All the Cricket World Cup action between the Black Caps and England.
The Black Caps play their final group game at the 2019 Cricket World Cup when they take on England in Chester-le-Street at 9.30pm tonight. Niall Anderson runs through all you need to know – well, at least most of what you need to know - about the clash.
Is this the last "All you need to know" we're going to read?
Unfortunately, my dear reader, you're probably stuck with me for at least another game yet. A victory sends the Black Caps into a 2 v 3 semifinal against either Australia or India, and a loss …. well, probably sends the Black Caps into a 1 v 4 semifinal against either Australia or India.
The only way the Black Caps don't end up playing Australia or India in a semifinal is if they get hammered by a historic margin against England – say, the reverse of their 2015 encounter – and Pakistan thrash Bangladesh by a similarly ludicrous margin on Friday. That would see them miss out on the semifinals on net run rate. The chances of New Zealand making the semifinals? $1.01, say the bookmakers.
Ok, but beating England is still important, right?
It sure would be for their prospects of winning the World Cup. The last two games, and in all honesty, the World Cup as a whole, haven't shown many indications that the Black Caps can beat the three hot favourites for the Cup – they're yet to have a convincing win over a strong side.
But, England had a shock loss to Sri Lanka, have struggled at times when chasing a total, and New Zealand showed against Australia that they definitely are good enough to put themselves in a position to win – it's just whether they can capitalise when it counts. While they are definite underdogs, the Black Caps absolutely can beat England – and they'll need to, for anyone to believe in their chances of winning the World Cup.
How dangerous is this England side?
Extremely. Their batting lineup is outrageously deep - their No 9 and 10 batsmen both average over 30 in first-class cricket – which gives them the licence to flay the bat from ball one.
They've passed 310 on five occasions at the tournament, and, playing at a Chester-le-Street ground at which Sri Lanka and the West Indies just combined for 653 runs, albeit on a different wicket, Ross Taylor indicated he expects scores of 300+ to be required.
Devastating opener Jason Roy is back from a hamstring injury - he averages 42.3 at a strike rate of 107, and partners Jonny Bairstow (47.1 at 105), with the pair adding 160 in just 22 overs against India. Add in the destructive power of Ben Stokes and Eoin Morgan, the somehow even more destructive power of Jos Buttler, and the all-round excellence of Joe Root, and there's hard to find a weakness in the batting lineup. Oh, and the bowlers have two players who can hit 150km/h in Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, Liam Plunkett just took three wickets against India, and Chris Woakes is probably the second best all-rounder in the world. As the English would say, "Blimey!"
Those England openers … how do the Black Caps stop them?
Well, they might actually have a decent chance. We were saying the same thing about Aaron Finch and David Warner four days ago, and their hot run of form was ended by Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson.
In fact, the only team to truly trouble the New Zealand opening bowlers was, bizarrely, Afghanistan, who added 66 for the opening wicket.
The rest of the world's openers? Partnerships of 4, 45, 9, 3, 19 and 5 – so maybe the question should be flipped - how do Roy and Bairstow stop the Black Caps bowlers?
Who will open the bowling?
The trickiest question to answer. Boult, obviously, but there could be four or five options to take the white ball at the other end. The conditions don't seem that suitable to spin bowling, so Ish Sodhi may drop back out of the side for either Matt Henry or Tim Southee, but if the Black Caps want to give England a different look, perhaps Colin de Grandhomme takes it again, or Mitchell Santner.
Surely it's time for Southee. Remember 2015?
Well, yes. Yes I do. Southee may well make his 2019 World Cup debut tonight, but it's fair to say it won't be as incredible a performance as his last one against England, where he recorded New Zealand's greatest ODI figures – 7-33. With quite a few players returning from that clash for the re-match four years on, perhaps the Black Caps can still use those memories to their advantage tonight.
Will there be any other changes outside of that potential bowling swap?
Unlikely. Henry Nicholls should get another belated crack to open the batting – against another fearsome attack, the poor bloke – while the Black Caps have put their complete faith behind Martin Guptill and Tom Latham to bounce out of their slumps.
How can I follow the game tonight?
Radio Sport will have live commentary of the game, and we will have live updates on nzherald.co.nz. If you want to know the Black Caps' lineup tonight we will have it first from the ground - from either myself or Andrew Alderson as we scope the players warming up - and we'll have all the reaction and permutations for you in the morning.