Adrian Mills has picked out three bets for the 2023 Cricket World Cup opener between England and New Zealand.
The World Cup gets underway on Thursday with the two teams that contested the dramatic 2019 final facing off in Ahmedabad.
England begin their defence of the trophy against a New Zealand team they know well, but their recent 3-1 series victory at home may not count for too much on a slower subcontinental surface.
Bairstow the key to powerplay production
With no Jason Roy alongside him at the top of England’s batting order, the onus will be on Jonny Bairstow to score quickly in the powerplay.
The Yorkshireman has a career ODI strike rate of just under 104, which increases to 115 when he goes in first.
That is far in excess of any of the other expected names in England’s top four and suggests he should be responsible for the bulk of the run-scoring in the first half of the innings, as long as he gets in and stays there.
Bairstow finished as the highest run scorer when England last toured India in 2021 with knocks of 94, 124 and 1 in a three-match white-ball series.
His last three scores against the Black Caps were 6, 0 and 13 when the teams met in September, so he could have a point to prove too.
Sodhi usually strikes twice
Ish Sodhi, who picked up his maiden ODI five-wicket haul late last month in an 86-run win over Bangladesh, is likely to be a key component of the Black Caps attack on Thursday.
The Narendra Modi Stadium is a cavernous venue with long boundaries that gives slow bowlers a chance to attack without the fear of being hit out of the ground all of the time.
New Zealand have used the leg-spinner as a wicket-taking option in white-ball matches for the past few years, with his best results coming in T20I international cricket.
In the recent short-format series against Jos Buttler’s men, Sodhi began with 1/23 at Chester-le-Street, before taking two, three and two wickets apiece in the games at Old Trafford, Edgbaston and Trent Bridge.
In four previous 50-over contests against England, he has only once failed to take at least two wickets in the game.
Mitchell has maximum potential
Daryl Mitchell has been the scourge of England in the short formats over the past few years.
He played a match-winning innings of 72 not out as the Black Caps knocked Eoin Morgan’s team out of the 2021 T20 World Cup at the semi-final stage and pummelled a terrific ton to get the Kiwis over the line in a 50-over run chase at Cardiff last month.
He hit seven sixes in that knock of 118 not out, taking advantage of the short, straight boundaries and taking a particular liking to the part-time spin bowling of Liam Livingstone.
But Mitchell also proved he can read Adil Rashid by depositing the leg-spinner over the ropes four times and he may be required to do the same in Ahmedabad if New Zealand are to keep pace with England’s powerful batting line-up.
Jonny Bairstow – England Top Batter @ 13/4
Ish Sodhi – To Take 2+ Wickets @ 1/1