After 46 one-sided matches, and two pulsating encounters – both featuring New Zealand -- the 2015 World Cup has finally arrived at its destination. Unarguably, the two best sides will be competing for the trophy at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday. Australia and New Zealand were always favourites to make it to the MCG on March 29 ever since the competition began. What had to be seen was whether the Kiwis could break the semi-final hoodoo. They did, and with an amazingly fantastic performance under pressure against the South Africans, who were unlucky yet again.
Although New Zealand have been unbeaten in the tournament, the bookies as well as cricket experts are giving the Aussies a better chance of winning. One of the key reasons for the same is the fact that New Zealand have not played a single game in Australia since the start of the World Cup. All their matches have been in New Zealand, which also included a close win against Australia by one wicket. The conditions would thus be heavily loaded in the Aussies’ favour. There would be plenty of home support as well for Australia, and New Zealand might also have to face the wrath of the crowd.
For the Kiwis to do well in the final, their key performers for so far will have to stand up again. The start by Brendon McCullum will be most crucial. Whether batting first or second, the Kiwi skipper can give his side great momentum early on if his swashbuckling tactics come off in the final. The opening spells by Trent Boult and Tim Southee will also be extremely important in the context of the final. Daniel Vettori would most likely be making his final international appearance, so he would like to sign off on a high. On the big day, Kiwis would also look for significant contributions from the likes of Kane Williamson, Grant Elliot and Corey Anderson.
Speaking of hosts Australia, they have ruthless in the World Cup; their only loss coming to the team they are meeting in the final, and that too was a close encounter. Skipper Michael Clarke has announced that he would quit ODIs after the final on Sunday, so his teammates would be keen on giving their captain a memorable send off. Australia would be buoyed by the return to form of Mitchell Johnson, who fired with both bat and ball against India in the semis. Further, Mitchell Starc has been in amazing form as well, and would be keen to replicate his destructive act the last time these teams met. Josh Hazlewood’s inclusion in place of Pat Cummins has certainly proved a lot more productive for Australia.
If there is one worry for Australia, it is right at the top of the order. David Warner hasn’t been among the runs for a while now. But, the left-hander is a big match player. And, if he sets his sights on a big one at Melbourne, he could single-handedly take the game away from the Kiwis. His partner Aaron Finch did well to hang around and get some runs against the Indians even as Steve Smith went all guns blazing again. Power hitter Glenn Maxwell is another is another big threat for New Zealand, and then there is Shane Watson as well. Kiwis have a massive task on hand.
--By A Cricket Analyst