It’s time for the two hosts of the ICC Cricket World cup 2015 to come together for the second time in two months. It’s time for yet another Australia vs New Zealand clash in the World Cup, this time at the Melbourne Cricket Ground. And the very idea of ‘Australia vs New Zealand’ takes our memories whirling back to that nail biter in Auckland, which the two teams had played out just a month ago! Come Sunday, and the world shall be waiting with bated breath to witness yet another humdinger of a match between the two arch rivals.
No kidding, but it’s advantage Australia!
This has been a much dissected theory in the tournament, ever since the knock outs began in right earnest. The chances of Australia meeting New Zealand in the final were always on the cards. And pundits have thus been explicitly making clear the fact that New Zealand are yet to play a single match away from home in this World Cup. Home conditions deserve a fair share of the credit for New Zealand’s stellar performances so far, and the wily Aussies are well aware of that.
Barring New Zealand at Auckland, Australia have won against every other opposition in this World Cup. Even the Indians were no match for surgical precision in Australia’s execution of plans. Mitchell Starc has proved to be the nemesis for batsmen, and he had emphatically proved his credentials with figures of 6-28 which almost won the game for Australia vs New Zealand.
Mitchell Johnson seemed to have found his mojo back in the semi final against India. And the mind games with Virat Kohli seemed to have done a world of good for him. Josh Hazlewood’s casual bowling action is deceptive, but the lanky pacer’s ability to hold his line outside the off stump can be an asset for his team against the aggressive Kiwi batsmen.
Just as Ricky Pointing has said that ‘it’s difficult to find any weakness in the Australian team’, we are also at wit’s end in trying to discover the same. The Aussie batsmen, especially, have been right on top of bowlers in this tournament. The good thing about the batting line up is that it’s not dominated by a select few individuals. Maxwell, Warner, Finch, Smith, Clarke and Haddin have all made valuable contributions in Australia’s progress to the final. Even Johnson and Faulkner have been handy with the bat at times, and that was aptly demonstrated against the Indians in the semi final. Needless to say, Trent Boult and Co. are definitely not going to have it easy against their neighbours this time around.
New Zealand – ‘Challenge Accepted’
The fact that the world expects New Zealand to buckle under pressure in the final is an open secret now. MSG’s gigantic dimensions are also said to be pitted against the Kiwis. That said, there is no doubt on Brendon McCullum’s eagerness to take on the Australians right from the very start. The diminutive but power-packed Kiwi skipper did that against South Africa, taking on the likes of Dale Steyn and batting the Proteas out of the contest with an early assault in the semi-final. Not only in the semi-final, Baz has been instrumental in taking the opposition bowlers by surprise in a number of matches in the last two months. Mitchell Johnson is bound to remember the treatment meted out to him by McCullum in the memorable match at Auckland. A lightning-fast half century from the skipper is all that New Zealand needs to shake away the ‘playing away from home’ syndrome on Sunday.
Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Kane Williamson, Luke Ronchi, Grant Elliott and Corey Anderson have been useful in their own ways in New Zealand’s campaign so far. The task of handling the Australian part time bowlers – Maxwell, Faulkner and Watson – shall rest overwhelmingly on the middle order. Needless to say, they have every chance to exploit the chink in the Australian bowling armour.
Tim Southee has categorically stated that MCG is ‘not unfamiliar’ for the Kiwis. And the statement speaks volumes about the mentality of the Kiwi bowling unit. Undaunted by anything, Southee, Boult and Matt Henry are expected to be in a ‘no holds barred’ mode at the MCG on Sunday. The presence of wily Daniel Vettori is likely to be the key difference between the two sides. Ravichandran Ashwin had quite nicely demonstrated how ineffective the Aussies are, at times, against spin. Vettori just needs to take the cue!
Experts would say that the outcome of the match is a tad inclined towards Australia. Infact, we too feel the same. But make no mistake – the intensity between the two traditional rivals is going to make you dizzy! For one thing is sure to happen. Australia are going to go for the jugular in their own backyard. And New Zealand are going to give it back in their own style. The battle for the ultimate glory in cricket, dear friends, is nearing it’s conclusion. Don’t miss Sunday’s climax!
Match Facts – Australia vs New Zealand
Venue – Melbourne Cricket Ground
Start time – 14:30 (local), 09:00 (IST)