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1st Match (D/N), Ahmedabad, October 05, 2023, ICC Cricket World Cup
(36.2/50 ov, T:283) 283/1

New Zealand won by 9 wickets (with 82 balls remaining)

Player Of The Match
123* (96) & 1/76

England and New Zealand meet again, Super Over(s) from 2019 on many minds

Four years on from that mind-blowing World Cup final at Lord's, they raise the curtain on the 2023 edition, their ageing golden generations looking for one more chance to shine

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller

Big Picture: … and so it goes on

So… where were we? July 14, 2019, that's where. At 7.35pm on a bright summer's evening at Lord's. Jofra Archer to Martin Guptill… Guptill to Jason Roy… Roy to Jos Buttler … Buttler to the stumps and English glory, in a finish too excruciatingly tight to create any scoreline separation across 102 overs all told.
Somewhere, in a parallel universe, that epic contest has perhaps still not reached a definitive conclusion. The playing conditions for the 2023 event stipulate that, in the event of a tie this time around, the two teams will contest as many Super Overs as it takes to separate the sides … which will be of scant consolation to New Zealand's 2019 veterans, at least six of whom are likely to line up in Ahmedabad on Thursday, but at least it will be hard for the fates to be quite so cruel again.
And so, here we are, four years later, with the 50-over World Cup picking up with a contest that, to all intents and purposes, never quite ended. Winner-takes-all it is not… but winner-takes-a-huge-stride-towards-their-endgame, it most certainly is. As England discovered in their error-strewn journey through the group stage in 2019, early losses in this round-robin format can crank up the jeopardy further down the line. Especially if you give a leg-up to one of your likeliest rivals for a top-four finish.
Either way, it's entirely fitting to begin the 2023 World Cup with this showdown, because much like that Lord's scoreline, the ODI narrative has been stuck in a stalemate since that momentous day. Does 50-over cricket even have a place in the modern world? The new president of cricket's ancient regime believes this stage is the only place for it, and, amid the T20 zeitgeist, the optional approach that many of the game's biggest stars have taken to the format in recent years (Ben Stokes and Trent Boult foremost among them) would appear to back up that assertion.
But it is still one hell of a stage - the biggest stage, quite literally, in the case of this curtain-raising contest at the Narendra Modi Stadium, where upwards of 120,000 people could yet cram in to watch the action unfold, although to judge by the current air of mild indifference permeating the tournament build-up, we might have to wait until October 14 to witness the venue in full flow.
Remarkably, it's not the first time that these two teams have opened a World Cup in Ahmedabad - way back in 1996, amid the earliest flexes of the BCCI's administrative muscle, Mike Atherton's England took on Lee Germon's New Zealand at the down-at-heel Sardar Patel Stadium (as it was known before its gigantic refit) in a contest that would retrospectively epitomise the sea-change that was slamming towards the sport.
For the record New Zealand won, by 11 runs thanks to a Nathan Astle century, but were soundly thrashed by every other major team they faced, including by Australia in the quarter-finals. As for England, the less said the better. Not even their dismal display in 2015 ranks lower in their annals of World Cup misery. Four years earlier, they had reached the final in Melbourne with a pioneering style of play that briefly made them the most progressive white-ball team in the world. However, a complacent failure to evolve thereafter left them miles off the pace at the follow-up event. An omen of indignities to come? We can but wait and see.
This time out, at least England's lack of evolution comes with a distinct and entirely justifiable caveat. This is the last dance of their golden generation; the squad of world-beaters that came together after 2015 to tear up the timid script that had caused them to bomb on the world stage for six consecutive campaigns.
Eight years later, these players are clearly getting on - there could yet be eight survivors from that 2019 campaign in England's XI on Thursday, and a further six who played in the most recent ICC world final to have been staged in India - the infamous 2016 showdown with West Indies in Kolkata, where Carlos Brathwaite took down Stokes with four consecutive sixes to deny his team early reward for their new risk-embracing approach.
But despite some inevitable evolution along the way, last winter's T20 World Cup win in Australia has ensured that even the newcomers to England's squad have been soused in that winning mentality - Gus Atkinson and the luckless Reece Topley (withdrawn from the 2022 T20 World Cup squad after a freak injury) are the only two members of their 15 to have so far missed out on holding a global trophy aloft.
None of that means there's anything inevitable about England's progress this time out, of course. Even allowing for the manner in which they've ignored 50-over cricket since 2019 and doubled down on visualisation to fill the competitive void, there are more questions about their readiness than they might have bargained for at this late stage of the build-up.
Will Stokes be fit enough to last the course? His troublesome knee has already kiboshed his allrounder status, and now he's a major doubt for this opener with a sore hip. Will Joe Root find his mojo after a troublingly fallow run of 50-over form (which stems, dare one say it, from his agonising 7 from 30 in the 2019 final)? Can Adil Rashid's myriad niggles be kept at bay, and can the stable of fast bowlers cope with an arduous itinerary that could involve up to 14 internal flights if they can reach their ultimate destination?
And if England think that big-game experience is the be-all-and-end-all, their opponents are scarcely lacking in that department either. New Zealand are arguably even further down the "golden generation" road - they were blazing a trail to their first final way back in 2015, even while England were still working out that "setting a strong base" was too 1990s to function.
Though they've fallen at the last in each of their three ICC white-ball finals of this era, New Zealand's overall World Cup pedigree (eight semi-finals or better in 12 attempts) precludes the need for any caveats about the threat they pose. Anyone who doubts their readiness for another deep run needs only to rewatch that Super Over, and feel their pulse racing all over again.

