England and NewZealand will face each other tomorrow at Lords for the Cricket World Cup trophy. This will be the first time these two teams will compete against one another in a Cricket World Cup finals, and whatever the outcome is, we will have a new world cup winner(s) on July 14th.
Why this is good for the game
The last time a team other than Australia or India won the World Cup was in 1996 when SriLanka were crowned champions after beating the Aussies. Since then, Australia has won 4 and India 1 World Cup trophy. Although it is premature and utterly wrong to say that their dominance of world cricket is coming to an end, it is indeed refreshing to see two teams who have never won a World Cup before, compete with one another for the big prize. This will be England’s 4th final and NewZealand’s 2nd. It only augurs well for the game to have a new champion this year. In a way, this also provides much needed impetus for other countries such as Bangladesh, SriLanka and WestIndies to up their ODI game over the next 4 years and try their hand too at the big prize.
Why this is good especially for 50 over Cricket
A new champion this year will also provide the momentum the 50 over version of the game badly needs. Test cricket and T20 cricket are at opposite ends of the spectrum, and doing well in their own ways. They will continue to grow in popularity and will never cease to exist. Test Cricket is for the purists and T20 for the impatient. You need Test Cricket to preserve the history of the game, and you need T20 to make it more popular. But stuck in the middle is the 50 over version. For the new followers of the game, it is considered a day long, extensive and seemingly endless version. When there is T20 Cricket alongside, why play the 50 over version? If not for the existence of the World Cup, 50 over Cricket could eventually die a slow death. And the dominance of a very few teams in this version does not help either. That is why seeing two different teams in the final and the chance of crowning a brand new champion in 2019 is so refreshing, and restores the beauty of the 50 over game back to where it belongs.
Two very different teams
The Kiwis have this tendency of slipping under the radar, and no one knows or even remembers the matches they won or lost. No one considers them to be favourites for any big ICC trophy. At best they were considered to finish 4th/5th in the league this time. They aren’t the most flamboyant of cricketers, they hardly sledge, they don’t question the decisions of the umpires, and they don’t give angry press conferences. They just come and play Cricket obediently and go back to their dressing rooms. And now they are in the World Cup finals for the second time in succession! They are indeed the nice boys of the game.
England on the other hand started this tournament as favourites. Well, they were and are still my favourites for the trophy this time. They came in with a lot of attention placed on them, having been the most improved side since the 2015 World Cup when they faced an ignominious exit. The English side over the last 4 years has seen a lot of drama, changes in personnel, controversies and most importantly tremendous improvement in the way they play the game. A lot of talk has centered around how Eoin Morgan and his troops will ward off the pressures they face and whether they have it in them to finally win a major ICC trophy. The last time an English side entered the finals of the World Cup was more than 9500 days ago, in March 1992. This is their chance to make history.
In short, this game is between England’s batting and NewZealand’s bowling. That might seem belittling to the massive contributions from Kane Williamson and the English bowlers. But such has been the might of the Poms’ batting and the Kiwi bowling that you feel the game could be won/lost in these departments. If England score in excess of 320, you feel that the Kiwis don’t have the batting to chase that down. But if boult and co can do some damage early on, the story changes altogether. The toss once again becomes crucial. With all that pressure going in to the game, batting first ‘should’ be an easier task. NewZealand might not agree with it though! But no team will want to chase down a considerably huge total in the finals of a major competition.
Boult v Roy
These players once again feature in my match-ups for obvious reasons. Boult with the new ball is a menace that Roy as a right-hander has to overcome. The ball coming in from over the wicket will be dangerous. Roy did well to more Than see off Starc in the semi-finals, but I felt Starc was not at his best too. He was all over the place and did not hit the right lengths. Boult would have watched that game on tape and will know exactly what to do. Roy on the other hand knows just one way to play the game, and he will have a go right from the beginning. It will be a fascinating contest.
Rashid v Williamson
Captain Kane holds the key to the Kiwi batting once again. He has been NewZealand’s best and most reliable batter over the last 4 years and has shown considerable intent during this World Cup. A definite match-winner in his own right, Williamson though struggled a bit against Jadeja and Chahal in the semi-finals and is definitely not the best starter against spin bowling. His battles against Rashid will be good to watch. Rashid had a memorable semi-final game against the Aussies and his performances usually go under the radar. But being the only spinner in the English side, he will have a massive role to play against Williamson, Ross Taylor and Neesham. His googlies have become unreadable and he will be looking to spin a web around the Kiwis batsmen in the finals.
My playing 11s
England (no changes) – Roy, Bairstow, Root, Morgan, Stokes, Buttler, Woakes, Rashid, Plunkett, Archer, Wood
NewZealand – (possibly one change) – Munro/Nicholls, Guptill, Williamson, Ross Taylor, Neesham, Grandhomme, Latham, Santner, Henry, Ferguson, Boult