New Zealand was probably an hour or two away from kick-starting their Champions Trophy campaign in the best possible manner.
After scoring 291 in a rain-curtailed innings that was reduced to 46-over a side, the Black Caps had world Champions Australia on the mat.
The Steven Smith-led side was staring down the barrel after being reduced to 53 for three in pursuit of 235 from 33 overs. However, New Zealand’s hopes of starting their campaign with a win were soon dashed when rain swept in one final time and washed the game out.
Speaking after the washed-out game, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson, who led from the front with a magnificent century, said it would have been interesting to see how the game unfolded with his side well on top of its Trans-Tasman rivals.
“I mean, we were playing some good cricket. Would have been nice to see how the game would unfold if we were able to get out and finish it. But it is a funny game, cricket. And when there’s rain around, the Duckworth-Lewis does tend to help the side batting second; but, like I say, the guys were going well with the ball in hand, and it would have been interesting to see how it unfolded,” said the New Zealand skipper.
The Australian bowlers had a horrible day at the office but Williamson did not read too much into it and called them one of the best attacks in world cricket. Australia’s fiery pace quartet of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Patrick Cummins and John Hastings were taken to the cleaners, as New Zealand blasted 114 runs in the first 15 overs.
And on 254 for three in the 40th over, the 2015 World Cup runners-up were looking well-set to set a target above 300 but the Australia bowlers led by Josh Hazlewood’s six-wicket haul made a late comeback and took the last seven wickets for only 37 runs to dismiss New Zealand for 291.
“It’s not really something you think about too much. You just, as a batsman, I’m assuming you’re asking when I was out in the middle. I think if they have a slight [off] day where they’re not bowling perfectly, they’re still very, very good. And that’s sort of the nature of their attack. They’re probably one of the best attacks in world cricket,” Williamson said.
“And they’re always taking wickets. And today I thought the opening partnership from us was very, very good and put them under a bit of pressure on a good batting surface. But they were still able to take those wickets as well, which is something, I suppose, for the other teams to strive for, that on some of these surfaces you want to take those wickets through that middle period and certainly at the death as well,” added Williamson.
Speaking about his team’s lower-order collapse towards the end of the innings, Williamson said:
“Look, it’s one of those interesting things when you form a partnership where you want to increase the run rate and you have wickets in hand, guys come out and play aggressively. And you are going to lose wickets. And that’s just sort of the nature of the beast. When you come up against a side like Australia, they have a very good bowling attack, and it can make striking from bowl one very difficult.
“But I still, from a captaincy perspective, I really appreciated the selfless behaviours that our middle and lower order batters showed to go out there and try and score from bowl one which they made the attempt. It didn’t quite come off. Yes, we would have liked more, we always want more. But we still had a pretty good score on the board,” he said.
With the format of the tournament making it tough for a team to progress further even after suffering one loss, Williamson said that his team will only concentrate on playing good cricket.
“It is what it is. We’ve got two more games. It’s still — the nature of this tournament is, every game is basically knockout-style. So you need to play in that fashion, and those sorts of things we can’t really control, we don’t want to focus too much on. We’d rather focus a lot more on the cricket that we want to play. And I think today we played some good cricket, showed some good signs, and we’ll need to be better again going into the game against England,” he concluded.