Australia play New Zealand in their opening game in Birmingham. (Source: Reuters)
Calling competition at ICC Champions Trophy as cut-throat, former Australia cricketer Michael Hussey has said getting off to winning start in this tournament is doubly important. According to Hussey, since there are only three group games, beginning with a win can calm the nerves.
“There are only three games in the pool stage, so beginning with a win will certainly calm the nerves and give a team belief that they can progress to the semi-final stage. Australia play New Zealand at Edgbaston in its first match and it will be an interesting contest. There always seems to be drama when these two teams meet,” he wrote in his ICC column.
Hussey recalled Australia’s matches with New Zealand during the 2015 World Cup and said that the battle between the two captains, Steve Smith and Kane Williamson, will be an intriguing one.
“Both Steve Smith and Kane Williamson are tactically savvy and have been unbelievably consistent with the bat in all forms of the game. Both teams rely heavily on their skippers to set the tone and contribute runs. They are world-class performers, but have very different mannerisms at the crease,” he wrote.
Talking about their different styles, Hussey said that Williamson is calm and controlled while Smith is energetic and busy.
“Williamson seems very calm, calculated and controlled whilst batting – from the outside it looks as though he is never puffed and never sweats!!! Smith, on the other hand, is energetic, busy, bubbly at the crease, never still for a moment. It goes to show the importance of being yourself and playing your way in this game,” he said.
Hussey said that New Zealand can bank on their swing bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult and Australia will look to dominate them with Aaron Finch, David Warner and Chriss Lynn.
“New Zealand will be hoping for leaden skies above to help their impressive swing bowlers in Southee and Boult. If they can get the ball moving in the air and off the seam then they will trouble the Australia batsmen. If the ball doesn’t swing or move off the seam, then the Australia batsmen will look to dominate.
“Finch and Warner are two of the most aggressive one-day players, and Chris Lynn is one of the most powerful hitters in the world. Their natural instincts are to go hard at the bowling, try to put them on the back foot and in a defensive frame of mind and under pressure by looking to hit boundaries,” he said.
While he was all for pace by Australia bowlers, he said that the team should balance the attack as in England, control and getting the ball to move is important.
“It would be exciting to see Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood and James Pattinson all charging in and bowling thunderbolts. But in English conditions, control and getting the ball to move is important. The grounds are small and when it’s dry, the outfields are lightning quick where a batsman can use the pace of bowlers to great effect,” he said.
“Smith will have plenty of options in the middle with the likes of Travis Head, Finch, Moises Henriques, Glenn Maxwell (if he plays) and himself who can all chip in with a few overs around the big guns if need be to mix up the pace and give some more variety to the attack.
“It is great to see Starc back to full fitness and playing again after fracturing his foot during the Australia-India Test series a few months back. He is such a huge weapon for Australia and respected by all batsmen around the world. Having the ability to swing the new ball and then come back at the death and get the old ball to reverse at searing pace makes him such an asset to the team,” he said.