It was "men against boys" the last time these two teams met in a global tournament but tonight's game in Cardiff will be a grown up affair because both England and New Zealand are capable of destroying each other.

It was in Wellington in 2015 that New Zealand heaped humiliation on England, defeating them with such brutal precision that their World Cup campaign never recovered.

They were cut down by Tim Southee's 7-33 and then left shellshocked as Brendon McCullum launched a vicious assault with the bat hitting 77 off 25 balls as New Zealand chased down their 124 target in only 12.2 overs. The game was over so quickly that they never bothered to switch on the floodlights.

But from that nadir a new England has emerged. Eoin Morgan based his reconstruction of England's one-day cricket on the style of McCullum's New Zealand and they meet in Cardiff as equals.


This is the pivotal match of the group stage. A win for England will assure passage through to the next round. Lose and they will have to beat Australia in Birmingham on Saturday and there is nothing more Steve Smith's team would love to do six months before the Ashes than knock England out of their own tournament.

Selection for this match will be difficult. The short straight boundary in Cardiff measures only 63m putting it one metre under ICC minimum requirements (it is exempt because the ground had international status before the regulations changed in 2007). New Zealand hit powerfully straight and the short hit down the ground has stopped England picking two spinners in the past so a return for Adil Rashid appears unlikely.

The choice is between Steven Finn and David Willey to replace the injured Chris Woakes. Willey has struggled since shoulder surgery in January but a session with ECB fast bowling coach Kevin Shine at the weekend has resulted in him rediscovering his swing and the England batsmen said he was the hardest bowler to face when the team trained on Sunday.

Morgan hinted that he would show loyalty to those in the original squad which would put Willey ahead of Finn. The other route into the side for Finn is to replace Jake Ball who struggled against Bangladesh but England want to give him as much experience as possible.

Finn is one of the five survivors in the England squad from the Wellington mauling two years ago when he was treated with total disdain by McCullum. Finn's two overs cost 49 runs, more than four per ball, and he has been only an occasional selection in the two years since in which time England have beaten New Zealand at home and Morgan stamped his mark on the team.

"It was sort of men against boys. But I think it's completely different now, two years down the line. We've got a completely new team, pretty much," he said. "I think a lot of it has to do with confidence. You only build confidence by producing performances and winning games at cricket.

"I think the combination of that and playing more games as a team and as individuals makes you more experienced as a side. So we come into this tournament full of confidence and knowing that the conditions we're playing, going to play in, we've played in before and have had success before. I think the dominant factor in New Zealand was that they had that confidence at the time and the confidence within the group, whereas we didn't have it."

New Zealand dominated Australia with bat and ball before rain ruined their opening match last week. Kane Williamson's hundred matched Joe Root's against Bangladesh for class, the hitting of Luke Ronchi at the top proved there is life after McCullum and Ross Taylor is an experienced calming presence in the middle order. But they failed to go on against Australia and post the 320 run total that was there for the taking, and England have proved capable of dragging an innings back against South Africa and Bangladesh.

In Southee and Trent Boult New Zealand have two of the best fast bowlers in the world while a fit again Adam Milne is quick and aggressive.

A month's worth of rain was forecasted to fall in Cardiff and a shortened game must be a possibility. With the pitch sweating under the covers all day today and a cool, cloudy day expected Morgan has to think hard about choosing between the bounce of Finn and Willey's swing. One decision has already been made. Jason Roy plays despite a run of five single figure scores in six innings for England.