Battle of pacers expected as Australia face New Zealand

Birmingham [U.K], June 2: New Zealand have won the toss and elected to bat first in their opening group clash of the Champions Trophy against two-time winners Australia here at the Edgbaston on Friday.

The Kiwis then had Australia - chasing 235 for win in 33 overs - in a spot of bother after reducing them to 53/3 in 9 overs when rain came crashing down for the third time. Australia's chase got off to a poor start and New Zealand seemed primed for their first win of the tournament, but two periods of heavy rain forced an early end to the match.

An early rain interruption halted progress as Australia and New Zealand began their Champions Trophy campaigns at Edgbaston.

For New Zealand's captain, Kane Williamson, who top-scored on the day with a well-paced 100, the game was not completely wasted.

"But we've obviously got to be better in these shorter tournaments from ball one".

Australia, trying to force the pace against accurate new-ball bowling, were soon 35/2 after big-hitting openers David Warner (18) and Aaron Finch (eight) fell cheaply. The platform was so good that the Kiwi middle order chose to go hard against what is possibly the best bowling line-up in this tournament and squandered what could have been an even bigger total had they played with more circumspection.

Australia's skipper scolded his highly-regarded frontline bowling quartet, describing it as "one of the worst displays" they had turned in during his leadership tenure.

Josh Hazlewood was the best of the bowlers with 6-52 from nine overs.

Ronchi was particularly severe on Patt Cummins (1/67) as he continued his onslaught and struck the pacer for a six and four in consecutive balls in the 13th over.

But just when Moises Henriques was dismissed and the Black Caps celebrated, rain pounded the stadium to leave them a disappointed lot.

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.

Milne was the most successful bowler with two wickets, while Boult claimed one.

"We bowled both sides of the wicket".

They lost their last seven wickets for 37 runs in 36 balls with the last six falling to catches. "Let's hope today was a bit of rust and we can let it go and keep moving forward", noted Smith.

Luke Ronchi led the way after the match resumed as he took the attack to Australia. His fellwo pacer Trent Boult had struck the first blow for New Zealand, picking up the wicket of the risky David Warner in the sixth over.

Despite captain and master batsman Steve Smith's presence at the crease, New Zealand were on track for a victory that would have gone a long way to sealing semifinal qualification, before the final downpour intervened.

The Australians were rusty in the field - Ronchi was dropped by Mitchell Starc at mid-on and also survived when Australia muffed what should have been a straightforward run-out - and looked like a side that had not played ODI cricket for several months.

  • Julie Sanders