The World Cup clash between England and New Zealand is of a significance that extends beyond the prospects of the participating teams. And England will walk out on to a pitch that suits their needs.
The two teams will meet in Chester-Le-Street in what will be the 41st match of this World Cup. Hosts England after starting the tournament solidly and floundering in the middle need a necessary win to go ahead to the semi-final. New Zealand who had a comparatively smoother ride are not as desperate for the two points but still need the win to make the semis.
Additionally, the outcome will influence the fate of the Pakistan team which has gone through the tournament with its trademark highs and lows and is currently riding a rising tide. Pakistan need New Zealand to beat England and then need to beat Bangladesh to get a shot at playing the final.
Heading into the New Zealand game, English Captain Eoin Morgan has said that the pitch around this stage is a horrible surface for batting second.
But as the arguably the most important and widely affecting game draws begins, the eyes are not on the participating teams and the consistency of their world cup campaigns. Everything today is about the pitch.
The world cup began with some high scoring matches, with England posting 398 against minnows Afghanistan. But since then the tournament has seen the return of the pitch that can give us scores that look like they’re coming from English grounds.
The slow flat surfaces gained prominence in England’s game against India, where Dhoni’s late innings go-slow prompted criticism from all quarters. Heading into the New Zealand game, English Captain Eoin Morgan has said that the pitch around this stage is a horrible surface for batting second.
So here is what is threatening New Zealand today, and along with it Pakistan. A fresh pitch has been unveiled at Chester-le-street. Fresh pitches mean a flat track that suits the ‘New England’ batting lineup made up of Roy, Bairstow, Root and Stokes. There will be plenty of runs from most of them, maybe all of them. We might see a replay of the Indian game, as England post a high score and New Zealand rue the fact that the ball does not come on to the bat as quick as they want.
But the boundaries are longer than the India game, so it will be a different game even with a fresh pitch. Still, New Zealand’s and Pakistan’s only hope is bowl England out quickly.