No matter what happens on Sunday, we will have a new champion, someone who has never before held the World Cup trophy aloft, which alone makes it kind of exciting.
England are the world’s number one team, hosts, and, pre-tournament, were huge favourites to win the trophy. Even India, the second favourites pre-tournament, were miles behind with the bookmakers, and it dipped even further to third favourites Australia. While there was a bit of a logjam from fourth favourites South Africa through to New Zealand, West Indies and Pakistan in fifth, sixth and seventh.
New Zealand making the semi-finals wasn’t entirely a shock, though them making it all the way to the final is. If they were to win, it’d be as big an upset as when India beat West Indies back in 1983, as the biggest upset in World Cup final history.
England are currently massive favourites to win the final, paying out about 3 to 1, but realistically the chances for New Zealand are much lower than that. Trying to find a way for New Zealand to win has been causing a lot of head-scratching, with most saying that they should just do whatever it is they did to beat India.
And just how did they beat India?
Bowling well? Having the rain cause it to go into a second day? Batting first? Or were India just complacent? Something tells me that England won’t be taking any chances, not after they were nearly knocked out of the tournament after their shock loss to Sri Lanka.
England could lose it, make no mistake about that. Kane Williamson is in better form than any of England’s batsmen, while New Zealand’s bowlers have had a pretty good tournament. Especially Lockie Ferguson, who few had heard of before the tournament began and is now somewhat of a household name. But England just have so much more.
While New Zealand have a number of players who don’t seem to be doing a whole lot, England has powerhouse players from number 1 to 11. James Neesham and Colin de Grandhomme are great on their day but most matches they have failed, the same for both of New Zealand’s openers. There is nobody in the England camp that is going poorly. Not a soul.
Perhaps the biggest difference is the strike rate. England can strike at much more than a run a ball while maintaining more than healthy averages very easily, and New Zealand’s batsmen aren’t really doing that. While Kane Williamson has an incredible average this tournament, his strike rate is hovering around 70, and few in the New Zealand camp are striking particularly well.
For New Zealand to win they’ll have to bowl England out, I expect. If England bat first, then any total over about 250 will be tough. If New Zealand bat first then they shouldn’t worry too much about what total they get, so long as they bat their 50 overs then bowl well, as they won’t be able to defend the total unless they bowl England out. Even 350 would be chased down easily if England have wickets in hand. So perhaps just aiming for something over 200 and then bowl well is enough.
Australia did that in their semi-final and lost with almost 20 overs to spare, so it’s not a recipe that guarantees success but it’s probably New Zealand’s best chance. This is looking very, very tough for New Zealand, but the one thing they have going for them is that nobody expected them to beat India either, so perhaps they can pull off one of the greatest upsets in World Cup history by winning this final against the odds.
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Five Fearless Predictions:
(1) England will win
This does not look close at all. If it is anything other than a one-sided dominating match then it will be an upset. It won’t just be an upset if New Zealand win: it will be an upset if New Zealand get to within 100 runs of England, or, if they bat first, if it takes England into the last 10 overs to get the runs, or they lose more than 5 wickets. England have been building up to this while New Zealand simply haven’t.
(2) Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow will fire
Since Jason Roy’s return from injury, these two have been incredible. They were pretty good early in the tournament but now they just look invincible. They are getting consistent big partnerships at a quick rate. We can just about guarantee centuries for both of them at better than a run a ball. It’d be a shock if we don’t get at least one century from one of them.
(3) Jofra Archer will dominate
A lot has been written about Jofra Archer’s supposed Twitter predictions. While it’s a bit of a manipulation, we can’t disguise the fact that he has had a bumper tournament, better than even the most optimistic fans had thought it would be, and, in the tournament final, he looks set to shine even harder.
(4) Kane Williamson will put up his little fort
The way that Kane Williamson has batted has been described as like a soldier defending a castle against an invasion by far superior numbers, and that looks set to continue. He’ll refuse to get out, no matter what happens, dig in to bat out the entire 50 overs, and get as many runs as he possibly can before then. If chasing, he will do whatever he has to in order to get New Zealand over the line. He’s been incredible this World Cup and that looks set to continue.
(5) New Zealand will go down fighting
The margin might be big, like it was in the 2015 final, or it might be one of those rare close World Cup finals, but whatever the margin is don’t expect New Zealand to give up without a fight. If the total is too big, they will go for those risky shots and be bowled out. If they lose too many wickets while setting a total, they will refuse to be bowled out too cheaply. If England’s batting are too strong, they will throw everything at them. This is not a side that gives up. Even in their three losses in a row, they fought hard, and they will do that here too.