Cardiff: After a comfortable outing in the tournament-opener, title favourites England are set to face a much stiffer test against New Zealand in a crucial Champions Trophy Group A fixture here tomorrow.
There is a lot at stake for both the teams. England will put their one foot in the semifinals with a second successive win while New Zealand will aim for two full points after rain denied them a crack at Australia and the two teams settled for a point each in a game that produced no-result.
England could not have hoped for a better start to the tournament as they thrashed a lacklustre Bangladesh in the first match of the Champions Trophy on Thursday.
How easily they chased down 306 was a timely warning to the other title contenders. Joe Root strolled to a 10th ODI hundred while opener Alex Hales missed out on well-deserved hundred by five runs.
Captain Eoin Morgan too began his campaign on a confident note, smashing an unbeaten 75 off 61 balls.
He, however, would be a tad worried about the lean patch of opener Jason Roy, who has not crossed 20 in his last six ODI innings.
The hosts will also have to deal with the absence of fast bowling all-rounder Chris Woakes, who was ruled out of the tournament with an injury after bowling just two overs against Bangladesh. Steven Finn has been named his replacement.
Morgan might also bring back leggie Adil Rashid to add more variety to the bowling department.
Nonetheless, an exciting contest is in the offing with New Zealand showing a lot of promise against Australia.
Captain Kane Williamson led from the front against the trans-Tasmanian rivals with a ninth ODI hundred. Luke Ronchi looked in ominous touch at the top of the order and alongside Martin Guptill, form a dangerous combination.
The Black Caps lost their way towards the end of the innings and they would be aiming to rectify that in the game tomorrow.
Chasing 235 in 33 overs, Australia were put under severe pressure by New Zealand, reducing them to 53 for three in nine overs before rain had the final say.
Their pace battery, comprising Tim Southee, Adam Milne and Trent Boult, looked in good shape and would be raring to go here tomorrow.
“In some respects, this is almost like a quarterfinal, the Birmingham no-result throwing a spanner in the works a little bit.
“Especially in the last two years, despite England s vastly different approach to white-ball cricket, games between the two teams have been very tight, and I expect another close, well-contested encounter,” wrote former New Zealand fast bowler Shane Bond in a column for the ICC.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Neil Broom, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Tom Latham, Mitchell McClenaghan, Adam Milne, James Neesham, Jeetan Patel, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.
England: Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Sam Billings, Alex Hales, Jos Buttler, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood, Steven Finn.