New Zealand 283 for 1 (Conway 152*, Ravindra 123*) beat England 282 for 9 (Root 77, Henry 3-48, Santner 2-37) by nine wickets
Revenge for the final of the 2019 World Cup was never going to come in the first match of the 2023 edition. But a nine-wicket demolition of England in the Ahmedabad curtain-raiser will have provided New Zealand ample satisfaction. The defending champions have been battered, comprehensively, wearing what might end up being one of the most emphatic beatings of the tournament.
That their unbroken 273-run stand began at the start of the second over when Sam Curran snared Will Young down the leg side for a first-ball duck made it all the more remarkable. That was the last moment of jeopardy before Kiwi dominance prevailed, in the fastest chase of a 250-plus target in World Cup history. They even blitzed the boundary count 38 to 27.
Conway’s quality in this format is rubber-stamped, and this was his fourth century this year alone, the previous coming in a similarly one-sided affair against England in Cardiff at the start of September. For Ravindra, this was his first international hundred outright, in a first go in the top five. He had only previously passed fifty once.
His presence in the XI was as much on bowling balance as to give Kane Williamson a little longer to recover from a ruptured ACL sustained six months ago in the opening match of the IPL. It felt particularly neat that an expensive 10 overs with the ball, costing 76, was covered when he reached the same number of runs off 60 deliveries.
Conway put England on alert when driving the first ball of the chase through point off Chris Woakes. But Curran’s early strike, along with his two maidens from the get-go, suggested there was something to work with. By the 35th over, Curran was merely fodder for Conway’s whims, as he smashed the seamer for 20, starting with a six heaved over wide long-on before a brace of fours through despairing fielders. His 22nd and final boundary – a slapped four through square leg off Liam Livingstone in the next over – took him to 150 off 119.
Ravindra’s shotmaking was crisp from the off, notably when crunching a flat six over square leg from a Mark Wood delivery that registered 148kph, bringing up the team fifty in just 6.5 overs. Wood’s first over would go for 17 and his first three for 38. Just like that, one of Jos Buttler’s difference-makers was rendered obsolete. England calling upon Adil Rashid, the fifth bowler, after 12 overs, spoke of the need for a shift in fortunes, with the 100 up with a single taken off the legspinner’s first delivery. It never came.
Even the guest appearance of Ben Stokes during the first drinks break on 17 overs could not bring about a shift. The hero of Lord’s was only there to offer advice, missing out on selection with a hip issue. That he is at this tournament in a non-bowling capacity means he’d have hardly made a difference. But even one of his miracles might have only reduced the margin of defeat.
England’s efforts with the bat had various jumping-off points for a score greater than the 282 for 9 they managed from 50 overs. For the first time in an ODI innings, all 11 batters reached double figures, yet with just one fifty-plus stand – a 70 between Root and Buttler, ending with the latter’s failed attempt at guiding Henry down to third.
Henry’s first strike was to remove Dawid Malan, just reward for an outstanding opening spell. However, Jonny Bairstow at the other end was the opener causing more concern. The second ball of the match, from Trent Boult, was flicked beyond square leg for the first of England’s six sixes, with Bairstow accounting for 31 of the 50 accrued in the powerplay.
Bairstow’s demise at the end of the 13th over was the start of a series of speed traps laid down by New Zealand’s slower bowlers. Santner led that front, tempting Bairstow into going over the top of cover only to misdirect a lofted drive to Daryl Mitchell at long-off.
The left-arm spinner would eventually return 10 boundary-less overs, varying his pace, particularly at the back end of his spell when Woakes was tempted into a heave that looped to backward point. Given the absence of established bowling options in Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee and Ish Sodhi, Santner proved an important focal point.
His thriftiness meant Ravindra could get through 10 overs. And though they were expensive, he was gifted the wicket of Harry Brook early on. Having been thrashed to the midwicket boundary three times in a row – the last one a six – the fourth delivery, equally short, equally there for punishing, was miscued to Conway a few feet in front of the sponge.
Perhaps the most unexpected bonus came through Glenn Phillips. An intermittent wicketkeeper and full-time dynamo in the outfield prised out two batters in the first seven balls of three overs. Moeen Ali, sent in at No.5 ahead of Buttler to counter the dual left-arm-spin threat, had his stumps rearranged by part-time offspin. A bigger prize would follow for the Blackcaps’ own Swiss Army knife when he managed to nutmeg Root and strike leg stump.
Root was attempting a reverse paddle, in keeping with the fact that all five of his boundaries came behind the wicket. The first was the most bombastic – the patented reverse-lap skying Boult over the keeper for six – in what was otherwise a sensible knock of minimal risk.
The half-century came from 57 deliveries, a return to form for a player who just last month averaged 9.75 at home against the same opponents across a four-match series. And when Buttler arrived with his usual impetus, this fifth-wicket stand looked to be ideal for the situation at hand.
Alas, both were gone by the start of the 42nd over, when Root was the second to fall in a collapse of 4 for 31. The final pair of Wood and Rashid managed to fashion an unbroken 30 – England’s highest 10th wicket stand in seven years.
And yet, for all their endeavour, they were made to look more than 100 runs short. In the process, their pride and net run rate took a battering.
The last time they conceded more than their 81 for 1 in their first 10 overs came at the hands of a Brendon McCullum-inspired Blackcaps pilfering 116 against them way back in 2015. And while they are a long way from the pedestrian team they were then, this was a defeat with flashes of those dark ages.
Vithushan Ehantharajah is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo