Dubai: With an aggressive approach of Sachin Tendulkar and a compact technique to back that of Rahul Dravid, Rachin Ravindra was the architect of New Zealand’s stunning win over defending champions England in the 50-over ICC World Cup opener in Ahmedabad on Thursday.
It was a sweet revenge for New Zealand, who lost the last edition’s final at Lord’s on a countback on boundaries. In the contest between the two finalists, New Zealand opener Devon Conway and the young Ravindra made sure they had many extra boundaries, right from the first ball to inflict a humiliating nine-wicket loss on England. They put on an unbroken 273-run second wicket partnership to score 283 for one in 36.2 overs, sending out a clear warning to the rest their World Cup rivals.
Lacking discipline and imagination
England had 21 boundaries and seven sixes, while New Zealand had 30 fours and eight sixes, making sure that they had better boundaries this time. It was raining fours and sixes against an England attack that lacked discipline and imagination and failed to break the partnership.
Ravindra had a perfect companion in his first game, Conway. They have been good friends and teammates for Wellington, where they have tormented many bowlers in the domestic circuit, and that rapport continued on the international stage.
“Sometimes it’s unbelievable at times, but great to have a great day out. The bowlers bowled well and lucky enough to have Devon out there. I spent a lot of time with Devon and we are very, very close mates. I was little more comfortable and I have a lot of chat with Dev — being able to do that in the middle is cool. The surface was very good and lovely to bat on, similar to the warm-up game in Hyderabad,” Ravindra told the official broadcasters after the match.
No early nerves for Ravindra
Born to Indian parents, who were big fans of Dravid and Tendulkar, hence Rachin, the 23-year-old left-hander ensured that the momentum given by Conway, who hit England’s main weapon Chris Woakes for 10 runs in first over, continued despite England getting a wicket early. Mark Wood bore the maximum brunt of the New Zealand batter’s assault, conceding 55 in just five overs.
Playing in his first World Cup match, Ravindra showed no signs of nerves to score his maiden century in the showpiece, coming in only 82 balls.
Ravindra showed early glimpse of his prowess when his stunning 97 helped the Black Caps to chase a huge target set by Pakistan in the warm-up game with ease in Hyderabad. It came against a depleted bowling attack, still it was worth noticing and was a prelude to the main act that was to follow.
Ravindra, whose techie father Ravi Krishnamurthy migrated to New Zealand from Bengaluru, is a studious student of the game, a trait he must have inherited from his grandfather, an academician. The left-hander showed prodigious talent when he was selected for New Zealand for the Under-19 World Cup in Bangladesh at the age of 16. Though he made his Test and Twenty20 debut against India and Bangladesh, respectively, in 2021, Ravindra made his ODI debut in March this year.
Conway continued to excel against England after scoring a century against the defending champions during the three-match One-Day International series before heading to India. Conway, who has learnt many technical knowledge from Mahendra Singh Dhoni while playing in the Indian Premier League for Chennai Super Kings, put that into practice to remain unbeaten on 152.
England pacers would have learnt a very tough lesson. Bowling quick means the ball was coming on to the bat nicely only for Conway and Ravindra to make good use of the opportunity. Australian pacers used the cutters and slower deliveries to good effect against India in the final ODI last week.
England got their gameplan wrong, right from the start. Skipper Jos Buttler moving down the order to offset the absence of Ben Stokes only backfired, a completely opposite approach to the aggressive Bazball way they have been playing in recent times.
The lack of momentum early in the innings, on a flat batting surface, didn’t allow England the leeway to post a huge total. They kept losing wickets at regular intervals. Trent Boult and Matt Henry getting early wickets. England didn’t get any useful partnership until Buttler and Joe Root put on 70 runs for the fifth wicket. Both the experienced players were guilty of giving away their wickets after settling in, something that’s not expected of quality players like Root and Buttler. Thanks to a 30-run last wicket partnership, England managed to score 282 for nine.
“It was a disappointing day,” admitted England captain Jos Buttler. “We were very much outplayed by New Zealand, but it’s still just one loss in a long tournament.”
It was a creditable show by New Zealand, who always punch way above their weight, despite the absence of two senior members of the team, Kane Williamson and Tim Southee. It’s just the perfect start one would dream for such a long tournament.
New Zealand beat England by nine wickets. England 282/9 in 50 overs (Jonny Bairstow 33, Joe Root 77, Harry Brook 25, Jos Buttler 43, Matt Henry 3-48, Glenn Phillips 2-17) New Zealand 283/1 in 36.2 overs (Devon Conway 152 not out, Rachin Ravindra 123 not out). Player of the match: Rachin Ravindra.