams in this competition, for on his day he is unstoppable.