It all comes down to this – the 2019 ICC Cricket World Cup final – and fans will flock to Lord’s on Sunday 14 July to witness the hosts, England, take on New Zealand for bragging rights of the world’s best ODI team.
England, hosting the event for the fifth time since the first World Cup in 1975 – the year of my birth – will be looking to lift the crown for the first time, having failed on their three previous attempts.
England hosted the first three World Cup’s in 1975, 1979 and 1983 and made their first final appearance in 1979, losing out by 92 runs against the then mighty West Indies that was lead by Clive Lloyd and included the likes of Sir Viv Richards, Alvin Kallicharran, Collis King, Joel Garner, Michael Holding and Collin Croft.
England then made two consecutive appearances in 1987 and again in 1992 (remember that famous semi final against South Africa?). But on both occasions, the inventors of the sport lost to first Australia by 7 runs and then to Pakistan by 22 runs. Three attempts – three losses.
England have had to wait 27 years (they must be feeling some Madiba Magic perhaps) for another shot at winning the prize while New Zealand are making their second consecutive final appearance.
The Black Caps, with some outstanding leadership from the front by Kane Williamson, will be hoping that they can go one better and win the tournament for the first time after they went down by 7 wickets against Australia at the MCG in Melbourne four years ago.
Road to the Final
England – The hosts started the tournament well with a thumping 104-run victory against South Africa but then came unstuck against Pakistan, going down by 14 runs in pursuit of 349.
Eoin Morgan’s side were looking comfortable after victories over Bangladesh, West Indies and Afghanistan but then the tournament was thrown wide open after Sri Lanka pulled off an amazing shock. The Lankans, defending 232, knocked England over for just 212 to win by 20 runs.
Worse was to follow as they suffered a 64-run defeat to Australia in their penultimate game before securing their place in the last four with a 31-run victory over India and a massive 119-run victory over New Zealand.
England used their momentum to turn the table on Australia with an impressive 8-wicket victory over Australia in the second semi final at Edgbaston on Thursday.
New Zealand – The Black Caps have always been that side that quietly go about their business, upsetting teams in the earlier World Cups but of late, have been underestimated by the bigger teams.
Williamson’s charges swept everyone aside in the early rounds, demolishing Sri Lanka by 10-wickets, Bangladesh and Afghanistan but their run was halted thanks to the weather as their match against India was washed out without a ball being bowled.
That did not stop them though as they resumed their winning ways with a 4-wicket win over a desperate South Africa at Edgbaston and a 5-run win over the West Indies.
Losses in their last two games against Australia by 86 runs and the 119-run demolition against England, left the Black Caps with much to think about ahead of their semi final against India.
New Zealand’s innings was interrupted on Tuesday and the sides had to return on the Wednesday to complete the match, with New Zealand eventually posting 239 for 8 in their 50 overs.
But Matt Henry provided the perfect start in defence of their total, ending with 3-37 in 10 overs as India faltered to 221 all out, sending New Zealand into their second-consecutive World Cup final.
Who can win it?
England are favourites – no doubt – as their team performances have revolved around a number of players, not to mention home-ground advantage.
Joe Root, Johnny Bairstow and Jason Roy have scored 1471 between them at a combined average of 63 while Ben Stokes (381 runs at 54.42) and captain Morgan (362 runs at 45.25) have provided excellent support. The only one out of the five players not to have scored a century in this year’s event has been Stokes, who has a top score of 89.
New Zealand on the other hand have relied heavily on their captain, Williamson, to carry the torch. Williamson has scored 548 runs at 91.33 with New Zealand’s next-best, Ross Taylor, sitting a lowly 19th on the runs chart with 335 runs at 41.87. This could count heavily against the Black Caps.
On the bowling front, no one is going to catch Australia’s Mitchell Starc, who has claimed a record 27 wickets with England’s West Indian connection Jofra Archer sitting on 19 scalps.
New Zealand’s bowling is where their strength lies as Lockie Ferguson (18 wickets) and Trent Boult (17 wickets) have torn through top-orders at will. The pair are well supported by Henry and James Neesham who have claimed 25 wickets between them.
England, on the other hand, need Archer to perform with the likes of Mark Wood (17 wickets) and Chris Woakes (13 wickets) to step up alongside.
Leg-spinner Adil Rashid (11 wickets) could be key but England will need Stokes (7 wickets) to really step up to the allrounder mantle and perform with the ball.
The pressure of the home crowd might just play into New Zealand’s hands with England “choking” (yes – I used the word) but the Black Caps are going to need their top-order to step up and support Williamson if they are to compliment their bowlers.
England should get over the line at the fourth time of asking. Despite trailing on the bowling front, I feel that they have a stronger batting line up with the bowlers to defend a large total, should they bat first.
I am going to go with England lifting the trophy for the first time. Although my heart really wants New Zealand to lift the cup and this is based on one solitary fact – the English crowd!
As much as we love to hate the Aussies, especially after Sandpaper-Gate, Steve Smith and David Warner have served their time and the way the English fans have boo-ed the pair has been nothing short of disgusting. And for that sole fact, I hope Williamson and his charges end Sunday on the right side of the result.