New Zealand’s Black Caps, ever the underdogs, may yet thrive as the outsiders when they face hosts England in the final of the World Cup at Lord’s on Sunday, writes WADE PRETORIUS.
Teams ranked one and two from the group stages are out. The stage has dramatically been set for England, playing in front of a passionate home crowd, to finally claim their first World Cup win. A team that has come a long way since crashing out of the 2015 edition.
In that tournament, it was New Zealand who advanced to their first final as they (almost predictably) caused another upset toppling the Proteas in a thrilling semi-final. But then, like many times before, their giant-killing act was not followed up when it mattered most as Australia blasted their way to the trophy.
Can the Black Caps – now a more settled unit with Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson providing perfect support to Trent Boult – finally graduate into an elite side in world cricket? Will the win over India be more than just another famous upset or a strong result that shows they are capable of winning any time they enter the arena?
England, buoyed by their destruction of Australia in the last four, head into the final with their tails up. A completely different side in all respects to the teams that have gone before them (1979, 1987 and 1992). They bat, they bowl, they can do it all with the depth other teams can only dream of.
The hosts will look back on their group-stage annihilation of New Zealand, when they set the visitors 306 for victory thanks to a century by Jonny Bairstow, with delight. The English bowlers then stifled the chase reducing the Kiwis to 14-2 before scoreboard pressure resulted in the run-outs of key batsmen Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor. The final result, a win by 119 runs, left England marching on with Williamson’s men left scratching their heads after three consecutive losses.
The return of Jason Roy has given England the impetus to proceed with their gameplan with neither side expected to change much in terms of personnel.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Tom Blundell (wk), Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Colin Munro, Ish Sodhi, Henry Nicholls, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Jimmy Neesham.
England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
- New Zealand weren’t in the contest when the sides met in the group stage – can they erase that display from the minds?
- The win over India has many thinking that the Black Caps have already played their World Cup final; how do they respond a few days later with all to play for?
- England start as heavy favourites with a new team philosophy – do they win this and cement their status as the new kings of ODI cricket?
- How will England respond if they lose their openers early; do they simply continue to attack or will they adopt a more pragmatic approach?
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Kane Williamson: If the trend continues with Martin Guptill failing, then Williamson will once again shoulder the full responsibility when his team bats. The Black Caps captain has accumulated 548 runs, one less than Joe Root, and boasts the highest average in the tournament to date at 91.33. His knock may determine the contest – get him out cheaply and the fragile middle order will be ripe for the picking.
Jofra Archer: Remember the controversy surrounding his selection? No, that was a long time ago now as he’s gone on to become the leader of the English attack. With 19 wickets from 10 outings, his pace has unsettled every opposition lineup. Now for one more act as he attempts to end the tournament as England’s leading outlet with the ball (currently two ahead of Mark Wood).