England and New Zealand, two nations with a proud cricketing history, prepare to do battle at the hallowed ground of Lord’s on Sunday. One of them will win and etch their name on the trophy for the first time, because neither nation has done this since this tournament began in 1975.
‘It’s coming home’
England reached the finals of the 1979 World Cup but got thrashed by Clive Lloyd’s mighty West Indies. They should have won the 1987 final at the Eden Gardens in Kolkata, but skipper Mike Gatting gave it away with a reverse sweep to his Aussie counterpart Alan Border.
An inspired Pakistan side led by Imran Khan denied them in the 1992 final. The meme doing the rounds before this tournament was “It’s coming home," inspired by a fan song in the Football World Cup last year. It’s almost there.
Kiwis flying in under the radar
New Zealand has been a constant bridesmaid in the World Cup, starting from the inaugural one in 1975 when they reached the semi-final. They reached six more semi-finals after that, and finally made it to the final in 2015 where hosts Australia beat them. They will be just as desperate as England to go one better this time. The team under Kane Williamson’s captaincy is more calculating and measured than the previous one under the pyrotechnic Brendon McCullum. Sunday will show if this works better.
England openers Jonny Bairstow and Jason Roy, especially the latter, hold the key to their attack mode which they adopted after the last World Cup. But an overcast day at Lord’s can make the Kiwi seamers as lethal as they were against India in the semi-final. Australian left-handers Mitchell Starc and Jason Behrendorff blew away England for 221 in the league game at Lord’s, albeit in Roy’s absence. Kiwi spearhead Trent Boult, who also swings the ball left-handed, will hope to do the same in the final.
Low-key Kiwi batting
New Zealand have come through the league and semi-final in low-scoring encounters, playing smart cricket in challenging conditions. So a bowler-friendly Lord’s may be more to their liking. Their openers Martin Guptill and Henry Nichols have been failing in game after game, leaving Williamson with the burden of carrying the team. He has scored nearly one-third of the team’s runs so far, but will hope Guptill, double centurion in the last World Cup, will make a positive start on Sunday.
Archer is the trump card
England had already reached the top of the heap in one-day cricket with its brand of positive cricket over the last four years. But Jofra Archer from Barbados, who only became eligible to play for England two months before the World Cup, has given the team the X factor that wins tournaments. He has lived up to expectations, being one of the leading wicket-takers of the World Cup. His 150 kph bouncer off an ambling runup keeps batsmen pegged back and vulnerable to the good length ball that moves off the seam. He could bring home the trophy for the team that fast-tracked him into cricket’s showcase event.
Sumit Chakraberty is the author of 2019 Cricket World Cup Thinking Cap