Form guide

England WWWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand WWLLL

In the spotlight: Dawid Malan and Trent Boult

After a disjointed build-up in which their rain-affected warm-ups in Guwahati were a microcosm of their entire World Cup cycle, England are entering this campaign on a cocktail of vibes, laced with the comforting knowledge of past glories, while hoping to create the not-unrealistic belief that it will all come together on the night. For Dawid Malan, however, his tournament impetus derives from a wholly different source. Last month, he scorched his way into the starting XI with a haul of 277 runs in three innings against these same opponents, displacing the heartbeat of that 2019 team, Jason Roy, in the process, as he became the joint-fastest England batter to 1000 ODI runs.
At 36, Malan is the second-oldest member of a squad that has already attracted a few "Dad's Army" jibes, and unlike the senior pro Moeen Ali, he's the latest of latecomers to England's inner sanctum. There may be an enduring sense that Malan's methods don't wholly chime with the ego-free ethos that Eoin Morgan instilled in the squad post-2015 and which Jos Buttler has since carried on but, if that's the case, then he's turned his solipsism into his superpower. At a time when attention to the ODI format has been drifting, no one in the world game has made it more of their mission to master 50-over batting in the past four years, and Malan's haul of five centuries at 61.52 in 21 innings is world-class by any definition. Quite apart from the confidence he will project at the top of England's order, the hunger in his game right now is palpable. It might yet prove to be an ingredient that the golden generation would otherwise be lacking.
Trent Boult admitted to feeling a little bit triggered down at Southampton during New Zealand's ODI series in England last month, when the ground's giant replay screen chose to fill the dead hours of a rain delay with extended highlights of the 2019 final. And little wonder. With the possible exception of New Zealand's Super Over fall-guy Martin Guptill, no player will have had to relive more "what ifs" from that crazy day than Boult - from his stepping on the rope to reprieve Ben Stokes in the penultimate over to his marshalling of that final-over mayhem, including of course the infamous ball that Stokes deflected through deep third for six priceless overthrows.
Less well remembered, however, is the one that got away from Boult's very first ball of England's chase; a wicked, jagging inswinger to Jason Roy that resulted in one of the most plumb not-out lbws in the history of DRS. Roy's on-field reprieve was upheld by the width of a seam, but that single delivery set the tone for a deeply anxious England display. And, as if any reminder was needed of Boult's enduring class, he served it up on his return to England last month. He'd not played for New Zealand since the T20 World Cup in November, having turned down a central contract in favour of the T20 freelance circuit, but up he popped with eight wickets in two outings, including 5 for 51 at The Oval, even while Stokes was going loco once more in his career-best 182. His presence is a stamp of class that authenticates New Zealand's right to be taken incredibly seriously once more.

