Deja vu is a buzzy little thing, borderline magic in which a sense of calm sweeps over you as you feel like you have been in this moment before. When that's manufactured, it's not quite as funky and while the Blackcaps win over Sri Lanka in their World Cup opener had some deja vu vibes, that's because we witnessed it all in Aotearoa over the summer
In rather juicy conditions for kiwi bowlers, they skittled Sri Lanka as if this game was in Christchurch on a moist summer's day. With no pressure on the batsmen, Martin Guptill and most importantly, Colin Munro enjoyed a delightful whack whack session to chase down their target of 137 in 16.1 overs at 8.47rpo.
The idea that Tim Southee and Henry Nicholls weren't selected via niggly fitness issues was definitely fair, also convenient. Southee is less of a certainty in the 1st 11 than Nicholls and Nicholls will likely slot into the middle order, however on a helpful pitch, the idea of playing an extra seamer shouldn't be overlooked and if Nicholls is to come back into the middle order, one of the seamers may have to make way.
Which flows into my main idea from this first game and from the opening round of games that we have enjoyed - adaptability. This Cardiff pitch apparently offered the most seam movement between World Cups of all the World Cup pitches and that's not a luxury that the Blackcaps will enjoy every game, let alone the variety in opposition; better batting units will adapt to such conditions.
The Blackcaps need to apply different wrinkles, different combinations and different skills, without a drop off in performance. This game showed how effective Aotearoa can be when kiwi-like conditions are on offer and that's a huge boost, with upcoming games against Bangladesh and Afghanistan likely to enhance that easing into the World Cup vibe.
None of the bowlers were really under pressure, outside of some swash-buckling hitting that couldn't be controlled by Sri Lanka's batsmen. Matt Henry's 3w @ 4.14rpo got him the 'Ka Pai' award, but Lockie Ferguson was also slick with 3w @ 3.47rpo and the single most enticing thing about the bowling performance was Ferguson spearing a delivery into Dhananjaya de Silva (Mr Blue Boots) to dismiss him lbw.
When talking and thinking about what makes Ferguson such a nightmare in the Plunket Shield (red ball cricket), it's Ferguson steaming in with the fitness to offer long enough spells and hooping the ball into right-handers ... at pace. If that's on offer for Ferguson at this World Cup, suddenly he has a unique, low key point of difference to other bowlers. This however is also a sign of the favourable conditions as such movement was on offer and what happens on flat decks?
I haven't been overly positive in my preview stuff because of the major holes in the Blackcaps preparation. What is certain though and can't be brushed aside is that if the Blackcaps encounter favourable seam conditions more often than not, they will be a factor. Ferguson can move the ball at his pace, Trent Boult is swinging the ball away from lefties and has the tools to nibble the ball both ways, Henry's swinging away from righties and nibbling, Colin de Grandhomme will legit be the most annoying bowler to face in these conditions and Jimmy Neesham will pounce on batsmen searching for a release.
In those conditions, Aotearoa has huge dark horse potential. Outside of this realm, it's about how the Blackcaps can adapt to different conditions and different opposition, which is a beautiful aspect of World Cup cricket.
The Blackcaps should win these first three games and I'll be intrigued to see if different players are rotated in before things get super serious. Later in the tournament, Aotearoa will need to be agile in adapting from game to game and they have the squad to suss out different combos. Also notable here is that this game vs Sri Lanka had a 10:30am start, which favours the Blackcaps seamers bowling first.The next two games are day/night affairs, meaning a new style of game to adapt to.
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Peace and love 27.