Champions Trophy Preview – New Zealand

Captain – Kane Williamson

Dangerman – Martin Guptill

The thirty-year-old Aucklander is realistically the only genuine match winning batsman the Black Caps have at their disposal other than captain Williamson, and the pair will share a huge amount of responsibility on their shoulders to back up what has been an excellent few years for them.

Guptill has a good record in England.   Four years ago he smashed 189 not out in the second ODI in Southampton, off a mere 155 balls.  He also recently took apart South Africa in Hamilton to score 180 not out off just 138 deliveries.  So his ability has never been in doubt, especially in white ball cricket; his consistency however sometimes has.  If he’s able to pull a couple of big knocks out of the bag when they need him most, New Zealand have a genuine chance of repeating their Champions Trophy win in the year 2000 – their only global tournament success to date.

Why they’re a Threat

In English conditions, you would expect New Zealand’s bowling unit to threaten any side in the tournament.  Trent Boult and Tim Southee have caused England’s batsmen no end of trouble on recent tours here, and have a fantastic record bowling on pitches up and down the country.  They will lead the attack.

They have also included Adam Milne in their 15-man squad.  Milne has out-and-out pace and if he’s able to stay fit and firing, he can top 150k/m per hour at top speed, which ranks him alongside the quickest on show in the tournament.  Milne has had a difficult run of injuries over the last twelve months, however it’s a measured gamble to include him bearing in mind the potential upside. Mitchell McClenaghan is also back from injury and in the squad, and at time of printing has enjoyed a great start to the IPL.

Another man back from injury is Corey Anderson who can add some control as the fifth bowler in the attack, and with their spin duo of Jeetan Patel (another bowler with a sensational record in England; Patel was named county cricket’s most valuable player in 2014), along with slow-left-armer Mitchell Santner aka. the ‘new Daniel Vettori’, the Black Caps have a world class bowling line-up.

Achilles’ Heel

The middle order.  As previously stated, much rests on the ability of Martin Guptill at the top of the order and Kane Williamson at number three.  If neither of them go big, New Zealand are susceptible to the type of batting collapses usually only reserved for the tournament hosts.

Corey Anderson coming back into the team will offer some much-needed ballast further down, but with Ross Taylor’s inconsistency still lurking, and the likes of Luke Ronchi and Mitchell Santner still unable to prove that they’re capable of fulfilling their potential, New Zealand must worry about their ability to post match winning totals with the consistency required to win a major tournament.

Last Time?

New Zealand felt unlucky to have dropped out of the last edition in the group stages.   After surviving a scare from a brilliant Lasith Malinga, they beat Sri Lanka in a low scoring thriller by one wicket at Cardiff in their first game, and were on course to chase down Australia’s 243 at Edgbaston in the second before a result meant the teams shared a point each.

In their final group match back in Cardiff, another badly rain-affected match saw them come up 10 runs short of the 170 target England had set for them off 24 overs, and they were on their way home.

New Zealand did win the first ever edition of the Champions Trophy back in 1998 (or the ICC Knockout Trophy as it was then known), by chasing down the West Indies’ total of 245 all out in Dhakka, Bangladesh.  This remains their only white ball ICC tournament victory to date.

Look out for Chances?

The wonderful Ian Smith losing his marbles if his beloved Black Caps beat the Aussies again.   For those that witnessed the heart-stopping group match between New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park in Auckland at the World Cup 2015, you’ll know what I’m talking about.  Watching Kane Williamson smashing Mitchell Starc’s good length delivery into the stands for a dramatic one wicket win was exasperating; hearing Smithy’s reaction hilarious.

Odds

8/1 – Fifth favourites (Betfair)

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