Bilateral series

England and New Zealand Unleash Their Top Players as They Kick Off Serious World Cup Preparation

As we transition from a week of T20I cricket to a new format, there’s a palpable shift in focus and intensity as England and New Zealand prepare to lock horns in the ODI series. The previous T20I series saw England dominate initially but witnessed a remarkable resurgence from New Zealand, making this upcoming ODI series a much more serious affair right from the start.

However, it’s worth noting that the intensity of this ODI series is not quite on par with what awaits in Ahmedabad at the 2023 World Cup opener. Nor does it match the timeless drama that unfolded at Lord’s four years ago when these two teams clashed in the 50-over format. Instead, we find ourselves anticipating what the future holds for ODI cricket, a format that has been somewhat neglected over the past four years.

Both England and New Zealand face the challenge of rediscovering their ODI form after a prolonged hiatus. The return of Ben Stokes, who briefly retired from ODI cricket, is a significant talking point for England. However, he’s not the only player making a return to the format, as several World Cup heroes like Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, and Jos Buttler have had limited exposure to ODI cricket in recent years.

The neglect of the ODI format by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) is evident, with domestic 50-over cricket taking a backseat, particularly with the emergence of The Hundred. Yet, this lack of game-time in the ODI format is not unique to England.

New Zealand, despite their strong showing in previous World Cup campaigns, has also seen a decline in their ODI fixtures and player participation over the past four years. The captain, Tom Latham, is one of the few players with significant caps in this period, highlighting the transition and reduced exposure of key players in this format.

However, the fast-paced and adaptable nature of professional cricket means that teams can find cohesion relatively quickly, as demonstrated by New Zealand’s T20I series turnaround. The recent carefree attitude of players towards preparation and the success of England’s Test team’s “Bazball revolution” suggest that preparation isn’t the be-all and end-all in modern cricket.

For England, this series represents a return to their roots, where instinctual cricket and camaraderie were the hallmarks of their success. New Zealand, on the other hand, served as an inspiration to England in 2015 and still possesses a wealth of experience to make a deep World Cup run.

Kane Williamson’s recovery from injury will be closely watched, as he remains a crucial part of New Zealand’s World Cup plans. Ultimately, this series serves as a test of whether England and New Zealand can quickly adapt to the ODI format and find their rhythm in preparation for the 2023 World Cup.

Team News:

England’s first-choice XI has a retro feel, with up to nine World Cup medallists expected to play in the opening fixture. Eoin Morgan’s retirement makes way for Liam Livingstone or potentially Harry Brook. Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow are set to resume their opening partnership.

Sam Curran represents the post-2019 generation and is likely to feature, while Mark Wood may be rested, potentially giving Gus Atkinson an opportunity. Moeen Ali might make way for an extra seamer due to Cardiff’s unfavorable dimensions for offspin.

New Zealand will miss Kane Williamson, who is recovering from a knee injury. Devon Conway and Will Young are expected to open, with Daryl Mitchell and Glenn Phillips providing middle-order firepower. The bowling lineup features proven performers, with Trent Boult making a significant return to the squad.

Pitch and Conditions:

Cardiff’s short straight boundaries and spacious square pockets challenge bowlers. The pitch has some live grass, and while it produced high scores in the Blast, surfaces used for the Hundred were less batsman-friendly. The weather is expected to be hot.

Stats and Trivia:

  • Cardiff has hosted 29 ODIs, with England winning nine of their 15 matches there.
  • New Zealand has won four of their seven games at Cardiff, including a victory over Sri Lanka in the 2019 World Cup.
  • Ben Stokes needs 76 more runs to reach 3000 in ODIs.
  • Trent Boult will play his 100th ODI, and it’s his first international outing in almost a year.
  • England’s provisional World Cup 15 is far from finalized, with players’ form in this series likely to influence final decisions.

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