NZ, England seek World Cup redemption
New Zealand and England have waited four years for this moment, for this life-changing shot at redemption.
For the Kiwis, the Cricket World Cup final at Lord’s today is a chance to avenge their drubbing at the hands of Australia in the 2015 showpiece. It was their first World Cup final and they didn’t do themselves justice in Melbourne.
“A little bit overawed,” recalled batsman Ross Taylor, who will be one of five New Zealand survivors from that seven-wicket loss.
For the English, it’s a very different opportunity for atonement from 2015 when a group-stage exit proved to be an all-time ODI low for the country that invented cricket. What has happened since – an overhaul of domestic white-ball cricket, a new team and mindset, and a rise to the top of the ODI rankings – has been both surprising and stunning to watch.
So, a new name – the sixth – will be etched on the World Cup trophy at the home of cricket after Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and West Indies.
That it is New Zealand and England vying for the trophy is perhaps validation of the approach both countries have taken to the one-day game in recent years. Indeed, England captain Eoin Morgan has openly acknowledged that his team has copied the New Zealand model in this format, playing with fun and a smile on your face.
“Express yourself,” Morgan tells his players.
England – in their fourth final, the first since 1992 – are the favourites, with potential match-winners everywhere.
There are the openers, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, brimming with belief and strokeplay. They are on a run of four straight century partnerships, and if they provide another such platform, England will be hard to stop.
There’s the middle order, blessed with dependability (Joe Root), experience (Eoin Morgan), exuberance (Jos Buttler), and a mix of all those qualities (Ben Stokes).
And then there’s the bowling department. Jofra Archer, fast-tracked into the team just before the World Cup following a change in residency rules, mixes sheer pace with accuracy (he has more dot balls, 338, than anyone this tournament) and has struck up a great new-ball partnership with all-rounder Chris Woakes; Liam Plunkett and Mark Wood are solid first-change options; and leg-spinner Adil Rashid can be a partnership breaker in the middle over.
New Zealand remains the unassuming underdog.
With openers Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, and Colin Munro enduring a dismal World Cup, captain Kane Williamson has taken on most of the batting burden and stood up to the task.
Understated, determined, and simply brilliant, Williamson is averaging a tournament-high 91.33 and challenges Virat Kohli as probably the best batsman in the world, though Australia’s Steve Smith and Root run them close.
Taylor, in next at No. 4, is New Zealand’s other key batsman, but it is the team’s bowling attack that will strike most fear into the hearts of England fans who will dominate Lord’s today.
Under cloudy skies offering movement in the air, there might not be a better asset than left-arm seam bowler Trent Boult as he showed against India in the semi-finals. He will enjoy using the slope from the Pavilion End. Fellow strike bowler Matt Henry is a danger at the top of the innings, not so much at the death, while Lockie Ferguson at first change is New Zealand’s leading wicket-taker this tournament with 17.