After just short of six weeks of competition, it all comes down to Sunday’s battle between the two host nations. I can’t believe anyone can have too many complaints about the make-up of the game, as both Australia and New Zealand have been the stand out performers throughout this World Cup. New Zealand going unbeaten and Australia falling to them by only one wicket. It all sets up to be a cracker of a game but with the history of World Cup finals being relatively one-sided, I’m hoping this match bucks the trend.
A closer look at the game shows two very evenly matched sides. Both teams have powerful bowling line ups and a plethora of destructive batsmen. A brief look at the strengths and weaknesses of each team, along with a summary of the external factors, shows us just how close this final could potentially be. Firstly, one cannot overlook the power of home ground advantage.
Australia love playing at the MCG with their last loss there, coming against Sri Lanka back in March 2012. The ’G, as it’s commonly referred to in Melbourne, produces tracks which give a fair contest between bat and ball. Although their first encounter earlier in the tournament resulted in a relatively low scoring affair, I don’t foresee a repeat performance.
The ground has already played host to four innings in excess of 300 in the four games at the venue during the tournament. It would be a fitting end if we could raise that figure. The number of runs during the game is not something one can say with certainty, but what is certain, is the huge crowd one can expect on Sunday.
The stadium seating some 90 000 patriotic Aussie and Kiwi fans, will undoubtedly play some role in the outcome of this fixture. No matter what level one plays at, one feels the pressure of a groan and is conversely uplifted by a roar. For both sides, getting the crowd behind them quickly will be critical.
Although losing the toss is not the end of the world, I would expect the winning captain to elect to bat first. Putting runs on the board in a pressurised environment cannot be underestimated. Giving your bowlers a decent total to defend, gives them the confidence to go out there and execute their skills accurately.
Michael Clarke’s tactics will need to be spot on when Australia take the field. Containing and dismissing Brendon McCullum at the beginning of the innings, being the main objective. Should McCullum get going, he has the ability to take a game away from an opponent in less than 10 overs.
Conversely, when New Zealand bowl, getting rid of the dangerous Warner, who much like McCullum possesses immense hitting ability, will be the first objective. Secondly, the Kiwi’s will need to have a plan on how to get rid of in-form Steve Smith. The kid has in the last 12 months, shown what a talented player he is.
As a result the Australians have improved drastically and gone from strength to strength. Couple this with the pace and aggression they possess with their trio of lefties, and one has a well-rounded side. Trent Boult, the tournament’s leading wicket-taker with 21 wickets, will be the player that will spearhead the Kiwi assault. He has been superb throughout the tournament and it just may be him to take New Zealand to their maiden title.
His opening spell against South Africa in the semi’s proved critical to their victory as he stifled the mercurial South African opening pair. McCullum, and the rest of the Land of the Long White Cloud, will be hoping for more of the same. Regardless of the outcome, we as neutrals can only hope for a game deserving of a World Cup Final.
It has been a successful tournament thus far and a nail-biter, would simply be, a cherry on the top. At the beginning of the tournament, the bookies priced up these two teams as the favourites – they have been proven right. The question now becomes, who can perform better on the day?
I have no doubt that neither team will leave anything out on the MCG. It may simply come down to a special individual performance or a costly error, that sees the trophy remain in Melbourne or make its way across the Tasman. Either way, it’s going to be special!
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