‘If I can take that aggressive approach to the bowlers, if we can get off to a flier, that’s brilliant, but obviously there’s also chances of me getting out early as well with that sort of approach’ – Luke Ronchi © ICC
Luke Ronchi was caught off guard when he was asked to open the batting in New Zealand’s first warm-up game of the Champions Trophy. The 36-year old wicketkeeper-batsman has been in and out of the side, and has not scored an ODI half-century since the monumental 170 not out in January 2015. That innings came at No. 7 – and remains the highest score in the format from that position – but his ability to strike the ball cleanly can be an advantage at the top of the order, considering the first 10 overs are played with only two fielders on the boundary.
The problem for Ronchi though is New Zealand already have a settled pair of openers – Martin Guptill, the joint-highest run-getter since the 2015 World Cup, and Tom Latham, who scored a century captaining the side in Ireland earlier this month.
Nevertheless, Ronchi did his best to show his credentials against a full-strength Indian bowling attack, scoring 66 out of a total of 189. His innings lasted 63 balls with six fours and two sixes. “I was a bit surprised when I first found out the opportunity was going to be there but it’s been pretty good,” he said. “Feeling comfortable with the way things have worked. It’s been nice to make a few runs and obviously you’d like to kick on. Helping the team get off to a bit of a start makes a difference.
“Being aggressive is my natural way of batting. If I can take that aggressive approach to the bowlers, if we can get off to a flier, that’s brilliant, but obviously there’s also chances of me getting out early as well with that sort of approach. Hopefully, if it comes off, it comes off well and if it doesn’t, well I guess that’s my role and people understand that.”
Ronchi thought “it should be pretty entertaining” if New Zealand couple him with Guptill and they both “kick off”. But in the event the team management prefers not to upset a settled opening partnership, Ronchi could get his chance in the middle order.
The captain Kane Williamson holds the No. 3 spot and Ross Taylor, who did not play at the Oval on Sunday, will follow him. So Ronchi could conceivably bat at No. 5 but he will face competition from Neil Broom, who has made a hundred and four fifties in 12 innings since ending a six-year hiatus from international cricket in December 2016.
New Zealand have a choice of finishers to assess as well. Corey Anderson, who has played only two ODIs this year, is back, fit and ready. Colin de Grandhomme can smack the ball long and he is a decent bowler in seamer-friendly conditions.
And there is James Neesham, who came in at 116 for 6 against the Indians and made made 46 off 47 balls. “It probably wasn’t vintage ball-striking, I think I was dragging it around a little bit, but it’s always good to contribute runs coming in at the lower order; reminded me a bit of my first days in the black shirt.” His recent ones aren’t too bad either. He has averaged 34 in 10 matches, batting at Nos 6 and 7, with a strike-rate of 99.
Neesham was hopeful of New Zealand’s chances in the Champions Trophy. “We have the Chappell-Hadlee in the cabinet and we took South Africa to deciding the one-day series. And the same thing with India over in India. So the results certainly haven’t been bad. But whenever you come to these pinnacle world events, you want to put your best foot forward. We’re definitely looking at winning the tournament, that’s for sure.”
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.