Australia find themselves in a must-win situation when they take on in-form New Zealand in their second game of the Champions Trophy 2013 on tonight.
We’ll have live scores and commentary of this match from Birmingham starting at 7.30 pm AEST.
It was a disappointing performance from Australia in their opening game of the tournament against arch-rivals England, a batting display that followed their 65 all out in a warm-up game against India.
They did get themselves to 200 against England but never in their chase of 270 did Australia look like they would get close.
Australia’s batting problem can be simply put down to a combination of the absence of Michael Clarke and a purported over-dependence on Shane Watson.
This was true during their World T20 campaign last year too when Watson single-handedly won the Aussies all the games they did win but once he failed, the game was lost.
There was a selection issue in the last game too. Strangely enough, on a dry pitch in that game, captain George Bailey went in with six medium-pacers – a clear luxury on that track. There’s a reasonable chance that the pitch for tomorrow’s game may not be too different and a spinner could be called in.
Even if the track does offer something for the quicker bowlers, having a spinner adds another dimension to the attack apart from allowing the captain a chance to finish off their 50 overs within the stipulated 210 minutes. Xavier Doherty might get a look-in.
Oh and did I mention this – Clarke will continue to miss international cricket with that back of his struggling to get his back into shape. The physio Alex Kounturis has stated there’s been a definite improvement but he won’t be fit to play this game.
New Zealand, despite having won the series against England, were lucky to scrape through to a win against Sri Lanka in their first match of the tournament.
On what was described as a very difficult wicket by the Kiwi captain Brendon McCullum they restricted Sri Lanka to 138. And then they lost nine wickets chasing it down.
Don’t let that fool you into believing that New Zealand’s batting is a suspect. In the three ODIs against England that preceded this tournament, it was their top-order that kept getting them out of trouble and a lot of that was to do with the pair of Martin Guptill and Ross Taylor.
Both those batsmen had an off day against Sri Lanka but trust them to back to their best on a much better pitch and it will be an interesting battle between the Australian quicks and the Kiwi top-order.
Where Australia might get some respite is that their batsmen will be up against a bowling attack not as sharp as the one that England had. With Daniel Vettori expected to sit out of this one because of a persistence of an injury, New Zealand could look to bring in another quick into their bowling.
The other option for New Zealand is to select Grant Elliot, a bits and pieces cricketer to bat in the middle-order and bowl a bit of medium-pace.
And one of the mini-battles to look out for will be former Australian wicket-keeper-turned-Kiwi-opener Luke Ronchi’s resistance to the Aussie bowlers. Since turning out for New Zealand, he has scores of 0, 2, 22 and 7 and in dire need of runs.
Live coverage of the game begins from 7.30 pm AEDT on Wednesday and you can add your opinion in the comments section below.