Tonight the curtain closes on the cricket World Cup. What ended up as a pantomime for England the final act will be played out between the two joint hosts, New Zealand & Australia. For me it is the final that we want to see. It is the two best sides in ODI cricket today and they will slug it out to be crowned 2015 Champions.
It would be massive for New Zealand to win. The final is at the MCG, a stadium that is perfect for what will be such a grand occasion. It will effectively be a home game for Australia – not to say that there won’t be a fair amount of Kiwis in attendance but the Aussies going to the game will be near enough expecting the “home” side to win the game. On paper, they have more superstars and should win but New Zealand will take some beating.
Looking at the tournament statistics it makes for interesting reading. Firstly you notice just how good New Zealand have been and how good Australia have been in the field. Out of the 8 “tops” or “highest” categories on the official ICC website for batting New Zealand currently hold 3 of them. Martin Guptill holds both the highest individual score (237*) and also the most fours scored (58); Brendon McCullum holds the highest strike rate (191.81). What is interesting is that Australia don’t appear anywhere in the batting statistics, when considering the fire power and ability their batting order possess it is strange. When you think of the players, Warner, Finch, Clarke, Smith, Haddin, Maxwell they are all players with the potential to consistently score hundred after hundred but yet they don’t hold any of the batting records for this tournament, over the years that would have been unthinkable.
Compare that to the bowling statistics and its more of the same for New Zealand, as 3 of the 6 bowling records go to the All Blacks. However, the other three go to the Aussies. So basically we will be watching the two best bowling attacks in the competition, so don’t expect the highest of scoring games. The two stand out bowlers appear twice each on the statistics with Trent Boult representing New Zealand and Mitchell Starc flying the Australian flag. Boult has bowled the most maidens (14) and has the holy grail right now, the lucrative highest wicket taker of the tournament (21) whereas Starc boasts the best bowling average (10.20) and the most four wicket hauls (2). The other two bowling records are currently being held by two journeyman of the game. The older generation of Southern Hemisphere legends, New Zealand’s Tim Southee has the best individual bowling figures (7/33) and Australia’s Michael Clarke currently holds the best economy (2.80).
The final will be a poignant one for Australia, as they will be saying goodbye to their captain Michael Clarke, from one day international cricket at least. Yeah, that’s right, a glittering 12 year limited overs career will be calling time at the end of what Australia hope is a final day triumph. Clarke has been one of the best cricketers for the last decade and has drawn plaudits from every single person who has watched him play, fans, professionals, the media and most importantly himself. Clarke knows how good he is and how he will be remembered. He has helped pull Australia back up to being world beaters. Right now Australia are going the right way to restart their world domination that they haven’t had since the 90s. The new generation of Aussies are hungry, eager, good enough and most importantly, ready. They will be ready for the final, they will be ready for what New Zealand will throw at them and they will be ready to take the crown.
New Zealand however will be eager to stop the Aussies from clinching the trophy and will of course give it their best shot. And do you know what? I think New Zealand are going into the game thankful that Clarke will be playing in his final game. I say this because that means the spotlight won’t be on the All Blacks, and that is when they are at their most dangerous. When New Zealand are underdogs or the less fancied team they always prove you wrong and always get a performance out of one or two of their key men. So the more the cricketing world talks about Clarke and Australia being at home the more I fancy New Zealand to win it. They were my prediction at the start of the tournament and they are still my prediction now. I’m very much in their corner.
For Australia the key men for me aren’t the Aaron Finch and Mitchell Johnson that it would have been the other day, nope, for me it is Glen Maxwell & Steve Smith. Both because of the influence they posses with both bat and ball. Yes Smith may only bowl a few overs but they will be vital. If Smith bowls 2 or 3 overs in the middle of the innings his task will be to restrict and contain. If done right he will be frustrating to bat against and he could prove to be an asset. With the bat he has shown what he can do and if you read my post earlier in the week about the best young cricketers you will now how much I rate him. A cracking player. With Glen, I love him. After seeing him playing for Hampshire over recent years I know from first hand experience just how easy he can influence the outcome of a game. A real superstar on his day.
In terms of New Zealand the two key players for me will be Daniel Vettori & Trent Boult. Just missing out of the key player tag is Corey Anderson but for me New Zealand can win the game by out bowling Australia. The two highlighted are the two who I think hold the key to that success. Boult, as I said is the leading wicket taker for the tournament and will be eager to showcase just what he can do on the big stage, in the biggest game. Vettori has been a centre point in the New Zealand attack for years. There are murmurs that Vettori could be following Michael Clarke in retiring after this game, so he will be looking to go out with a bang. Vettori can also prove to be a handy asset with the bat in the latter stages of the game. Meaning it is all set up for an absolutely outstanding contest between the world’s two best team.
Hats off to the hosts for giving us a great tournament and good luck to both teams taking part.