| Ian Bell during a practice session, on Saturday. (Getty Images) |
Cardiff: Stunned by an inspired Sri Lanka in their last game, hosts England find themselves in a spot of bother when they take on New Zealand in a must-win Group A match of the Champions Trophy here, on Sunday.
Title contenders England, who have one of the strong bowling attacks, failed to defend an imposing 293 for seven against Sri Lanka.
The loss had put the hosts in a dicey situation after the game between Australia and New Zealand was washed out on Wednesday.
The Group A is still wide open as all the four teams — New Zealand (3 points), England (2), Sri Lanka (2) and Australia (1) — are in the reckoning for the two semi-final spots.
England will consider Sunday’s game as a virtual quarter final as only a win will guarantee their place in the knockout stage, irrespective of the result of the remaining group matches.
But the hosts will be under more pressure than New Zealand as even if the Black Caps lose, they still have an outside chance of entering the semi-finals provided Australia beat Sri Lanka in their final encounter.
With scores of 269 and 293 in their last two games, England’s batting looks in good touch.
England’s top-order comprising captain Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Jonathan Trott, young Joe Root and Ravi Bopara are all among runs and it won’t be surprising to see the hosts piling up yet another big score in conditions which are familiar to them.
England would also eye revenge against New Zealand after losing the bilateral ODI series 1-2 to the latter at their own backyard just before the Champions Trophy.
But England have to deal with an injury concern as Jonathan Trott is uncertain to play. Trott was off the field for much of Sri Lanka’s innings because of a tight right quad.
Besides Trott, England could also be without seamer Tim Bresnan, whose wife is due to give birth to the couple’s first child.
If Bresnan does not play, it would open up a place in the attack for either fast bowler Steven Finn or off-spinner James Tredwell.
New Zealand, on the other hand, would have by now acclimatised to the English conditions, having played in the country since the last one month.
Batting is an area which is a cause of concern for New Zealand. Martin Guptill, who had an outstanding series against England, has failed to impress in the first two games of the tournament, while Ross Taylor and skipper Brendon McCullum too are not among runs.
On the bowling front, left-arm medium-pacer Mitchell McClenaghan, pace spearhead Kyle Mills and part-time spinner Nathan McCullum are doing a wonderful job.
McClenaghan, in particular, has blossomed in seam-friendly English conditions returning with four-wicket hauls in their opening two matches.
Match starts: 3 pm (IST)