New Zealand will look to dismiss Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow early in the innings as both the teams brace for their first World Cup title.

 

England can now sniff the victory and this is the closest they have ever been in the last 27 years. On the flip side, New Zealand, the most consistent team in the World Cups since 1975, will look to accomplish what they couldn’t in their last campaign after reaching the finals. But one thing is clear. A new nation will lift the World Cup trophy this year at the Lord’s cricket ground.

England, once precariously placed fifth in the points table with Pakistan hovering around at the number four slot, made sure they defeated India in a must-win game and later pulverised New Zealand to further consolidate their position in the semi-finals. On Thursday, they steamrolled five-time world champions, Australia, as if it was just another bilateral series for them. Their journey so far has been the stuff of folklore.

Now, in the finals, it would take the guile of Kane Williamson’s captaincy and skill of Kiwi bowlers if they are to halt England incarnate and elude them from their first ever World Cup win.

Make no mistake, New Zealand are no underdogs here especially after they squatted pre-tournament favourties, India. Eoin Morgan too realises this. “New Zealand have been the hardest to beat,” he said at the post-match presentation after beating Australia.

New Zealand doesn’t boast stars like India, Australia and England. They are methodical in their approach and somehow know how to crack the code of performing well in a big tournament like World Cup.

Be that as it may, it’s their bowling that has earned them a place in the finals. Trent Bolt with the new ball is poetry in motion and the slope at Lord’s should help his bowling style particularly with the delivery that comes back in. Australian bowlers showed it against England during the group stage match when Jason Behrendroff and Mitchell Starc gave no breathing space to English batsmen. New Zealand can definitely replicate it.

Probably the only way to stop England’s run would be to rip through their top order – Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root. Not that they have a weak middle-order like India and Australia, but Williamson must have made notes of Morgna’s weakness against short deliveries.

But England is a team that has the momentum and is on a rampage at the moment. They have ticked all the boxes right so far since the return of Roy.

If the first semi-final between India and New Zealand witnessed a topsy-turvy journey till the end, it was a one-sided game in the second semi-final, a ho-hum affair by comparison, largely due to Roy’s fearless batting. His fast-paced innings helps the rest of the batsmen in dusting down the nerves and there is never a pressure of run rate when he is on the pitch.

The middle-order is powered by the likes of Root, one of the leading scorers in the tournament and Jos Buttler, “the new Dhoni of world cricket.”

Barbados-born Jofra Archer has justified why he was fast-tracked into the side. He is leak-proof in his approach. For most of his bowling, there are no warm-up deliveries and is right on the money from ball one (Finch was trapped plumb on Archer’s first delivery that nipped back in during the second semi-final).

When the world is talking about England’s campaign since 2015, another finalists, New Zealand are more than happy to be away from the spotlight. Their captain, Kane Williamson, has always held the fort when the team was in dire need. Their experienced opener, Martin Guptill, the leading scorer in 2015 World Cup, has not been able to provide the black caps with a good start but Dhoni’s run-out must have given him immense amount of confidence. He is perhaps just an innings away to score big for his team, like Adam Gilchrist did in 2007 World Cup finals.New Zealand’s batting revolves around Williamson and Ross Taylor but others need to step up and score big against England for whom anything under 250 is chickenfeed by their standards.

Sunday’s game is going to be the battle of nerves, skills and temperament. It’s also a day when a new world champion will emerge victorious to become the sixth nation ever to lift the title.v

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