By A Special Correspondent in London
A new World Cup champion team will be crowned at the Lord’s cricket ground in London on Sunday evening. The two finalists – hosts England and New Zealand – have both appeared in the title encounters in the past, but had to be satisfied with the tag of being second-best against the dominant rivals.
This will be the second successive appearance in the title showdown for New Zealand, who were humbled by hosts Australia in the 2015 final at Melbourne, while England has made their fourth entry into the final.
Hosts England tipped to be the fancied side owning to their dominant show in the past three matches – including the decimation of defending champions Australia – are playing the 50-over World Cup’s final after a gap of 27 years.
England last played in the final in 1992 when Australia and New Zealand played joint hosts for the World Cup but fell in the last hurdle against Pakistan.
England’s thumping entry into the final – after being on the verge of elimination following the loss to Pakistan and Sri Lanka – has sparked a cricket frenzy in the host nation. With the two fancied teams in Australia and India faltering in the semi-finals, the hosts fancy their chances of prevailing against New Zealand, whom they outplayed by 119 runs in their preliminary league encounter just 10 days ago.
But England should ignore the threat posed by New Zealand only at their peril.
The manner in which New Zealand defended a modest score against India in the semi-finals underscores their determination to be counted. The news media and TV commentators were going gung-ho about the prospects of the other three teams ahead of the semi-finals, a polite comment by New Zealand captain Kane Williamson almost went unnoticed.
“We have as much chance of winning as the other teams (in the semi-finals),” said Williamson, which ought to have been taken seriously by the Indian team management. The Indian batsmen soon realized the relevance of this defiant comment from a side that was not being given many chances until the game commenced.
The reunion of the opening pair of Jason Rao and Johny Biarstove has brought about the transformation for England. Can the tidy New Zealand bowling stop England’s run-flowing machine?