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England v New Zealand ICC Trophy preview

England’s bid to win their first ICC Champions Trophy is now very much in jeopardy. A comprehensive defeat at the hands of Sri Lanka followed by an Australia and New Zealand no-contest (one point each) has thrown Group A wide open with any two of the four sides now looking at a semi-final spot if results go their way or facing elimination if they don’t.

The mathematics are a little complicated, but both England and New Zealand go into tomorrow’s clash at Cardiff with a simple objective: win the match and qualify. Coral go 8/13 an England victory with the Kiwis at 13/10, but this is a hard game to call.

Before Sri Lanka beat them, England appeared to be in good shape and well on course for comfortable progression from their group. But the one criticism of them had been their seemingly inflexible template when batting first: get to around 200 in 40 overs with wickets in hand and then let the blasters lower down the order, like Eoin Morgan and Joss Buttler, do what they do best.

It was in fact Ravi Bopara rather than Morgan or Buttler who delivered the fireworks, but whoever got the runs, the final total was inadequate against as good a batting side as Sri Lanka and are unlikely to be enough against, say, India in similar circumstances.

New Zealand have the players to pile on the runs at speed when needed, too. Martin Guptill (11/4 favourite with Coral to be leading Black Capa batsman tomorrow) ran riot against England in the recent ODI series and he has plenty of powerful back-up from the likes of Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson and the McCullums.

If England bat first, they will probably need to be a little brisker early doors than they were against Sri Lanka and it’s not just the usual scapegoat, Jonathan Trott, who will need a hurry-up(if in fact he passes a fitness test and plays); Ian Bell and captain Alistair Cook were both slower than Trott at the Oval on Thursday.

England might think, if not now then soon, about promoting Joe Root up the order. The young Yorkshire star is already up to number four in the line-up, but rather than be demoted to five when Kevin Pietersen returns, Root could instead come in earlier to inject some urgency into the top order.

Root, especially given off-field circumstances, was exceptional at the Oval, his class and imagination taking him to 68 at well over a run a ball. Coral’s 11/2 that he does something similar and outscores his teammates makes considerable appeal and England will certainly need several of their players to be on top of their game if they are to see off the continually underestimated Kiwis and keep their ICC Trophy hopes alive.

Written by Jon Freeman