After two Semi Finals that will live long in the memory for different reasons, the 2019 Cricket World Cup Final will be between England and New Zealand, at Lords on Sunday July 14th, with one of these proud cricketing nations about to make history and pick up their first ever World Cup trophy.
Here, we review how they made it to the big dance and preview the final itself.
S/F #1 – India v New Zealand (Old Trafford – Tuesday 9 & Wednesday 10 July)
In our preview piece, we listed three things New Zealand had to do if they were to have any chance of beating India, who had only lost one game to date throughout the tournament :
Bat First – New Zealand did this and whilst their total was lower than hoped for (239/8), it was a total to defend
Batting Support to Kane Williamson – Williamson did his job, as usual, when the openers were both dismissed cheaply, but Ross Taylor stood up and was counted, helping the Kiwis to a total that was respectable
Get early Indian wickets – The Kiwi bowling attack was superb in reducing India in their run chase to 5/3 and then 24/4
The drama here unfolded towards the end of the Kiwi innings. There were about 6 overs left of their 50 scheduled on Tuesday, when the rain came and ended the days play. Unlike for the group stage, there was a reserve day scheduled, so they came back on Wednesday and completed the game. But this did two thing; it took the sting out of the Indian dominance they had – they were certainly ahead when the rains came – and changed the wicket somewhat – the Kiwis also able to regroup and refocus.
Getting those three Indian batsmen out all for just one run each (Rahul, Sharma and Kohli) inspired the New Zealand outfit and despite something of a fight back from MS Dhoni and Jadeja, they were always too far back to have a realistic chance of overhauling the Kiwi total, and finished 18 runs shy when last man Chahal was caught behind.
India will feel hard done to by the loss after being the best team overall in the group stages, but it was New Zealand who proceeded to Lords and their second successive World Cup Final appearance
New Zealand 239/8 (Taylor 74, Williamson 67) – (Kumar 3/43)
India 221 all out (Jadeja 77, Dhoni 50, Pant 32) – (Henry 3/37, Santner 2/34)
NEW ZEALAND WIN BY 18 RUNS
S/F #2 England v Australia (Edgbaston – Thursday 11 July)
England demolished their old enemy and strolled into the World Cup Final on the back of their best performance in this years tournament (so far) and looking every inch the pre tournament favourites to win the whole thing.
Australia won the toss and decided to bat on a wicket that looked very good; there is little doubt England would have done the same also. David Warner smacked the first ball of the innings for four – but that, literally, was as good as it got for the Aussies, who proceeded to have their batting line up blown apart by Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer, who reduced Australia to 14/3 and struggling along at just over 2 runs per over. A mini revival between Steve Smith and Alex Carey, who fought bravely on after having his helmet knocked off by a brutal Archer bouncer, gave the Aussies some hope of a decent total to defend – but Adil Rashid proved that the England attack isn’t all about pace and bounce – taking three crucial mid innings wickets and piling on the English pressure. Australia would end up being bowled out for 223 – at least 100 runs short of what they would have wanted to defend against the English batting.
But, as has been seen, England have struggled when the pressure is exerted – and although the total wasn’t huge, they would still take some getting on this big stage in a knockout game. Australia would need to do to England what England did to them – and get rid of the English openers early.
However, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow are about the best opening combo in world ODI cricket, and they strode to the crease looking confident, assured – and positive, as suggested they would need to be. They simply destroyed the potent Aussie bowling attack, treating the frenzied Edgbaston crowd to a display of batting that defied belief considering the circumstances. Where Australia had struggled, England thrived, and ball after ball was sent to the boundary in another century opening stand to take the game by the scruff of the neck. Both would eventually fall – Bairstow LBW and Roy getting a brute of a decision, given caught behind when nowhere near touching the ball – but Joe Root and skipper Eoin Morgan simply carried on where the openers left, and brought the game home with an amazing 18 overs to spare.
It was a stunning, complete performance and one that MUST give England such a boost going into the final. Their only concern would be an apparent groin injury to Bairstow who slipped when taking a run – England will be hopeful he is fit as his partnership with Roy is a cricketing match made in heaven.
Australia 223 all out (Smith 85, Carey 46) – (Woakes 3/20, Rashid 3/54)
England 226/2 (Roy 85, Root 49no, Morgan 45no, Bairstow 34) – (Cummins 1/34)
ENGLAND WON BY 8 WICKETS
Sunday’s final will be a fantastic showpiece and a fitting end to what has been a sensational Cricket World Cup. Both India and Australia will feel aggrieved at missing out after being such superb outfits throughout the group stages – and Virat Kohli was somewhat critical of the format after his team was eliminated by New Zealand : “You finish No 1 in the table and then a spell of bad cricket and you are out of the tournament completely. But you have to accept it.”
But England and New Zealand will not care a jot – they have made the final and know that one of these teams will, for the first time ever, be lifting the ODI World Cup trophy aloft on Sunday evening. The weather forecast is set fair, and the Lords pitch will offer something for batsmen and bowlers alike.
England will obviously – rightly – start as favourites to win the game. As host nation, making the knockout stage was the minimum requirement. They have beaten New Zealand comfortably already, and their crucial wins over India and then Australia, when the pressure was really on, have erased the memories of the group stage losses that threatened their qualification. They look a complete team with few weaknesses. Everyone knows their role, and they all play a crucial part in what is a superb team effort. There is no doubt that this is their biggest and best opportunity ever to lift a World Cup. More of the same is all that’s needed, most will feel.
New Zealand cannot be taken lightly – and they will feel that they can once against throw a spanner into the works and win against seemingly insurmountable odds. In Kane Williamson they have an astute skipper and one of the batsmen of the tournament, and several players capable of making a huge impact on the game. Mitchell Santner has been turning the ball right angles, and in Lockie Ferguson and Trent Boult, strike bowlers who can remove even the most stubborn of wickets. The Kiwis are great in the field and will put their bodies on the line to prevent any run possible. But, as with India, the feeling is that they must play their ‘A’ game and their opponents be under par to win. New Zealand are a very good side – but a class and shade below England.
Who can handle the nerves best? Who will step up and win this for their team?
It will be a magnificent occasion – and we feel ENGLAND will be victorious on home soil.