Team news: Stokes in doubt, Williamson not ready

England's rain-interrupted warm-up against Bangladesh on Monday was notable for a clean bill of health for each of their front-line seamers (assuming they all survived the flight from Guwahati intact) but also for the absence of Stokes, whom Buttler admitted is suffering from a hip niggle. Stokes being Stokes, he's perfectly capable of playing through the pain, but as his captain admitted, the start of the tournament is "not the time to take big risks … if he's not fit to play, he's not fit to play". That could mean an early outing for England's World Cup bolter, Harry Brook, and quite some narrative shift too after the disappointment of his initial squad omission in August. Speaking prior to training, Buttler highlighted the potency of Gujarat's seam attack in their home conditions, which was an early hint that four quicks could be the way to go, which would probably mean Liam Livingstone nudging out Moeen Ali for the second spinner's berth.
England: (possible) 1 Jonny Bairstow, 2 Dawid Malan, 3 Joe Root, 4 Ben Stokes/Harry Brook, 5 Jos Buttler (capt & wk), 6 Liam Livingstone, 7 Sam Curran, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Mark Wood, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Reece Topley.
New Zealand's team is defined as much by the not-quites as the fit-and-firings. Kane Williamson has made 91 runs from 101 balls in a brace of encouraging warm-ups against Pakistan and South Africa, but isn't quite ready for a competitive return after suffering a knee ligament injury at the IPL, while Tim Southee is also sidelined after dislocating his thumb during the England series. Of the 13 available players, Rachin Ravindra and Mark Chapman seem likeliest to miss out, with Will Young set to open alongside Devon Conway.
New Zealand: 1 Will Young, 2 Devon Conway, 3 Daryl Mitchell, 4 Glenn Phillips, 5 Tom Latham (capt & wk), 6 James Neesham, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Ish Sodhi, 9 Matt Henry, 10 Lockie Ferguson, 11 Trent Boult

Pitch and conditions

After the rain that has dominated the build-up to this World Cup, both at last month's Asia Cup and the recent warm-ups in Guwahati, the conditions in Gujarat are set to be reassuringly hot and dry. The only question that remains is: do the teams put their money on red or black? Both types of soil are in evidence on the Ahmedabad playing square, as England discovered to their cost on their Test tour in 2021. The red strips tend to offer more pace and carry, the black strips can be slower and lower. But, just to add an extra layer of pressure to an already high-stakes game, the central strip that's been staked out for this match offers an intriguing blend of each variety. Deciding which trait is more dominant could make the difference between four seamers or three spinners. Either way, it's the same strip that was prepared for the 2023 IPL final, and that was a belter that served up 385 runs across 35 overs.

Stats and trivia

  • England and New Zealand's World Cup head-to-head is almost as close as the scoreline in the 2019 final. England have won four outright and lost five of their ten previous meetings, alongside that extraordinary tie.
  • Until they won at Chester-le-Street in the group stage in 2019, England had lost five in a row against New Zealand in World Cups, dating back to 1983, which was also the first time the two teams met in the opening game of the tournament.
  • New Zealand's most recent World Cup win against England, in Wellington in 2015, was arguably their most epic drubbing of all time, with Tim Southee and Brendon McCullum sealing victory in a match total of 45.4 overs.
  • England come into this match on a run of three consecutive ODI wins over New Zealand, following their 3-1 series win on home soil last month. They were comprehensive margins as well, by a combined total of 360 runs, but so too was their one defeat in the series opener, an eight-wicket crushing with 26 balls to spare.
  • Trent Boult, who recently faced England in his 100th ODI, needs three more wickets to reach 200 in the format.
  • Quotes

    "We'll make the right call: if he's not fit to play, he's not fit to play. If he is, we can make that decision. It's not the time to take big risks on someone at the start of the tournament. Nearer the end, maybe you do take more of a risk with people's injuries but it's going to be a long tournament. We'll see how the guys pull up at training and then we can make our decisions."
    Jos Buttler warns that Ben Stokes may not be risked in the opening match of an arduous campaign
    "The good thing about this group is we stay really level. We've done that for a long period of time, so even though it's a massive occasion tomorrow, you know, for us it's a bit of a cliché, but it is just another game. And if we can do what we do well, then hopefully we'll give ourselves a good chance towards the back end of the game."
    Tom Latham, New Zealand's captain, is not getting carried away by the occasion

    Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

    Win Probability
    NZ 100%
    100%50%100%ENG InningsNZ Innings

    Over 37 • NZ 283/1

    New Zealand won by 9 wickets (with 82 balls remaining)
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