England make dire start to World Cup defence as Kiwis exact revenge for 2019
There was no repeat of 2019 as England, the holders, lost the opening match of the World Cup by nine wickets to the side they beat at Lord’s in the final four years ago.
On that occasion, England won on boundary countback after the game and a super over were tied.
This time, they were crushed with all of 13.4 overs remaining, a chastening start to their trophy defence against a team missing three key players in the injured Kane Williamson, Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson.
England, who were missing their own talisman in Ben Stokes, whose hip niggle was sensibly not risked in a long competition, paid for an underwhelming score after they were sent into bat in scorching conditions.
Their 282-9 was founded on lots of starts - indeed, for the first time in one-day internationals, all 11 batsmen reached double figures - but only one innings of substance, Joe Root’s 77 from 86 deliveries.
After Will Young fell for a golden duck in the chase, strangled down the leg-side off Sam Curran, his opening partner Devon Conway and Rachin Ravindra, another left-hander at No 3, steered their side home with staggering simplicity, delivering a masterclass in selective as opposed to pre-meditated strokeplay against a bowling attack left brutalised and demoralised.
Conway struck 152 from 121 balls with 19 fours and three sixes, and Ravindra hit 123 from 96 deliveries with 11 fours and five sixes, their unbroken partnership of 273 from 211 balls the fourth-highest in World Cup history, the highest for New Zealand and the highest against England.
By the time Ravindra scored the winning runs, sealing revenge of sorts for 2019, the attendance at the Narendra Modi Stadium had at least risen from shockingly poor at the start of the game to extremely disappointing as a few more trickled in after work.
So many empty seats were there that it put one in mind of a low-key County Championship match in early April – after a bomb scare had dispersed the one man and his dog.
Granted, the 134,000-capacity venue will no doubt be packed to the rafters when India meet Pakistan there on Saturday week, and at the final itself on November 19.
But this was an embarrassing start to a showpiece event - not helped by regular venue and date changes in the build-up to the competition, tickets only going on sale seven weeks ago, negligible advertising and the absence of the host nation from the opening game, the proverbial schoolboy error by the fixture planners.
On a day when spectators consequently looked like scattered ants, with little clusters of them hither and thither in a giant bowl, England made a misleading start when Jonny Bairstow clipped the second ball of the match from Trent Boult for six over backward square-leg.
Bairstow looked in good order as he and Dawid Malan, his Yorkshire team-mate, added 40 for the first wicket inside eight overs.
But after Malan wafted at Matt Henry and was caught behind, having not looked entirely happy with himself at the crease, Bairstow’s attempted loft over cover off Mitchell Santner, the left-arm spinner, was grabbed by Daryl Mitchell out in the deep.
It brought Harry Brook out to join Root, with Yorkshire providing the top-four batsmen in the line-up along with leg-spinner Adil Rashid.
As Root dropped anchor and used his experience, Brook pulled Boult for a handsome boundary and then tucked into Ravindra’s left-arm spin.
Ravindra’s day did not start well as Brook pulled him for two fours and a six off consecutive deliveries before he fell to the next in the sequence trying a repeat, lobbing up a catch to Conway at deep mid-wicket.
After Moeen Ali was bowled by part-time spinner Glenn Phillips, a stand of 70 between Root and Jos Buttler injected impetus, Buttler supplying 43 of them before he attempted to run Henry away through the offside and was caught behind.
Wickets continued to fall as Liam Livingstone chipped Boult to long-on before Root was bowled aiming to reverse-sweep Phillips.
Chris Woakes skied Santner to point and Curran edged behind an uppercut off Henry, but England were bolstered by an unbroken last-wicket partnership of 30 between Rashid and Mark Wood which, under different circumstances, might have been crucial.
But England, who felt that they were perhaps 50 runs short, were ripped apart by Conway and Ravindra, who powered New Zealand to 81-1 after 10 overs despite Curran opening up with two successive maidens.
Both batsmen reached fifty from 36 balls and only one ball separated them at the three-figure mark, Ravindra taking 82 deliveries and Conway 83 as they delivered a hammer blow to England’s net run-rate, their confidence and their pride.