Early blow: England paceman Stuart Broad celebrates the wicket of David Warner. Photo: Getty Images
Australian captain Michael Clarke has been ruled out of Australia’s second Champions Trophy pool game against New Zealand in Birmingham on Wednesday (Melbourne time) as the Kiwis light the fuse for a fiery trans-Tasman clash, confident they can bully a vulnerable Australia into submission at Edgbaston.
Clarke is still in London receiving treatment for his chronic back problem, which has flared up again. The skipper is highly unlikely to play in the Champions Trophy as Australia fights to get him right for the first Ashes Test at Trent Bridge on July 10.
Word out of the Australian camp is that progress is slow for Clarke.
The in-form Black Caps are sensing a chance to reverse their historic role as cricket underdogs and pledged to tighten the screws even more on Australia’s floundering batsmen ahead of the Ashes.
Victory for New Zealand would propel it into the Champions Trophy semi-finals and, most likely, send Australia – the defending titleholder – crashing out of the competition.
Veteran fast bowler Kyle Mills said the target would be Australia’s top-order batsmen.
”All their top order will be feeling the heat a little bit to not only win the game but also hold their spot in the team,” he said.
”If we can take advantage of that I’m sure it will bode well for us in those pressure situations.”
Mills described Australian opener David Warner as a ”rocks or diamonds” player and said middle-order man Adam Voges would be targeted by quicks Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan as well as himself.
And he believes Shane Watson is the wall between victory and defeat for New Zealand.
”The last time I played Australia was in the last Champions Trophy final [in 2009]. Watson got a hundred … and he’s the key wicket,” Mills said.
”Warner is either going to … to kill you or we can get him early. Voges is one of those guys who has been in and out of the side a lot. Hopefully we can put some pressure on those guys in the middle and expose them a little bit.”
New Zealand is sweating on injury-plagued warrior Daniel Vettori to battle on with an Achilles problem and take advantage of Australia’s poor record against spin.
”They’re a bit short on spinners and notoriously they don’t really play spin that well,” he said.
”Obviously Dan is in a hell of a lot of pain. Watching him bowl you can tell he’s just a class above anyone else going around really and he’s crucial for us in our line-up.”
Mills overtook Muthiah Muralidaran as the leading wicket-taker in the history of the Champions Trophy in New Zealand’s thrilling one-wicket pool victory over Sri Lanka on Sunday.
The Black Caps are fresh from beating England in a one-day international series before the tournament, but Mills said beating Australia would be their most satisfying result.
”I was brought up on taking on the Aussies,” he said.
”I’m a firm believer that cricket is a big momentum sport.
”Hopefully we can continue this winning feeling we have in the group.”
The Sydney Morning Herald – June , 12 , 2013