Champika Fernando at Lord's
These are not the finals many anticipated, heading into the semis. But New Zealand and England produced stunning performances to see off two-time World Cup champions India and five-time semifinal winners Australia to book their places in Sunday's final at Lord's.
Whoever wins, it will be their first World Cup victory. The odds are hugely in favour of England who have produced some stunning performances in the last fortnight. It will be a remarkable turnaround in white-ball cricket for the Englishmen, a transformation that started after they were dumped out of the 2015 edition. Under Eoin Morgan, the Irish-born skipper, England’s approach to the one-day game has completely. They now play a fearless brand of cricket, regularly scoring 300 plus scores.
Nevertheless, England have had a tricky passage to the final, with losses to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia in the group stage. They were even in danger of crashing out but they returned spectacularly. They beat India and New Zealand in the last group games and ended with a comfortable win in the semis over archrivals Australia.
England likely have the best balanced side in world cricket at present. With an order that can bat deep down and a bowling unit that can intimidate batsmen with their pace, bounce and variation, the team looks invincible on paper. In Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow they have a devastating opening combination while Morgan, Joe Root, Bens Stoke, Jos Buttler can dig deep to give the team the advantage. Their bowling, too, has been exceptional with the Barbados-born Jofra Archer and Chris Woakes leading the charge.
New Zealand started off dominantly, beating Sri Lanka by ten wickets in their tournament opener, but lost their first round games to Australia, Pakistan and India. But their performance in the first semi-final (played across two days due to incessant rain in Manchester) was a statement that they were there on serious business. In a low scoring thriller, New Zealand broke the hearts of the cricket-man Indians by beating the team handsomely to enter the final (their second in a row).
Having fallen at the last hurdle to the Australians in 2015, Kane Williamson’s men will now look to turn their fortunes around. A lot will depend on skipper Williamson shoulders and their potent bowling attack, their greatest strength so far in the tournament. New Zealand’s weakness is their openers. Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls and Collin Munro have been tried at the top of the order but, except in the opening games, they have struggled to put runs on the board, leaving Williamson and Ross Taylor to shoulder the burden. The Kiwis will hope their misfiring openers will produce results today.
What they said: England skipper Eoin Morgan
“It means a huge amount to me and everybody in the changing room,” said Morgan at the post match press conference in Lord’s yesterday. “It's a culmination of four years of hard work, dedication, a lot of planning and it presents a huge opportunity to go on and try and win a World Cup. I think for everybody around the country, the support we've had throughout has been unquestionable and that's -- as a team, that is, you know, it makes you feel extremely lucky to be part of a team that has that sort of support.”
New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson:
“A lot of people say that (underdog) on a number of occasions which is great and I think England rightly so deserve to be favourites,” said Williamson. “Coming into this tournament from the start, they were favourites and they've been playing really good cricket. But whatever dog we are, it's just important that we focus on the cricket that we want to play and we have seen over the years that anybody can beat anybody regardless of breed of dog.”
With no injury concerns, there seems to be little reason for a change.
Probable XI: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood
The concern for them is that three of their batsmen have not hit form as yet. Colin Munro is expected to be drafted in, in place of the misfiring Henry Nicholls.
Probable XI: Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), James Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson