Both Australia and New Zealand will go into the World Cup final on Sunday as favourites. New Zealand has remained unbeaten throughout the tournament and Australia has beaten big teams with a big margin that included the three all time favourites – India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan.
However, McCullum’s side will take the field in historic Melbourne Cricket Ground with a win in their ledger against the co-host in a league game back home.
It has been a dream run for the Kiwis in this tournament with both its bowling and batting clicking. While McCullum, Guptill, Williamson and Elliot devastated the opponents with bat the bowlers Southee, Boult and Vettori have wrecked the best of batting line-ups.
On the other hand Clark’s side looking a composed one has suddenly morphed into a dangerous one in their last game against India, the semi-final, which was billed as final before the finals. Stephen Smith is certainly riding on a glorious form, Glenn Maxwell is looking unstoppable with his 360-degree shot making, Mitchell Johnson appears to be back where the Aussie fans believe he belongs and Starc is just one wicket away from being a highest wicket-taker in the tournament.
Last time the two teams have met in decisive game of the World Cup was in 1996 at Chennai. In a high scoring game New Zealand heaped up 286 with Chris Harris scoring brilliant 130 and then Captain Lee Germon anchoring his side with solid 89. But Australia got past score, thanks to Waugh twins. Mark continued his good form scoring 110 and Steve raced on with 59.
That was the last ever meeting between the two in a decisive or a knock-out game.
Historically, Australia has stamped itself a big brother of a contest with 85 wins in overall 126 contests. But in one department where the Kiwis have been better off the Oz is rapid on-field improvisation. And certainly not the kind of improvisation Aussies are infamous for in neighbouring nation. That Greg Chappel asking his bowler to roll an underarm delivery not letting the batsmen to have a go at six needed off the last ball of the game. Just rewind the archives and see or read how Stephen Fleming crafted the field setting to dry big drive from Hayden, bigger pull from Gilchrist, smooth drive from Ponting, effortless cut from Martyn and flick from Waughs. Fast bowlers from Headley and Shane Bond to now Boult chose a game against Australia to give more than the best.
But Cricket is a cruel game…It will not reward you for just improvisation alone. An urge to come victorious every time is what the Australians are known for. And they will be willing to trade the winning for the cost of improvisation, if Kiwis go for the latter.
The spectators will well be looking forward for a run-feast and they deserve it too in a tournament where the ball has landed in the crowd nearly 500 times. However, some commentators have expressed their apprehensions about the New Zealanders batters and especially skipper Brendon McCullum finding the MCG boundaries few yards longer than the home grounds.
However, more than just the size, both the teams may have to keep the measure of nerves to come out on the winning side in a big-battle, big-wits and who knows may be a big-mouth game too.