DAWN OF A NEW CHAMPION
The Black Caps will be desperate to clinch the World Cup title after getting so close to it last time – but, getting the better of England on their home turf won't be easy
We are at the home of cricket, the Lords, for the finale of the ICC 2019 World Cup. One way or the other, we will see a new team lifting cricket's ultimate prize for the first time. When the tournament started, rain recorded the maximum points during the first half of the group stage – washing away four games without a ball being bowled and ICC's decision to host the marquee tournament in England was questioned by many cricketing pundits. It once appeared that India, Australia, New Zealand and England will be the unchallenged semi-finalists. But, the second half of the round-robin format was a thriller.
Both the finalists, England and New Zealand, were on the verge of ending their campaign. England staged a heroic comeback defeating India and New Zealand in their last two group matches to seal the third spot – courtesy to Jonny Bairstow's centuries on both instances. Post the defeat to England, New Zealand, on the other hand, was tied with Pakistan on 11 points. A better NRR (Net Run Rate) helped them qualify into the knockout stage. New Zealand held their nerves to seal a final berth knocking out India with a fiery opening burst from Trent Boult and Matt Henry – a spell to be remembered for ages. In the second semi-final, England dominated the Australians with an eight-wicket victory. Now many would have predicted the English to lock horns with the Kiwis in the finals.
New Zealand has managed to reach their second final on the trot, but the Englishmen had to wait 27 years since last making a final appearance against Pakistan in 1992. Let's take a look at how both teams stand against each other.
New Zealand's top order would be their prime concern going into the finals. The first choice openers, Colin Munro and Martin Guptill, didn't yield enough runs in the tournament. In fact, the opening partnership has been broken in the very first over on three instances. So far, Kane Williamson's delightful run has ensured that the Kiwis did not collapse despite the failure of their openers. He has scored 548 runs in eight innings at a staggering average of 91.33. Of the eight matches that Williamson has batted in at this World Cup, the 28-year-old has topped the scoring for the Kiwis four times and been second-highest scorer twice. The Kiwis would be hoping for a good opening stand from their experienced campaigners one last time.
England looks very well settled at the top. Their Top 3 comprising of Bairstow, Jason Roy and Joe Root has accumulated 1,471 runs so far in the tournament. England's key in the recent turn of events has been the prime form of their openers. Root leads the England batting chart with 549 runs, followed by Bairstow with 496 and Roy with 426 runs. Another solid platform and we might witness the hosts lifting their first World Cup after being runners up in 1979, 1987 and 1992.
The middle-order for both teams seems even. The Kiwis have the services of Ross Taylor, James Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme and Tom Latham against the English middle order comprising of Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Chris Woakes. The middle order of both teams has delivered whenever required and this seems to bother neither Morgan nor Williamson.
The English frontline pace battery includes veteran Liam Plunkett, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, an exceptional Chris Woakes with the new ball and a lone spinner in Adil Rashid. New Zealand holds a little edge over the English bowlers given the rhythm they have found. Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson have been amongst wickets and with their display against the Indian top-order comprising of Rohit Sharma, KL Rahul and Virat Kohli, the English batters will be aware of the threat. They also have the services of Mitchell Santner, de Grandhomme and James Neesham to control play in the middle overs. However, departing cheaply is something that is a real possibility for New Zealand's batsmen in the face of England's supremely talented and confident bowling attack.
Ahead of the clash, England skipper, Eoin Morgan said, "We have created the opportunity to play in a World Cup final. It will be a matter of the same again, trying to produce everything that we can performance-wise. I think Sunday's not a day to shy away from, it's a day to look forward to."
The prime battle in this ultimate contest would be between the English top-order versus the new ball bowlers of New Zealand. Though England stands prime contenders to lift the trophy, the semi-finals showed that not backing the underdogs is fool-hardy at best. However, the only thing that's certain is that we'll have a new world champion tonight – only a matter of a few hours now. A mouth-watering finale awaits!