Australia and New Zealand will look up to their inspirational skippers Steve Smith and Kane Williamson to straightaway set the tone when they lock horns in the ICC Champions Trophy here today. An intriguing battle is on the cards between the trans-Tasman rivals, led by two technically sound captains. Both are world-class performers with the bat, but they go about their task in a very different manner.
Busy and always energetic on the field, Australia’s Smith is a far cry from the usually calm and calculated New Zealander. As has been the case in recent years, the two consistent performers will be expected to lead from the front tomorrow also.
While multiple-time world champions and Champions Trophy winners Australia are always a tough nut to crack, New Zealand will enter the game at Edgbaston with renewed confidence after their six-wicket warm-up win over Sri Lanka at the same venue. The Black Caps chased down a mammoth 357-run target with a good 23 balls to spare.
Opener Martin Guptill found his form with a blazing century after a scrappy showing in the rain-affected warm-up against India.
Considering the cut-throat nature of the competition, it is important for any team to get off to a winning start and both Australia and New Zealand know it too well. Australia have an explosive opening pair in Aaron Finch and David Warner, followed by Chris Lynn, one of the most powerful hitters in the world.
The trio would look to go hard at the bowlers and put them on the back foot. Smith will spearhead the middle-order, expected to be supported by the likes of Glenn Maxwell and Moises Henriques.
The Australian captain will have plenty of options in the pace bowling department, with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson all charged up and raring to have a go at the batsmen.
Keeping the English conditions in mind, it is important that the Australian pacers don’t lose control, as the batsmen can easily use the lightning quick outfield to their advantage by using the pace of the ball.
Having fully recovered from a foot injury, the widely-respected Starc will be the leader of the attack, and his ability to swing the new ball and get the old ball to reverse will be a huge asset for the 2006 and 2009 winners.
Guptill and Williamson will be the key to New Zealand, and also crucial to the side’s fortunes will be the form of the experienced Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson and Luke Ronchi.
As far as their attack is concerned, New Zealand will expect swing bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult, who can get the ball to move around in the air and off the seam, to do the bulk of the damage.
The last time the two teams met in a major tournament was at the 2015 World Cup final, when Australia emerged triumphant days after losing to New Zealand in the league stage.
Australia: Steve Smith (capt), David Warner, Aaron Smith, Pat Cummins, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Moises Henriques, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (capt), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Neil Broom, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, James Neesham, Jeetan Patel, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.