Welcome to the fifth instalment of my eight-part World Cup preview. Today I look at New Zealand, the host nation whose performances in 2014 were brilliant, and England, who come in to the tournament following a torrid twelve months.
New Zealand (Group A)
Fixtures: vs Sri Lanka, Hagley Oval, Christchurch, vs Scotland, University Oval, Dunedin, vs England, Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington, vs Australia, Eden Park, Auckland, vs Afghanistan, McLean Park, Napier, vs Bangladesh, Seddon Park, Hamilton.
Squad: Brendon McCullum (c), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Adam Milne, Luke Ronchi (wk), Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Daniel Vettori, Kane Williamson.
New Zealand should be considered a serious contender for this World Cup, as their form in ODIs has been very strong. Corey Anderson is an explosive player who is lethal at the back end of an innings, and his left-arm pace is also quite strong. Brendon McCullum leads the team, and he is one of the best batsmen in the world. He is joined by the likes of Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor and rising star Tom Latham in a strong top order that provides a great platform. If that doesn’t happen then Anderson and also Grant Elliott and Luke Ronchi can pick up the pieces (Elliott and Ronchi put on 267 against Sri Lanka after the side collapsed to 5 for 90). Veteran Daniel Vettori leads the spin attack, and Trent Boult and Tim Southee form a great new ball combination.
While the New Zealanders are a better chance in this tournament than they have been for years, the side is still quite inexperienced at this level, especially when it comes to the pace attack. The lower middle order will have plenty of pressure placed on them, and if they fail to deliver the side could be placed in some sticky situations. The combination of the side is still quite uncertain, as there are lots of players who bat from 5-7, like Anderson, Elliott, Ronchi and Vettori. It will be interesting to see how the pace attack hold up, and also who is picked as the third seamer. Mitchell McClenaghan and Kyle Mills are the obvious options, but they could prove a weak link. All things considered, New Zealand have plenty of depth, and this puts them in very good stead.
England (Group A)
Fixtures: vs Australia, Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne, vs New Zealand, Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington, vs Scotland, Hagley Oval, Christchurch, vs Sri Lanka, Wellington Regional Stadium, Wellington, vs Bangladesh, Adelaide Oval, Adelaide, vs Afghanistan, Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney.
Squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Jos Buttler (wk), Steven Finn, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Joe Root, James Taylor, James Tredwell, Chris Woakes.
England come into the World Cup after a disastrous 2014 that left them in the dumps. Alastair Cook was dumped as captain, a move which came too late, but was the right call. Eoin Morgan has taken the reins, and he has previously played very well in Australia. Ian Bell and Moeen Ali open the innings, and they can both play very dynamically at the start of an innings. James Taylor, Joe Root and Morgan will be expected to carry the middle order and set it up for Ravi Bopara, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes at the back end of the innings. There are plenty of pace bowling options available to them, with Woakes, Stuart Broad, Steven Finn, Chris Jordan and James Anderson all fairly strong bowlers and Ali and James Tredwell are both available as spinners in a fairly strong side.
Despite this, England come into the World Cup down on confidence after a 5-0 whitewash in the Ashes, a World T20 where they lost badly to the Netherlands and a tour of Sri Lanka which led to the sacking of the captain and the dropping of Ben Stokes, despite Stokes being touted as the next big hope for English cricket. That confidence will not come back easily, and while they picked up a couple of wins in their recent tri-series in Australia their performances against the hosts left a lot to be desired, especially with the bat. The top-order is generally hit and miss, and when it is a miss they are often playing the game on the back foot. The bowling is also not as strong, and this is a worry for when the English come up against the best in the world.
Tomorrow: I look at Sri Lanka and South Africa, two of the best one day sides in the world.