With just days remaining for the start of the 2019 ICC World Cup in England, India and New Zealand will look to add the finishing touches to their preparations when they lock horns in a warm-up clash at The Oval, London on Saturday.
It is the first official warm-up fixture for both sides who are due to meet again in the World Cup 2019 round-robin stage at Trent Bridge on June 13.
For India skipper Virat Kohli, getting the better of New Zealand in the warm-up fixtures is crucial.
“It is probably the most challenging World Cup of all the three that I have been part of because of the format and looking at the strength of the all the sides as well,” Kohli had said before India’s arrival in England.
“If we live up to our skill sets and our standards that we set for ourselves, we’ll be on the right side of the result more often. That is going to be key. Every game you have to play to the best of your potential because it’s not a group stage anymore, it’s playing everyone once.”
WHO WILL BAT AT NO4 FOR INDIA?
One of the key areas that Kohli and the Indian team management will be looking to test on Saturday against the Kiwis is the No4 batting position. With India choosing to ignore Rishabh Pant the team’s options for the No4 spot in the batting order are KL Rahul and all-rounder Vijay Shankar.
While Rahul is coming off an excellent individual IPL campaign for Kings XI Punjab, Shankar had a dismal time with Sunrisers Hyderabad. However, the latter’s ability to bowl medium pace could be a handy option in English conditions and that could tilt the scales in his favour.
Both the players will be expected to be handed an opportunity in the role during India’s two warm-up fixtures and it remains to be seen as to who seizes the opportunity. Another option for Kohli is to promote wicketkeeper MS Dhoni up the batting order to No4.
BLACKCAPS LOOK TO GET BACK INTO THE GROOVE
For New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, Saturday’s clash against the Indians will be a chance for his men to get back into the thick of things. New Zealand’s last international engagement came nearly two months ago in an ODI against Bangladesh and Williamson is hoping to dust off the cobwebs before the 2019 World Cup gets underway.
“It’s been great to get together for the last few days,” Williamson stated at the captains’ press conference on Thursday.
“We’ve not played together for a couple of months but we’re not the only ones in that boat.
“The guys are excited to be back in camp which is really refreshing, and we’re looking forward to the challenges that we have got coming up.”
India: Rohit Sharma, Shikhar Dhawan, Virat Kohli (c), KL Rahul, Vijay Shankar, MS Dhoni (wk), Hardik Pandya, Bhuvneshwar Kumar, Mohammed Shami, Kuldeep Yadav, Yuzvendra Chahal, Jasprit Bumrah.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, James Neesham, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson
It will be a clash between the No1 ranked ODI side and heavy tournament favourites England against the defending world champions.
MORGAN INJURY SCARE
Just days before the start of the World Cup, hosts England have been dealt a major scare with skipper Eoin Morgan injuring his finger during the team’s practice session on Friday.
“Eoin Morgan took a knock to his left index finger fielding this morning. He is going to hospital after practice for a precautionary X-ray,” a brief statement from the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) read.
A veteran of 222 ODIs, Morgan is one of the most experienced campaigners in the England outfit while his leadership has been vital in the team’s rise as the No1 ODI outfit.
AUSTRALIA AIM TO KEEP MOMENTUM GOING
After what was a dismal 2018 for Australia in ODI cricket, Aaron Finch and his men have been peaking at just the right time. The five-time world champions come into the World Cup on the back of an eight-match winning streak which included a 5-0 whitewash of Pakistan in the UAE and a come-from-behind 3-2 victory in India.
The Aussies are now also bolstered by the returning David Warner and Steve Smith who have served their one-year suspension from international cricket for their role in the infamous ball-tampering episode in South Africa.
Warner has just returned from a stellar IPL 2019 campaign for Sunrisers Hyderabad where he scored 692 runs in just 12 matches at an average of nearly 70. Smith, meanwhile, had an indifferent start to his IPL campaign with Rajasthan Royals but grew in both confidence and form towards the latter stages of the competition.
With Warner and Smith back, Australia will hope to keep their winning momentum going while also looking to find the right balance in the playing XI.
ENGLAND AIM TO CONTINUE AUSSIE ODI DOMINATION
While Australia have been on a roll in recent months, they have not had the best of times in recent clashes with their arch-rivals England. In the past 10 ODI meetings between the two sides, it is England who have dominated with nine victories.
This includes a 5-0 whitewash of Australia on English soil last year as well as a 4-1 thumping Down Under. England’s ODI domination hasn’t just been limited to Australia with Morgan’s men yet to lose a bilateral series in the format since January, 2017 when they were beaten 1-2 in an away series by India.
“England have been in great form for a number of years and you have to say they are definitely favourites,” Australia skipper Aaron Finch stated at the captains’ meet on Friday.
“If you look over the past couple of years, their scores have been going up and up,” he added.
England: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Joe Root, Eoin Morgan/James Vince, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Adil Rashid, Tom Curran.
Australia: David Warner, Aaron Finch (c), Steve Smith, Usman Khawaja, Marcus Stoinis, Alex Carey (wk), Glenn Maxwell, Nathan Coulter-Nile, Adam Zampa, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc.
It will be a chance for both teams to sharpen their preparations for the World Cup where all 10 sides are slated to take on each other in a round-robin format.
Newly appointed Sri Lanka skipper Dimuth Karunaratne won the toss at Cardiff and has elected to bat first in the warm-up fixture.
Do not miss any of the action from Cardiff by following the ball-by-ball updates from the clash below.