Melbourne Cricket Ground
Two teams. Co-hosts. Probably the two finest ODI teams in cricket right now. And one final. The last match of the 2015 Cricket World Cup.
One looking to become Champions for the first time – favorites for neutral cricket fans, harbingers of a new exciting style of cricket, fairytale run, and unbeaten through this tournament.
The other unbeaten team in this tournament was beaten soundly by Australia – once again favorites to win yet another (their 5th) trophy. Who will it be?
Because they’re playing at home. Because they outplayed India and most other teams. Because their only loss in the tournament came away from home against New Zealand. And because the Black Caps will be playing away from home for the first time. Also, because they have the maximum number of game-changers in one single lineup: Warner, Watson, Maxwell, Faulkner, Starc and Johnson. All aggressive, all power players. This Australian team is a team in which a captain like Bailey, a world-class batsman like Shaun Marsh, a good all-rounder like Mitchell Marsh and a quick like Cummins can’t find a place. Their bench strength alone is better than most first-team players, and the dip in form they suffered against the Kiwis earlier in the group seems to have woken them up.
They also have the best batsman going around today in Steve Smith.
UNDERDOGS: New Zealand
If there’s any team that deserves to win for a fearless World Cup, and a fearless last 365 days in general, it is McCullum’s boys. The captain himself has led the way, and captured imaginations the way a minnow Lankan team shocked the world in 1996. But they will play in Australia for the first time this World Cup, and barely crossed the line the last time these two teams played in Auckland.
Matchups: McCullum v/s Starc, Williamson v/s Johnson, Maxwell v/s Vettori, Warner v/s Boult, Clarke v/s Southee, Smith v/s Anderson.
Kane Williamson (NZ)
The youngster hasn’t fired this tournament in the way he was expected to, but he has been the heart and soul of this batting lineup for a few years now. His resounding six off Cummins in Auckland proved that he is probably the coolest head under pressure. He is bound to come good, and there’s no better game than this for him to prove that he isn’t AB, Kohli or Steyn – who have failed at the big moments so far.
David Warner (AUS)
The southpaw has had just one good game this tournament, and has failed to cross 50 in the others. He is expected to come good at the MCG, and give Australia the start they need in order to deflate the best bowling lineup of the tournament. He will look to attack Boult, and send a message to the rest of the bowlers. His failure against India must have him charged up and ready to fire.
Better Captain: Brendon McCullum
Best bowler: Starc, Boult
Impact bowler: Johnson
Australia, again. Cricket won’t be very interesting if they keep winning, but they’re dominating because they’re the best once more.
However, if there’s any team that can shock them, it is their transatlantic rivals – who are younger brothers no more.