After 5 weeks, 49 matches, and a whole raft of memorable performances, the Cricket World Cup comes to its conclusion on Sunday at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. Hosts Australia will be gunning for their fourth world cup in the last 16 years, while their opponents and co-hosts New Zealand are making their World Cup final bow. It promises to be a thrilling spectacle to close what has been a revolutionary World Cup.
Before the World Cup, these two sides were many people’s favourites to progress to the final, and so it has turned out. However, the ride has been far from smooth for both Australia and the New Zealand. Australia have had to deal with a growing and intense pressure from an expectant home crowd, all the while trying to find their best XI. New Zealand on the other hand, appeared to breeze through the pool stages, remaining unbeaten, and delivering some serious defeats to both England and Australia, before facing stiff competition from South Africa in their semi final.
The pool match between these sides in Auckland was as exciting as ODI cricket can be. Both sides went for the jugular and perused an attacking brand of cricket rarely seen before. If the two teams can reproduce a match anywhere near to that standard, then we are in for a treat.
New Zealand hold the momentum and mental advantage over their fellow hosts after that thrilling pool stage win. But in terms of World Cup final experience, the Kiwi’s can be considered huge underdogs. Australia have won 3 of the last 4 world cups and seem to have the ability to save their best performances for when it truly matters.
Australia secured their place at the MCG with a comprehensive victory over a previously unbeaten Indian side in the semi finals. Steve Smith led the way with a superb hundred, and the pace attack of Starc, Johnson, Hazlewood and Faulkner finished the job in Sydney. New Zealand had a slightly tougher time, being involved in arguably the match of the tournament against a much-fancied South African side. The cool calm head of Grant Elliott steered the Kiwi’s home, and set up this all antipodean clash in the final.
The final will see some exciting and key battles fought between the two sides. New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum has forged a reputation during this tournament for his blistering starts and he will hope to continue that on Sunday. However, in what promises to be a riveting battle, he will come up against Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc. Both bowlers have been bowling consistently near 90mph in the tournament, while also taking wickets and remaining economical to boot.
This match looks set to be a classic, and if Australia’s pace attack is to be feared, then so to is New Zealand’s. Trent Boult and Tim Southee have been outstanding thus far, indeed England fans will struggle to forget Southee’s terrific spell against them last month. The way in which Clarke and his men combat their threat will be crucial to the final result.
Regardless of the result on Sunday, with the two sides in red-hot form and containing some of the world’s most exciting ODI players, we look set for a great finish to the 2015 Cricket World Cup.