February 20, 2015. Westpac Stadium. Wellington. England’s ultimate hour of humiliation. Tim Southee takes 7/33, England is decimated for 123. New Zealand chase the total down in just 12.2 overs. It was so bad that even the floodlights for this Day-Night encounter were not on and England fans had not even woken up to catch the match on TV back home. England was eliminated in the first round, New Zealand reached the final where they were beaten by Australia. Four years later, after the humiliation at Wellington, England are in the final and in a divine Act of Providence, they square up against the team which resulted in humiliation and ultimate transformation. The ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 has seen the end of the hegemony of Australia and India. At Lord’s on July 14, there WILL be a new world champion.
For England, the final is four years of planning, revamping and total change of outlook to be where they are. After the Wellington humiliation, England transformed into ‘New England’. Gone was the team which played cricket like the 90s. This was an England team that pushed the boundaries of aggression. At the helm of their transformation has been Eoin Morgan, an Irishman. Batsmen like Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes have changed the way England perceive their ODI cricket and their ruthlessness, aggression and fearless cricket make them a sight. Add Joe Root’s solidity and Morgan’s calmness and England’s batting is intimidating.
Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett and Mark Wood offer pace, accuracy, hostility and guile. Rashid is playing through the pain of a shoulder injury but such is the determination of England to achieve the glory that they are willing to push themselves to the next level. The heartache of 1979, 1987, 1992 and losses in the 2013 Champions Trophy final and the 2016 World T20 are all driving forces for England to shed their tag of ‘perennial underachievers.’
At the other end, the other ‘perennial underachievers’ are showing their alchemy in ICC World Cups. New Zealand, a population of 1/100th of India and a cricket budget which is 1/8th of England, show that on the big stage, there is none better than them. For New Zealand, this is another chance to come out of the giant shadow of the All Blacks, the all-conquering Rugby team considered the greatest sporting team of all time. New Zealand had missed the chance in 2015 in Melbourne. They have a chance in 2019 at the home of cricket.
Kane Williamson’s tactical acumen has grown in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, as it was experienced by his batting approach and captaincy during the semi-final against India. Unlike England, Williamson and Ross Taylor are the only batsmen contributing. Martin Guptill and the other batsmen have failed for consistency. In the bowling, there is only Matt Henry, Trent Boult and Lockie Ferguson who have been impressive with Mitchell Santner showing his worth against India.
With so little resources and support, they have had to resort to cunning and New Zealand have mastered that brilliantly. However, on the big stage, can New Zealand handle the pressure and not repeat the mistakes of 2015? The situation is similar. In Melbourne, 93000 Australians were behind the team. Here, 30,000 England supporters and millions outside will be gunning for Morgan’s side to finally shed the underachiever tag. For New Zealand, this is an ideal opportunity to spoil the party and stake their name in the history books.
For Eoin Morgan, he might not be tempted to make any changes for the final despite Adil Rashid's dodgy shoulder. With the Lord's wicket potentially assisting seam and swing, the team might go unchanged. If the wicket is flat, they could potentially play Moeen Ali in place of Liam Plunkett.
Probable XI: Jason Roy, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan(c), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler(w), Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett, Jofra Archer, Adil Rashid, Mark Wood
With Matt Henry bowling superbly in Old Trafford, he might stay in the side. Henry Nicholls gave a solid exhibition against India and he might open with Martin Guptill.
Probable XI: Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Kane Williamson(c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham(w), Colin de Grandhomme, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Matt Henry, Lockie Ferguson, Trent Boult
Who will win?
There is desperation for England, having lost in all ICC event finals in the last couple of decades. With the trend of home domination, England will be expected to be the favourites. However, never count out New Zealand but on the big stage, one feels with the team composition, England holds all the aces.
Weather and Pitch
The forecast in London is fair on Sunday and thus there might not be a need for a reserve day. Lord's has dished out green pitches in this edition of the tournament.
Stadium and Timings
The encounter will take place at Lord's in London at 15:00 pm IST local.