As a rain-interrupted World Cup continues on its way through the league stage, today’s match brings together the tournament’s last two undefeated sides. India, many people’s favourites for the competition, take on New Zealand who, due to the “interesting” scheduling of the tournament, have played a game more than the Men in Blue and currently sit top of the table. It’s perhaps the first real challenge the Black Caps have faced – their three wins thus far have come against Bangladesh, Afghanistan and an out-of-sorts Sri Lanka – but it would be a mistake to write them off given their confidence with the bat.
Ravi Shastri’s men have a freshness advantage, having played a game fewer, and they’ve shown their competence with the bat, dialling up 352 runs to beat Australia in perhaps the tournament’s showpiece match so far. They’ll start the day as definite favourites, although both sides will spend much of their time scanning the skies for another potential downpour – with three games so far being abandoned to the unseasonable wet weather, the fear of having to settle for a single point is real for both sides; remember, only the top four teams in the league section move forward to the knockouts.
The match has been delayed by yet more rain in the East Midlands, but with the showers expected to clear by the afternoon there is expected to be some play (how much exactly remains a matter for the elements to decide). So let’s have a look at the smartest bets for this potentially pivotal World Cup battle.
A good day for high scorers?
As well as the only unbeaten sides, this match also brings together the players with the best batting averages in the competition. India’s Rohit Sharma leads the way with an average score of 179, having accumulated 122 against South Africa and an unbeaten 57 in the Australia match. On the other side of the rope, New Zealand have Kane Williamson, whose 119 might be a little higher had he had the chance to bat in the one-sided, ten-wicket demolition of Sri Lanka. While the pitch may be unpredictable at Trent Bridge due to climatic conditions, both men are capable of accumulating runs.
Indeed, India may have the best collection of batsmen in the competition, with Shikhar Dhawan and Virat Kohli also available to them and capable of compiling big knocks. Kohli, as captain, may feel he is due a defining innings, sitting behind his two teammates in the tournament statistics right now. With the chance to usurp the Black Caps at the top of the rankings, now may be the time for him to deliver – and with odds of 4/1 at 888sport, he is reasonably priced.
Fielding could play a big part in the result
This World Cup could yet become known for the work done in the field as much as with bat or ball. England’s opening win over South Africa looked as though it could be slipping away before Ben Stokes’ excellent snaring of Andile Phlehwukayo, while Sheldon Cottrell and Quinton de Kock have also pulled in highlight-reel catches. India are yet to have a Stokes moment of their own, but benefited from Kedhar Jadhav’s stunning throw to run out Aaron Finch just as Australia were settling into the run chase in Sunday’s meeting between the sides.
That bit of fielding will not have gone unnoticed in the New Zealand dressing room, and particularly by Williamson and Ross Taylor; the pair were hugely fortunate to avoid a catastrophic runout against Bangladesh before putting on 105 for the side’s third wicket. The pair’s lack of communication in the middle is a running joke in Kiwi cricket, and India’s razor-sharp fielders are unlikely to make the same mistake as Bangladesh’s Mushfiqur Rahim. Unibet have odds on the team to have the most runouts when batting – and it’s little surprise that New Zealand are favourites in that market. Their 23/10 is good value, especially as the Black Caps are likely to need every run they can scratch up.
Men in Blue the sensible bet
New Zealand have three wins to their name so far in this World Cup, and are the only team who can say that. You can say that they’ve been easy games, but try telling South Africa that Bangladesh are a soft touch – they’re a fast-improving side and their showing so far demonstrates as much. Nonetheless, this fixture represents a steep escalation in difficulty for the Kiwis and if they can pick up a win in Nottingham then it will be a huge statement for a side that has always bubbled slightly under the true top echelon in world cricket.
England may still be tournament favourites, but the truth is that India will present a threat to anyone and everyone in this World Cup, and they’ll be keen to make a statement with another win – if they keep their run going, they’ll top the table and afford themselves an easier semi-final given the hosts’ defeat against Pakistan. You won’t find any bookmaker offering the Men in Blue at anything short of odds-on, and the best price we can find is with Betway who have them pegged at 1/2 for this contest. It’s still a good price – the depth of the Indian batting order, and their abilities in the field, make them definite favourites for this match.