Dot-ball pressure, early wickets key to beating India: Lockie Ferguson


LONDON: Roll into town. Assess the conditions. Do your homework on the opposition. Play well. Get the win. Forget it. Roll on the next town. Repeat.

Sounds both simple and sensible, doesn’t it?

That’s been the mantra for New Zealand’s campaign and, so far, it’s worked a perfunctory treat. Three wins from three games, virtually all players making significant contributions and conditions suiting their strengths nicely. But now their matter-of-fact approach will, weather permitting, face their biggest challenge to date in the World Cup when they, weather permitting, meet India on Thursday. Did I say weather permitting?

The forecast makes it doubtful that either team will be able to do any outdoor training before the match and, while some might think getting a point out of a washout wouldn’t be the worst outcome against one of the top-ranked teams, Lockie Ferguson isn’t one of them.

“We want to play,” Ferguson said on Tuesday. “It’s the World Cup. We’re playing against India in the World Cup and it’s an opportunity to get two points and we don’t want to get rained-out games. I don’t think any players do but if that happens then so be it. We can’t control that but we’re looking forward to playing India and getting some confidence against them.”

Ferguson has only played three ODIs against India, all of them in January this year. India won all three matches comfortably and Ferguson was the subject of particularly harsh treatment in the second game at Mount Maunganui, where he took two wickets but conceded 81 runs from his ten overs. Now he’s keen to use the lessons learned.

“They showed us that they’re probably a lot more patient in a way,” Ferguson said. “And although we’re looking to take wickets, sometimes we got a little bit expensive. I think taking wickets up front is the key to [beating] India but, if not, creating pressure and building dots.

“They’re world-class players, you’re not going to blow them out of the water, but if you can build up enough pressure against them and then create a half-chance, that could be the wicket and you can then build from there. Obviously, they’re playing some great cricket and they’re one of the top teams in the competition but we’re definitely looking forward to the opportunity of playing them in England and we haven’t played them for a while in England.”

New Zealand have bowled out all three sides they have faced so far – Sri Lanka (136), Bangladesh (244) and Afghanistan (172) – with Trent Boult arguably the unluckiest in the attack, wicketless despite beating the bat and drawing false shots regularly. Ferguson believes it’s only a matter of time before Boult’s form is rewarded with wickets.

“If I were to critique his bowling I think he’s been bowling exceptionally well, creating a lot of chances for us up front,” Ferguson said. “And that’s the nature of international cricket; sometimes the chances don’t get taken but other times they do. Trent’s world-class, very professional guy and the way he talks about his bowling is pretty inspiring if I’m honest. I’m sure it’ll turn his way soon and hopefully it’s on Thursday, that would be great.”

Undoubtedly, the bounce that has been on offer in the matches at Trent Bridge has New Zealand’s pacers salivating, just a little, and Ferguson admitted they had watched the results and conditions with interest, although they will not be playing on the world-record pitch that has been used twice so far in this tournament.

“It’s exciting for Trent Bridge to have a bit of bounce and hopefully that’ll go in our favour,” Ferguson said. “It’s been an interesting start to the World Cup with the games here obviously we keep an eye on the different grounds and how the matches go.

“But the West Indies showed that there’s that extra bounce at Trent Bridge and that caused some trouble for Australia as well, who are good players of the short ball. It’s tournament cricket where, if you can create a bit of pressure, it sort of builds up a little bit because you play each team once and you need to win and move on.

“Tournament cricket’s one of those crazy ones where, I know in the Black Caps, we talk a lot about turning up to the ground we are playing, working out the conditions, the team we are playing, doing the scouting, playing the team as well as we can and then we’ve been fortunate to get three wins and play some good cricket and then moving on to our next opponent.

“That’s one of our main focusses for the Black Caps. We often talk about it but more in particular at a World Cup where every team you play is worth two points so they’re just as important as each other.”

Ah, there it is. Win and move on. Rinse and repeat. Simple. Both teams have done it so far; India twice, New Zealand thrice. But only one can win and move on from Trent Bridge.

Weather permitting, of course.