After 49 games across six weeks the cricket World Cup has come to its end point at the MCG with a final for the ages between the best team in the tournament so far in New Zealand and the tournament favourites in Australia.
These teams faced each other in the pool games in one of the matches of the tournament at Eden Park that saw the Black Caps victorious by the closest of margins. New Zealand rode a wave of crowd support home to best the South Africans in one of the most exciting cricket games in my recent memory to get into the final. Australia dominated an Indian team that they have dominated all season and that, frankly, just gave up in the other semi final.
Here are my 5 keys to victory in the World Cup final:
- How will Australia handle the hype? Anointed as the prohibitively short priced favourites at the start of this tournament the bulk of the press in the lead up to this game will be saying that an Australian win is a fait accompli. How they handle the pressure and the expectations on them will be crucial to the outcome of this game. Australia will not want another result like the 1996 final.
- How will New Zealand handle the hype? As much as they would like to downplay it, this is the biggest game of cricket in New Zealand’s history. They have had the support of a nation throughout this tournament and that weight of expectation must rest heavy on them. Their reaction to comments about the size of the MCG and its impact on their play has been measured and amusing which is a good sign as to how they are handling things so far.
- Warner v MacCullum: The starts for both teams will be vital given that this may be the first final in the history of the tournament where 400 is the winning score. Brendan MacCullum is the Black Caps talisman: he fires and they fire and, frankly, they win. He has gone very hard at every bowling attack he has faced so far and when it has come off it has been spectacular. If he is still at the crease at the 25 over mark New Zealand wins. David Warner plays a similar role for Australia albeit he has been less effective in tournament than one expected. His 178 against Afghanistan aside he has not fired. If he does though in this final the third 200 of the tournament is not out of his range. Again: if he is still in at the 25 over point, Australia wins.
- Vettori v Maxwell: It feels strange to put these two players in the same category but their impact on their respective teams with the ball could be turning point of this final. Maxwell is Australia’s spinner in this game and projects as its 5th bowler. He must keep his run rate below 5 rpo to keep pressure on the kiwi batters and to ensure Clarke does not need to revert to other part time bowlers to get the 5th 10 bowled. Vettori is possibly New Zealand’s greatest player and is the mainstay of the bowling attack. His 10 overs will be vital because he has the ability to slow the run rate and is also a wicket taker. If the Australian team gets to him and his overs go for over 60 then New Zealand might be in trouble.
- Catches win matches: Both Australia and New Zealand are wonderful fielding units. Both catch well, save runs with their ground fielding and hit the stumps with unnerving regularity. The importance of fielding can not be undersold in this game because, afterall, if South Africa had fielded well against the Black Caps in the semi final they would be playing on Sunday. The team that fields the best in the final will win this game.
A fantastic game of cricket awaits us. I have to declare that before the tournament started I had a wager on New Zealand to win the game and my head is still telling me that they should be favourites. My heart though is screaming that this will be Australia’s game!
Bring on Sunday!