CRICKET WORLD CUP
Conway, Ravindra on fire as New Zealand overwhelm England
The Black Caps got their Cricket World Cup campaign off to a perfect start, smashing reigning champions England by nine wickets in the opening match in Ahmedabad, India, on Thursday.
New Zealand crushed defending champions England by nine wickets in the opening match of the 50-over World Cup on Thursday, demonstrating again their knack of punching above their weight in showpiece events.
Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra smashed rapid unbeaten centuries to set up New Zealand’s successful pursuit of a 283-run victory target, which they reached with 13.4 overs to spare.
It was a rematch of the heartstopping 2019 final at Lord’s in which England were declared winners via a now-scrapped boundary countback rule after the game had ended in a tie.
Ravindra’s unbeaten 123 off 96 balls, studded with 11 fours and five sixes, earned the 23-year-old the player-of-the-match award on his World Cup debut.
Electing to field, New Zealand’s bowlers restricted their opponents to 282 for nine, a modest total considering the firepower in England’s usually formidable batting lineup.
England’s batters did not really fire but Joe Root (77), Jos Buttler (43) and Jonny Bairstow (33) provided some resistance.
However, England could not string together enough partnerships and kept losing wickets at regular intervals.
Matt Henry claimed three for 48 for New Zealand. Their three spinners shared five wickets on a hot afternoon at the Narendra Modi Stadium in Ahmedabad.
All 11 England batters made double figures — the first time any side has managed that in ODIs — but it was a patchy batting display.
“Very much outplayed by New Zealand and a tough defeat to take,” Buttler said.
“I thought we were well below par. We were aiming for somewhere around 330 and the pitch somewhat played better under lights.”
New Zealand lost Will Young for nought in the first over. But Conway, who smashed a career-best 152 not out, and Ravindra turned the heat back on England with their free scoring.
The left-handers appeared to be competing with each other to reach the 50-mark quickest — both getting there in 36 balls.
Conway, who hit 19 fours and three sixes, brought up his hundred off 83 balls.
Ravindra, who shared an unbroken 273-run partnership with Conway, took one delivery fewer to notch up his maiden ODI hundred.
“Obviously, a fantastic partnership between Rachin and Devon,” Tom Latham, who led New Zealand in the absence of Kane Williamson, said.
“Probably the most pleasing thing was Devon and Rachin just reacted to what was being bowled.
“Rachin played a fantastic innings and [we are] proud of him.”
New Zealand rested Williamson (knee) and fast bowler Tim Southee (thumb) to give them more time to recover from surgery.
England left out Ben Stokes, who is nursing a minor hip injury, replacing him with Harry Brook, who made a brisk 25 before falling to Ravindra.
‘We are not robots’
A nine-wicket thumping is tough to digest, but England captain Buttler does not want to see his teammates wallow in self-pity after a horrible start to their World Cup title defence.
Buttler accepted that England had been “completely outplayed”, but the disappointment would not blur his perspective going forward in the tournament.
“The first thing that springs to mind is — whether you lose by a run or a defeat like that — it is one loss at the start of a very long tournament,” the 33-year-old told reporters.
“That’s something that I’d be encouraging everyone to remember.
“It’s certainly a tough loss to take … but just as we, had we won the game, don’t get too high, we don’t get too low when we lose as well.”
None of England’s batters could kick on from their starts.
“We were probably looking at a score of 320-330, which would have allowed us to build some kind of pressure,” Buttler said.
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“But I thought the margin for error was very small on that wicket, and two [New Zealand] batters played exceptional innings.”
Buttler said it was not the first time England had suffered a heavy defeat.
“We’re not robots. Sometimes you don’t play as well as you would like. Everyone’s working hard, everyone’s prepared well and, as I said, we were just a bit off,” he said.
“There’s plenty of stuff for us to work on and get better at the start of a long tournament.”
England play Bangladesh in Dharamsala on Tuesday hoping to boost their net run-rate. DM