Trans-Tasman rivals Australia and New Zealand will look up to their inspirational skippers Steve Smith and Kane Williamson to straightaway set the tone when they lock horns in the ICC Champions Trophy in Birmingham on Friday. An intriguing battle is on the cards between the trans-Tasman rivals, led by two technically sound captains. Both are world-class performers with the bat, but they go about their task in a very different manner.
After failing to win a game in their trophy defense in 2013, Australia intend to regain the championship by blasting all-comers. The batting lineup is impressive, boasting David Warner, captain Steve Smith, Aaron Finch, and Glenn Maxwell. They're bolstered by the prolific Chris Lynn, who recovered in the Indian Premier League from another shoulder injury. A powerful pace attack will be complete if Mitchell Starc can fire. Starc was picked with Josh Hazlewood, James Pattinson, and Pat Cummins. Injuries have limited their appearances together, and Starc is underdone after injuring his foot in the test series against India three months ago. His ability to seam the ball on English pitches is invaluable, and he couldn't bowl in the last warmup on Monday because of rain.
For all of Australia's weapons, they are still not as intimidating as they were in the previous decade. In the past summer, Australia were swept aside in South Africa and New Zealand.
If New Zealand gets their lineup right, they could win the Champions Trophy, 17 years after their one and only major success. New Zealand were a World Cup finalist in 2015, and World Twenty20 semifinalists in 2016, and have developed a thick skin, like captain Kane Williamson.
The only question marks surround Martin Guptill's opening partner, and which allrounders to leave out in the middle order. Tom Latham lost his opening batsman-wicketkeeper position during the home series against South Africa in February after a run of six single-figure scores. He came right in the recent triseries in Ireland, scoring a century and two half-centuries. Meanwhile, Luke Ronchi kept wicket in the triseries, then opened with Guptill against India at the weekend in a warmup and scored a 63-ball 66. Guptill and Ross Taylor are the only survivors from the team which reached the 2009 final, and are among seven from the 2013 side.