It’s the World Cup final, and a dream one at that between Australia and New Zealand. Kobus Pretorius picks five things to look out for that could shape the showpiece.
1. The Melbourne Cricket Ground is no Eden Park
Let’s be honest, cricket shouldn’t be played in ridiculously small grounds like Eden Park in Auckland. Both teams need to bowl extremely well to prevent it from turning into a bit of a joke, something South Africa failed to do in their semi-final defeat to New Zealand. The final, however, is being played at the MCG, one of the biggest grounds in the world. New Zealand are used to playing their matches on small grounds, while Australia, as Michael Clarke rightly pointed out, have a lot more experience playing on such a big field as the MCG. India captain MS Dhoni has also said that New Zealand’s biggest challenge in the final will be to adapt to the size of the field.
2. Batsmen may well be the difference
It’s probably fair to say the bowling attacks of both teams are pretty even, although New Zealand do have the better (and only real) spinner in Daniel Vettori. Vettori is an experienced player who is possibly playing in his last ODI. His variation could make a difference, but one senses that the batsmen will have more of an impact. Australia have the stronger batting line-up, batting all the way down to Mitchell Johnson. The top orders are more or less even, but Australia’s middle order could be the difference. Michael Clarke, Shane Watson, Glenn Maxwell and James Faulkner possess a combination of strokeplay and big-hitting that is almost certain to be a threat.
3. It’s Starc vs Boult
The spearheads of their respective bowling attacks, Mitchell Starc and Trent Boult will go head-to-head in the final in a battle of the seamers. Boult is the leading wicket-taker at the tournament with 21 wickets at an average of 15.76 in eight games, while Starc has claimed 20 wickets in seven games at an unbelievable 10.2. The contest should be a riveting one, and whichever team copes with the swinging left-armers the best have a good chance of coming out on top.
4. How much will the pool stages mean?
New Zealand and Australia were involved in one of the best games of the World Cup during the pool stages when the Black Caps narrowly beat their neighbours by 1 wicket in Auckland. It was certainly the best game of the pool stages, but the question is how much bearing it will have on the final. ‘I think New Zealand will take confidence that they’ve beaten us in the tournament, but I believe that was the turning point in this tournament for the Australian team,’ said captain Michael Clarke. ‘I think that gave us a bit of a kick up the backside. We knew we got a good look at a very good team playing at the top of their game, certainly with the ball, and I think our attitude from that day has been exceptional.’
5. How bold will McCullum be?
Brendon McCullum’s captaincy at this World Cup has been a revelation and applauded all over the world. He has been clear, bold, decisive, but most of all – brave. It’s an almost fearless approach to the game and one which has worked for them all tournament. New Zealand are the only unbeaten team left in the World Cup and McCullum’s leadership has played a big part in that. However, this is a final and teams always revert to more conservative tactics and decision making when everything is at stake. It will be interesting to see if McCullum adapts his style and plays it safer, or if he will continue to be aggressive and take risks.