Tonight, Aotearoa's Blackcaps take on Bangladesh in their second World Cup game and after a fairly easy outing against Sri Lanka, then Bangladesh upsetting South Africa, this is shaping as a niggly encounter. As is always the case with this Blackcaps group, team selection and we're all searching for the best Blackcaps 11 to play through the latter stages of the World Cup, then there are different wrinkles that will present fresh challenges for Aotearoa.
Starting with the ground where this game will be played. The Oval, in London has hosted two games already and of the four innings played, three have featured scores of 300+. Keep in mind that all this lovely talk about the Blackcaps seamers from the win over Sri Lanka came from a Cardiff pitch that offered the most seam movement of any World Cup ground, coming together for a very Aotearoa vibe; we know how sub-continent teams tend to perform in Aotearoa.
On a pitch that has either already had two games played on it, or is part of a used block, the Blackcaps are unlikely to enjoy such favourable conditions. Chuck in the World Cup scores and The Oval as well, resulting in a vibe where I'm not so confident that everything will go the way of Aotearoa's seamers. The Blackcaps also enjoyed a 10:30am local start time vs Sri Lanka, which is always going to favour seam bowlers if you can bowl first.
This game vs Bangladesh will start at 1:30pm local time. Both the previous games at The Oval started at 10:30am and still had plenty of runs scored, so with an afternoon start, I suspect this pitch will be rather flat. The difference between a flat deck and a deck that's been used twice could also be crucial given that drier conditions will play into Bangladesh's hands.
The two most economical bowlers from Bangladesh's win over South Africa were offie Mehidy Hasan and lefty-tweaker Shakib Al Hasan, who conceded 4.40rpo and 5rpo respectively while South Africa climbed to 300+. That suggests spin prowess at this ground and the luxury of playing back to back games on the same pitch, suits Bangladesh nicely. Another spin factor that could perhaps see Ish Sodhi given a crack alongside Mitchell Santner, is that Imran Tahir finished up as one of South Africa's best bowlers vs Bangladesh with 2w @ 5.70rpo.
It's a case of either adding a spinner in to the bowling attack, or ensuring that the seam-heavy attack switches things up with their variation. Much has been made of the success of short-pitched bowling thus far, although Aotearoa only have Lockie Ferguson as a genuine scary threat with the others relying on seam movement and variations. Expect Bangladesh to attack short bowling and if one batsman, someone like opener Tamim Iqbal can set the tone in pulling/hooking/ramping accurately, Bangladesh's batsmen will gain confidence.
Centuries are nice, don't sleep on scores between 60-90 though and how crucial they can be in an innings depending on the situation. Bangladesh's best batsmen Al Hasan and Mushfiqur Rahim had scores in the 70's vs South Africa, while Pakistan's win over England was set up by all of their top-six batsmen scoring between 35-90 each.
For the Blackcaps, this means that I'm super interested in which kiwi batsman can chime in with a timely knock in that 60-90 bracket. Strike-rate is important here as these mid-range knocks need to swift, at least 85sr and more like 90sr, but this is done through batting craft and dealing with gritty bowling, then pouncing on any opportunity. Someone like Jimmy Neesham is crucial in this regard, especially if he is batting #6 with Henry Nicholls not playing.
After the win over Sri Lanka, all that was on my mind was adapting to different game circumstance through the World Cup. The Blackcaps will likely be in a different situation to that first game and how they tinker with selection, then adapt their skills to suit conditions and the flow of the game will be crucial. It's completely possible Aotearoa's seamers flourish, however I suspect this pitch will be flatter, drier and more conducive to a high score with slower bowlers being most effective.
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Peace and love 27.