The 48th and last game of the 12th edition of the Cricket World Cup see England take on New Zealand at Lord’s. Neither country has won the title of world 50-over champions before so a new name is destined for the trophy.
England, runners up three times, have reached their first World Cup final for 27 years after putting in their best all-around performance in an eight-wicket semi-final victory over Australia. They steamrolled the Australian top-order and then chased down the 224 they required to win with a mammoth 17.5 overs to spare.
New Zealand had to overcome India at Old Trafford to repeat their only previous final appearance of four years ago. In a performance that shocked the most powerful cricket nation on the planet, the Black Caps won by 18 runs after defending a modest total of 239 for eight.
ENGLAND BACK ON TRACK IN STYLE
England are the number one ODI side in the ICC World Rankings and have set an attacking new benchmark for limited over cricket should be played on the world stage. Their positive style and obvious ambition, since a disastrous 2015 World Cup campaign, has seen them come into their home tournament with momentum and no little expectation.
England have planned, honed and dreamed tenaciously over the last four years with the sole intent of winning the World Cup in their own backyard. The results of those endeavors have been there for all to see. A blip in the final however and the pressure to protect all of that hard work will be huge. The Kiwis will be hoping to prey upon that.
Joe Root has scored 549 runs at 68.62, including two centuries, but it opener Jason Roy who tops the averages with 426 runs at 71.00 after missing three earlier matches with a hamstring injury.
Jonny Bairstow has two hundreds and 496 runs to his name and his opening partnership with Roy has compiled four successive hundred-plus opening stands. All 3 of Roy, Root, and Bairstow are 3/1 to be the top England batsman in the final on the Betway App, the three are so close the bookmakers cannot separate them!
It’s been a team effort with the bat however with Eoin Morgan and Jos Buttler also scoring a century apiece and Ben Stokes making four fifties.
Jofra Archer (19 wickets at 22.05) and Mark Wood (17), Chris Woakes (13) and Adil Rashid (11) have hunted as a pack, with Liam Plunkett adding a dependable pair of canny threat in the middle-overs.
After beating South Africa in the opening match of the tournament, England collected further wins against Bangladesh, West Indies and Afghanistan, but defeats against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia saw them effectively playing knockout cricket with two group games to go.
The lacklustre nature of the Sri Lankan defeat suggested that the pressure of competitive cricket was inhibiting them. After the loss to Australia the squad held a meeting and opted to come out fighting with the emphasis on positivity. It worked.
Wins against India and New Zealand saw them qualify for the semi-finals in third place. The England juggernaut is reaching top gear just at the right time to satisfy their own, and the English public’s, high expectations.
The ruthless semi-final demolition of Australia was sensational. The bowling from the start was bang on the money, the fielding exceptional and the positivity Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow showed with the bat extinguished Australian hopes.
A repeat of that semi-final performance and captain Eoin Morgan will have a trophy in his hands by Sunday evening. When England play their best cricket there is not a side that can live with them.
KIWIS SEEKING TO GO ONE BETTER
In the 2015 final the New Zealand side were rolled for 183 and lost by seven wickets to Australia. They will be keen to make up for not giving a decent account of themselves back then.
The Black Caps have been brilliantly captained by Kane Williamson who has been the level head they need. His 548 runs, including two match-winning centuries, at 91.33 has held it all together.
Make no mistake about Williamson’s team. They are amiable, they smile, but they have heart and they have the capacity to go for the throat. As India found, discount them at your peril.
New Zealand had an enviably comfortable start with three games against the lowest ranked sides. Comfortable wins against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Afghanistan got them into a groove.
A Trent Bridge abandonment against India was followed by further victories against South Africa and West Indies and all was looking comfortable. But they lost to Pakistan, Australia, and England and only limped into the final four on net run-rate.
No one (other than me) gave them a prayer against India in the semi-final at Old Trafford and when Williamson’s sedate 67 and Ross Taylor equally stoic 75 nudged their team to a 239 total the wise money seemed to be on India romping home.
But the experienced pair had read the Old Trafford pitch perfectly and the Kiwis defended valiantly. Taylor came into the tournament in great form and his 335 runs at 41.87 has not set the competition alight, but he is gradually getting better.
The man they have missed the most had been opener Martyn Guptill whose strong starts at the top of the order and ability to go big has materialised in only one match, when he scored an unbeaten 73 in a 10-wicket win over Sri Lanka.
That first match seems a long time ago and the man who smashed 237 not out in the 2015 World Cup has only contributed 25,0,35,0,5,20,8 and 1 since that opening game. He boasts a strong record against the host nation and England will still prize his wicket as highly as the rest.
Semi-final Player of the Match Matt Henry starred with the ball as he took three early Indian wickets to take his tournament tally to 13. Lockie Ferguson (18), Trent Boult (17) and Josh Neesham (12) have ensured that wickets have been shared around a consistent seam attack. The innocuous Colin de Grandholme has an economy rate of 4.56 and Mtch Santner has taken six wickets with his spin and was superb against India as he took 2-34 in his 10 overs to stifle India’s chances.
UNLIKELY ENGLAND WILL CHANGE THEIR TACTICS NOW
The only change England have made to their XI as the competition has reached the pointy end is playing Liam Plunkett instead of the spin of Moeen Ali. Since the last World Cup, Plunkett has taken more wickets in the middle-overs than anyone in the world and it is no coincidence that England have won the games he has played in and lost when he has been missing.
The only injury concern for England came when Jonny Bairstow appeared to injure his groin on the semi-final. In the unlikely event that he misses the final, James Vince and Moeen Ali will be desperate to deputise.
It is also highly improbable that the New Zealanders will change the side that beat India at Old Trafford.
If both sides bring their best game into the final England will win. If it is a high scoring track then New Zealand’s inability to go big (they haven’t scored more than 300 yet) means that England win. England have won seven of their last nine head-to-head encounters.
New Zealand’s chances improve if the pitch is slow and low, like Old Trafford in the semi-final. Their other opportunity is a repeat of their success over India where they tore through the top-order early. That will put immense pressure on the rest of the batting who will know it is do-or-die for their Cup aspirations.
The leading tournament run-scorer market is interesting with India’s Rohit Sharma currently leading on 648 runs and around 2/7 to stay there. There are four potential usurpers to Rohit’s throne with Root (549 and 13/2) and Williamson (548 and 7/1) both needing three figures to get beyond the Indian opener, Bairstow (496 and 50/1) needing 153 or more and Jason Roy (426 at 100/1) needing the double century of his life.
England may have slipped away from their attacking best in the middle of the group phase, but they have recovered their mojo and are hitting their peak at just the right time.
New Zealand is a well-balanced side and England would be fools to underestimate the threat they pose, but this should be England’s global moment in the London sunshine.
- England to win at 1/3 doesn’t provide huge value but I’ve believed with head and heart for months that Eoin Morgan would lift the World Cup so why change now?
- New Zealand to win at 11/4 – only shown if you’ve had a chunky stake on England from the start and need a bit of cover to guarantee a return.
- Joe Root to be England’s top batsman at 100/30 (Betfair Exchange app) – with a good start to England’s innings he can ride on the coattails, with an early wicket he can be the backbone.
- Kane Williamson to be Top New Zealand batsman at 9/4 (Betfair)
- Joe Root to be the Tournament Top Run-Scorer at 13/2 (Bet365 App)