Pakistan left-arm fast bowler Mohammad Amir entered the 2019 World Cup with serious question marks over his bowling form and even his place in the team after struggling to pick up wickets for most of 2018 and also finding himself dropped for poor form.
But the left-arm pacer was still selected due to the experience he brings to the table and also his success on previous tours to the UK. On Wednesday, Pakistan’s decision was proven to be 100 per cent right as Amir made up for a horror bowling effort by the rest of the Pakistan attack by picking up his maiden five-wicket haul in ODIs against Australia in Taunton.
Amir finished with excellent figures of 5-30 in overcast conditions even as Australia ended up scoring 307 in 49 overs. If not for Amir, Pakistan would have easily conceded 350.
Mohammad Amir conceded just one boundary in his 10 overs spell and none off his last 41 balls. 10-2-30-5 is the most economical ten-over spell by a Pakistan pacer in four years. #AusvPak— Mazher Arshad (@MazherArshad) June 12, 2019
Runs conceded: 30
It was a masterclass on how to bowl in overcast conditions in England. Amir retained his zip and late swing throughout the 10 overs, using subtle variations to get the most out of the helpful conditions. It was imperative to keep things simple and Amir did that beautifully. Unfortunately, Shaheen Afridi and Hasan Ali went for pace without any direction and ended up going at seven an over. If only they had learned from Amir.
Amir read the conditions perfectly and realised it was a case of less being more. With enough help on offer, a quality swing bowler like Amir didn’t need to try a lot of things. His death bowling was even more sensational as he scythed through the middle and lower order to pick up a thoroughly deserved five-wicket haul.
Personally, it was a superlative effort from Amir. Captain Sarfraz Ahmed couldn’t have possibly asked for more. However, being the leader of the attack, maybe Amir could have guided fellow quicks Shaheen and Ali better with regards to their lines and lengths. Maybe he did and it just didn’t work on Wednesday.
It will be a battle between the only two undefeated teams so far in the 2019 ICC World Cup when India and New Zealand lock horns at Trent Bridge on Thursday.
Both the teams have been impressive in their respective campaigns so far and will want to preserve their unbeaten status at any cost on Thursday.
While there does exist a big rain threat on Thursday, there will be plenty of exciting duels on offer should the game go ahead. Here, we look at the three key battles which could prove to be decisive at Trent Bridge.
BUMRAH V WILLIAMSON
Jasprit Bumrah has been excellent so far for India with the pacer living up to his No1 billing in the ODI format. The right-arm fast bowler has been equally effective with the new ball up front and with the older ball in the death overs.
Bumrah has so far claimed five scalps in two games and it will be his task once again to get India the early wickets against New Zealand. The main wicket both he and India will be desperate for will be that of Kane Williamson.
The Kiwi skipper loves to anchor the innings and getting him out cheaply will be vital for the Indians. Williamson’s form in the World Cup has been good with the right-hander fresh from an unbeaten 79 against Afghanistan.
He is one of the most technically assured batsmen going around and dislodging him should be an exciting challenge for Bumrah.
KULDEEP V TAYLOR
New Zealand stalwart Ross Taylor has been in prolific form in ODIs since the turn of 2017 and will be looking to dominate the middle-overs against the Men in Blue.
The right-hander averaged nearly 92 with the bat last year and has continued in the same vein in 2019 where he is currently averaging a stellar 72.30. There are not many weaknesses in Taylor’s game and he will look to impose himself on the bowlers at every opportunity on Thursday.
He loves to take on the spinners and it will be interesting to see how he handles the threat of Kuldeep Yadav. The India wrist-spinner has been one of the biggest wicket-taking threats for Virat Kohli’s men over the past two years but he is not in the best of forms currently.
He had a poor IPL campaign and has only picked up the solitary wicket in his two World Cup appearances so far. He still seems short of confidence and that will be something Taylor will look to exploit at Trent Bridge.
ROHIT V BOULT
The injury to Shikhar Dhawan means that there is now an increased onus on Rohit Sharma to give India a strong start with the bat. The deputy skipper registered a fine ton in India’s campaign opener against South Africa before following it up with a half-century in the win over Australia.
However, despite his stellar ODI record, Rohit does have a clear weakness against left-arm pacers which has been exploited in the past. In 202 ODI innings, the opener has been dismissed 23 times in total by left-arm quicks including three ducks.
That chink will be what Trent Boult will be looking to exploit for New Zealand when he steams in with the new ball. Conditions will definitely be overcast on Thursday, if play gets underway, and that should aid Boult in generating plenty of late swing. He has already picked up 22 wickets in 12 ODIs against India and claimed 4-33 when the two teams met in the World Cup warm-up clash.
It will be the fourth game in a row against Asian opposition for current leaders New Zealand who beat Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan previously in the tournament.
India, on the other hand, are searching for their third straight win after convincing victories against South Africa and defending champions Australia.
RAIN COULD SPOIL THE PARTY
Both India and New Zealand might still preserve their unbeaten status at the end of Thursday if the recent trend of rained-out matches continues in England. Three matches have been washed out in the World Cup in the past five days and the weather forecast for Nottingham on Thursday is not looking too bright either.
Showers are expected in intervals throughout the day and the chances of getting a full 50-over game are slim. The region has experienced heavy rainfall over the past few days and getting even a 20-over game between the two sides might be a bonus at this rate.
Another washed out game will only see the debate over the absence of reserve days in the World Cup rise.
KIWI PACE THREAT FOR INDIA
Three of the four leading wicket-takers currently at the World Cup are New Zealand pacers with Lockie Ferguson topping the charts with eight scalps to his name. Matt Henry is in second spot with seven wickets while James Neesham follows in fourth with six to his tally.
That list does not even include Trent Boult who has a formidable record against India. The Kiwi left-armed pacer has picked up 22 wickets in 12 ODIs against the Men in Blue and will relish the prospect of bowling at them under overcast conditions at Trent Bridge.
The same Kiwi bowling unit bowled India out for just 179 runs in the warm-up clash recently with Boult returning with figures of 4-33. They have so far claimed all 30 wickets on offer in the three matches they have played in the World Cup and will fancy their chances of making it 40 should the ball swing on Thursday.
DHAWAN INJURY RE-OPENS NO4 DEBATE
The Indians might have beaten five-time champions Australia in their most recent outing but it came at a huge cost. Opener Shikhar Dhawan has been confirmed to have fractured his thumb in the match and now faces the prospect of being sidelined for three weeks.
India are holding off on naming a replacement for now as they continue to assess the left-hander’s injury. As such, it seems only natural that KL Rahul will be moved up to open the innings alongside Rohit Sharma against New Zealand. He was initially picked in the World Cup squad as a backup opener before pipping Vijay Shankar to the number four slot.
With Rahul moving up the order, the No4 debate has once again been reopened for India and they now have a decision to make. Shankar will be vying with Dinesh Karthik for the middle-order berth and his ability to bowl useful medium pace might just swing things in his favour.
India: Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul, Virat Kohli (c), Vijay Shankar, Kedar Jadhav, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Kuldeep Yadav, Jasprit Bumrah, Yuzvendra Chahal.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), James Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult.