Sports Desk : dhakamirror.com
England’s World Cup defense began with a punishing nine-wicket defeat in Ahmedabad as New Zealand grabbed a measure of revenge after four years of preparation.
Organizers were planning a repeat of the 2019 final to kick off this year’s tournament, but rather than a nail-biter as the excitement of the Lords classic wasn’t quite as exciting, they had to make do with a thoroughly one-sided affair.
England needed a super over and a boundary countback to get their hands on the trophy last time around, but two majestic hundreds from Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra meant the Black Caps romped home in the rerun with almost 14 overs to spare.
Conway finished 152 not out while his Wellington teammate Ravindra reeled off an unbeaten 123 – more than double his previous ODI best.
The absence of Ben Stokes with a hip injury robbed the reigning champions of some middle-order firepower but their score of 282 for nine was nowhere near enough to constrain an outstanding Kiwi chase.
Where England relied on a composed innings of 77 from Joe Root, who managed four boundaries and a six while a series of unforced errors unfolded around him, Conway and Ravindra cut loose under lights to post a remarkable stand of 273.
The pair came together in the second over after Sam Curran strangled Will Young down leg for a golden duck and they proceeded to pile on 30 fours and eight sixes in a major statement of intent.
England, meanwhile, were chaotic with the bat, lethargic with the ball and sloppy in the field.
Put in to bat first they relied on Root to spare the blushes of his misfiring top-order teammates.
Dawid Malan was first to go for a scratchy 14, caught behind flashing hard at the impressive Matt Henry.
Jonny Bairstow (33) enjoyed a smoother start – including a flicked six off Trent Boult from the second ball of the day – but he offered a tame catch off Mitchell Santner just as he looked to take control.
Harry Brook, deputising for Stokes, clattered two fours and a six off Ravindra, then lifted the next one straight down Conway’s throat at deep midwicket.
When Moeen Ali lost his off stump hacking across the line at Glenn Phillips, England had slipped to 118 for four, but a stand of 70 between Root and Buttler (43) offered some stability.
Root departed in the 42nd over, nutmegging and yorking himself in one swift movement as he tried to reverse sweep Phillips and England’s tail mustered little late resistance from there onwards.
Player of the match Ravindra told Sky Sports: “Sometimes it’s a little unbelievable. The boys bowled and fielded really well to restrict them to 280 and I was lucky enough to have Devon out there showing me how to do it, which was pretty cool.
“The surface was very good, lovely to bat on.”
New Zealand captain Latham said: “A fantastic performance. It was a brilliant partnership between Devon and Rachin but going back to our bowlers, they did a fantastic job to set us up.
“We’re super proud of Rachin, batting at three for the first time in an ODI, and he played beautifully.”
England captain Buttler insisted his side would not too be despondent.
Buttler told Sky Sports: “We were very much outplayed by New Zealand and it’s a tough defeat to take. But it’s still one loss at what is the start of a long tournament.
“We won’t read too much into it. We won’t get too down on ourselves as much as we wouldn’t get too high if we were on the other end.
“We’ll keep being positive and playing our way.”
– Input from Press Association was used in this article.