Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: NZ very motivated to beat England

Hesson says winning pool and heading to Oval is what team are looking to do

It's a struggle finding a British weather forecast which does anything but usher New Zealand into the Champions Trophy semifinals as top qualifiers.

Everywhere you click or read, meteorological maps indicate dark clouds with blue droplets poking out and temperatures of around 12C for tomorrow in Cardiff. Rugby's covered Millennium Stadium looks like a more appropriate venue than cricket's exposed Swalec Stadium 15 minutes' walk down the road. The chances of playing a full ODI look minimal.

Mind you, try telling that to the New Zealand team who turned up on the fifth day of the second test at Headingley. Rain merely teased them and they were ground down.

However, fortune (via run-rates) favours sides like New Zealand who wring out one-wicket victories chasing 139 against the higher-ranked Sri Lanka.

Combine that with a match which could have gone either way against Australia, although the New Zealand total was looking brittle five overs short of an official match.

With three points in Group A, and the highest net run-rate (+1.048) after bowling Sri Lanka out in 37.5 overs, New Zealand are poised to head to the Oval for their play-off match.

England are second (+0.289) and Sri Lanka third (-0.517) on two points, despite Sri Lanka hauling in England's 293 for seven to win by seven wickets with 17 balls to spare yesterday.

Australia (-0.960) need to beat Sri Lanka convincingly and hope New Zealand beat England, if they're to qualify without launching an Einstein-type equation.

India are favourites to top Group B. They play Pakistan in their last match.

Unless India are trounced tonight, South Africa and the West Indies fought out the second position overnight.

Putting weather aside, New Zealand coach Mike Hesson says they've got more motivation to beat England than simply pride. "I think playing India [presuming they're top qualifier] on a used wicket at Cardiff would be a tough ask for any side, so winning the pool and heading to the Oval is what we're looking to do."

India's spinners have been a tough proposition. Until last night the left-arm orthodox Ravindra Jadeja had the best match figures at the tournament (five for 36 against the West Indies at the Oval) and the lowest average of 9.57 for his seven dismissals. Ravi Ashwin had one wicket but a tidy economy rate of 4.36.

The purpose-built cricket grounds used in the Champions Trophy mean batsmen struggle to hit spinners for six. Spinners gain more protection from sweepers positioned for miscued slogs.

New Zealand will hope Jadeja's spin success rubs off on them if they play at the Oval. Hesson says the 30 overs of spin bowled by Daniel Vettori, Kane Williamson and Nathan McCullum against Australia is the most by a New Zealand side in their ODI history. He's happy for the trend to continue.

"Kane's grown another leg, we know what Dan can do and Nathan was vying for Dan's spot at the start of the tournament so it's a nice position for him to be in."

Hesson expected veteran bowler Vettori to be ready to play England ... if the rain restrains itself.

- NZ Herald

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