History is set to be made at Lord’s Cricket Ground, as the World Cup Final is contested between hosts England and New Zealand.
No matter what the outcome is at the sport’s most famous ground, we are guaranteed a first time winner, as neither the English or the Kiwis have lifted the most prized possession in the One-Day International format of cricket. Both nations have made the final previously, with England having reached the showpiece event on three occasions, 1979, 1987 and 1992, losing each time. The Black Caps, qualified for their first ever final at the last World Cup in 2015, only to lose out to co-host and Trans-Tasmanian rivals Australia and that after having been knocked out at the semi-final stage on the four previous occasions.
Both nations path to this point was anything but smooth, as they had to overcome several obstacles and nervous nail biting moments.
New Zealand as it seems per usual to any ICC tournament they play, came in with little expected of them, but came out of the blocks flying. They won five of their first six matches, including victories over the talented South African and West Indies sides and the other encounter was rained out versus India. That was followed by three straight defeats, leaving them to rely on other matches to go their way, which did, as they beat Pakistan on the net run-rate to get out of the group stage.
The hosts came into this World Cup on the back of fantastic form, where they beat all challengers and rose to the number one ranking. They, like their opponents on Sunday, started like a freight train, that was until back to back defeats to Sri Lanka and rivals Australia, left them teetering on the brink of a real embarrassing exit. They regrouped(including and maybe motivated by Johnny Bairstow’s words) and eventually made it, which included a vital victory over New Zealand.
So will England do the double over New Zealand or will the Kiwis even the score in the biggest match of them all?
This match-up throws up so many of those metaphors which we often associate with sporting contests…Think David vs Goliath, or favourites vs underdog to the heavyweight vs lightweight etc…It can’t be overstated that England vs New Zealand has everything to justify the usage of those terms. For England to win, they have to accept the so called “favourites” tag, embrace it and rise to the occasion. New Zealand, on the other hand, will no doubt, as they have many times previously, use the for the lack of a better term “less expectations” and dark house status to their advantage.
England’s coach Trevor Bayliss said that while they are happy to be in the final, the big one still needs to be won. Speaking to the media after their crushing defeat of the Aussies, the 56-year old New South Welshman said “We can’t listen to the outside noise whether it’s good or bad,’ Bayliss told the BBC. “We’ve still got a job to do and one big match to go.” He further stated “We are confident, but we we’re not too over the top.” When he was asked by reporters directly about his team’s opponents in the final, he said “New Zealand have proved they are a very good team, anyone can win a final. On the day, it’s a 50-50 call.”
All and sundry recognise the Kiwis underdog status and that includes the players themselves. Star batsman Ross Taylor said “We will be the underdogs, but that is something we enjoy, to just scrap, put up a fight. The 35-year old who has led the batting for the best part of a decade went on to claim they can play even better. He said “We still have not played the perfect game in this tournament. But, if we can keep those traits that we know we have, we will give England a run for their money.”
The great aspect of this final is that both teams have had to rely on many individuals in their squads to get to Lord’s. It has not been a case of one or two star players always having to carry the load.
England’s openers Jason Roy and Johnny Bairstow along with newly integrated fast bowler Jofra Archer have been given many plaudits and deservedly so, but they have been others. Ben Stokes all-round abilities, Joe Root’s anchoring innings after innings and the penetrating bowling of Mark Wood, Chris Woakes and Liam Plunkett have all played major roles. Even Adil Rashid, who captain Eoin Morgan has stuck by despite not being at his best, rewarded him, with figures of 3-54 in the semi-finals.
The Kiwis have been a bit more reliant on certain individuals…Captain Kane Williamson has had to carry most of the batting load, at times being supported by Taylor and Henry Nicholls, but power opener Martin Guptill has not fired at all this tournament. The Auckland born was one of his side’s best performers last time out in 2015. The bowling has been more balanced with all the bowlers at one time or another putting their hand up to deliver for their nation.
Which stars will come to the party in the final is left to be seen.
It should come as no surprise that the toss will play an integral role in the final. Generally at this World Cup, the team that won the flip, has batted first, and the same is expected on Sunday. So far four matches have been played “at the home of cricket” and all four times, the team batting first have won.I genuinely hope that the toss does not play a deciding factor on what should be the sport’s pinnacle event.
With that in mind, the opening 10 overs in both innings could very well decide the contest. With England’s brute batting of Roy & Bairstow facing up to Trent Boult and Matt Henry and on the other side, it will be interesting to see what approach Guptill and Nicholls take to Archer and Woakes. The home team is expected to play their natural game of “all guns blazing”, but will the Kiwi pair take a conservative mind-set and try to see out England’s brilliant bowling pair?
One point of much debate for England is what to do with Jos Butler…The Somerset born wicket-keeper batsman can be one of the most destructive forces in the game, but he normally bats at number six, reducing the amount of deliveries he plays. Some say he should bat higher up the order given how quickly, in contrast to what is considered the norm, that he can score SO fast, that having him come in late and ploy the opposition attack can give the team the momentum at the end.
England have a full strength team to pick from, including opener Roy who was given two demerit points for his reaction to being wrongly given out by umpire Kumar Dharmasena, but he is available for the final. New Zealand’s only concern is their own opener Nicholls, who has been hampered by a hamstring injury all tournament. He missed the first seven games of the six week extravaganza, but his replacement, Colin Munro, was poor.
England (probable) : Roy, Bairstow, Root, Morgan, Stokes, Butler, Woakes, Plunkett, Rashid, Archer, Wood.
New Zealand (probable) : Guptill, Nicholls, Williamson, Taylor, Neesham, Grandhomme, Latham, Santner, Henry, Boult, Ferguson.
So many questions which will all be answered on Sunday, so sit back and enjoy the 12th ODI World Cup final.