ICC Cricket World Cup – Beware Indian comeback

Wisely the Black Caps are not getting carried away with their six-wicket victory against powerful India in their opening World Cup ODI warm-up game on London’s Oval wicket which saw Trent Boult weave his swing magic.

With Boult leading the way with his 4-33, backed by all-rounder Jimmy Neesham’s 3-26, India struggled to 179 from 39.2 overs.

New Zealand hit the required 180 with almost 13 overs to spare, thanks to Ross Taylor’s 71 and Kane Williamson’s 67.

Ross Taylor amassed his 71 from just 75 balls in the World Cup ODI warm-up game against India. Photo Reuters

While skipper Williamson accumulated his total from a pedestrian 87 balls after a disappointing Indian Premier League Twenty20, Taylor amassed his from just 75 at almost a run ball.

Before that, Taylor’s ODI average this year was 74.1. In 2017 it was 60.5 and last year it was an incredible Bradman like 91.3.

While coach Gary Stead would have been delighted with the performance of his two premier batsmen, there will be concern Colin Munro went for a three-ball duck and opening partner Martin Guptill was dismissed for a shaky 22.

Munro likes to play with the fearless abandon of dynamic mentor Brendon McCullum who gave the Black Caps such a fast start on their way to the 2015 World Cup glory before ecstatic home crowds.

Unfortunately he can also be reckless and sacrifice his wicket too easily, just as McCullum did against Australia in the 2015 final against brilliant pace bowler Mitchell Starc.

On a pitch favouring swing and seam that was so different to what is expected  on others that will favour the batsmen, the Black Caps made hay while the sun shone at the Oval.

Particularly pleasing was Colin de Grandhomme’s 1-12 from six economic overs in which he captured the wicket of master batsman Virat Kohli for 18 with a pearler.

All-rounders Neesham and de Grandhomme are hard-hitting middle order batsmen who can accumulate runs quickly. But only one may make the starting XI if dry wickets favour fielding both spinners, Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi, who went wicketless against India.

Still it was a heartening opening warm-up for a team that had not  been together for a few months although everyone expects India, along with England and Australia, to be a much tougher proposition when the championship proper gets underway on Thursday.

Meanwhile I’m surprised that in strongly favouring  experience, passionate Silver Ferns coach Noeline Taurua left Aliyah Dunn out of her World Cup squad.

Goal shoot Dunn’s scoring percentage in the ANZ championship has been consistently superior to goal attacks Bailey Mes and Ameliaranne Ekenasio although apparently Taurua wasn’t satisfied with her strength and conditioning.

On the credit side Mes is an outstanding rebounder whereas Ekenasio is a beautiful feeder whose combination with Dunn is a major reason for the Central Pulse’s success this season. And no-one works the circle better.

Obviously there is no complaint about the selection of Australian based Maria Folau who, at 32, has hinted her outstanding international career could be coming to a close.

That would be a pity for her amazing long range goals, shot quickly with such poise and confidence, is one of the international game’s greatest highlights.

The squad is: Karin Burger, Gina Crampton, Ameliaranne Ekenasio, Maria Folau, Phoenix Karaka, Casey Kopua, Laura Langman (captain), Bailey Mes, Katrina Rore, Shannon Saunders, Te Paea Selby-Rickit, Jane Watson.

Ivan Agnew is an award-winning sports writer and author