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Cricket news - In the know Matt Henry sets the tone

Matt Henry ripped through Sri Lanka's top order and returned figures of 3 for 29

The pitch was green, the toss was won. The sun had barely peaked out and notices had been sent far and yonder about a Bat-v-Bat World Cup. As a New Zealander first, fast bowler later, it would have been impolite to brazenly gloat in the face of an opponent. So Matt Henry doled out a generous leg-stump put-away to Lahiru Thirimanne, which the Sri Lankan opener tucked past the 'keeper for four.

With the pleasantries out of the way, Henry respectfully shifted his radar to the right and hurled the next ball at 141.2 kph. Lulled into a false sense of security, Thirimane played all around it and was pinged on his knee roll. Curiously, Umpire Ian Gould too appeared to have been impacted by the line of the first delivery and ruled the call in favour of the batsman. Ever the wiser with referrals, the fast bowler turned to captain Williamson. He had his way with the review and knocked over the first piece of the Sri Lankan domino.

Henry has spoken about being a nervous starter and here he was, in New Zealand's World Cup opener, thrown the first new ball. He may not have started if Tim Southee hadn't hurt his calf. He'd been ransacked for 107 by Shai Hope & Co. at a ground just 40 miles to the east of Sophia Gardens.

The fans of the Black Caps, now expectant, had made their way in numbers to Cardiff from as far as Christchurch. Their counterparts had brought the Papare and begun making noise. A lesser man would have had his resolve test. Instead, Henry doled out a lesson in setting the tone.

There are no certainties in a World Cup game, not even against Sri Lanka. It was evidenced by Trent Boult's below-par show in conditions seemingly custom-made for him. Henry's opening burst - he bowled seven in a row and wasn't required thereafter - ensured this game was headed in only one direction.

Bowling from the Cathedral Road end, Henry was a beneficiary of a more consistent live grass cover around good length for the batsmen. His extra pace and an ability to hit the seam made him (and Lockie Ferguson) a bigger threat than Boult. The moisture trapped under the surface early on when pounded relentlessly created minor uncertainties in the bounce.

His second wicket, that of a set Kusal Perera, was a case in point. The ball held up a touch and hit Perera high on the bat and only as far as mid-on. The next ball hit the channel outside off and seamed away, squaring Kusal Mendis into edging it to slip. Henry bowled two more overs in his spell to finish with proud figures of 7-0-29-3.

By no means was Henry's spell blemishfree. He had his indiscretions, mostly with his line when he occasionally bowled too straight. But he almost never moved away from hitting the six-metre length from the batsman, unlike the usually-unwavering Boult who either bowled too short or too full from the Taff River end.

Henry's knowledge of lengths on these pitches was borne out of a chance County assignment with Kent ahead of last season. He had spent the New Zealand winter of 2017 carrying drinks in the IPL (with KXIP), something he'd been doing again during the England-New Zealand ODIs in early 2018. Ferrying the electrolytes for the visiting team on that tour was Sam Billings, who during one of his trips, struck up a conversation with Henry and asked him if he'd be interested in playing for his County, Kent. Henry took the offer and with the legendary Allan Donald available for guidance, ripped through the Division Two Championship, taking 74 wickets at 14.67 and capturing promotion for his side with a memorable 8 for 98 against Cardiff-based Glamorgan.

"I think, it is about being brave (bowling fuller) in those situations. We knew they would come hard at us, so we had to make sure we kept changing our pace and length," Henry said in his de-brief. "It was good to get a green surface and we tried to make the most of it. We don't get many one-day wickets like that, but it's nice when you get one. We knew what we had to do - it was important to start well and make sure we keep coming at them. I really enjoyed my time at Kent last year, we had a lot of success with the white and the red ball. Always nice to come back here," he added.

Henry's burst at the top was just the reassurance he needed to confirm that the Bristol mauling was behind him already. It is likely that Tim Southee could miss one more game and as New Zealand head to other venues, a confident seam bowler like Henry could hold more aces than a pure swing bowler like Southee.

It was also just the start New Zealand needed to purr their campaign into action. With games against Bangladesh and Afghanistan to follow and an NRR of +5.754, Henry may have just sent them on the route to holding six points by the end of the next week.

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