Saturday, March 28, 2015

Trans Tasman Rivals to Clash for the Prestigious World Champions Crown!

Final: Australia vs New Zealand at Melbourne Cricket Ground, Melbourne on 29th March 2015 - Match Preview

It has come down to this, finally. The two host nations, Australia and New Zealand will battle it out for the ODI World Cup 2015 in Melbourne at the iconic MCG in front of expected 90,000 screaming fans. Both the have taken similar routes to the Final, Australia beaten only once throughout their campaign (New Zealand defeated them by a solitary wicket at Auckland) while New Zealand have been unbeaten and have an unblemished record. Let us look at how the two teams stack up for this mother of all matches.

The Australian opening pair have had a few good games but they have generally thrown away their wickets at the top of the order. Aaron Finch started with a blistering ton against ashes rivals England and then contributed in the semi final against India where he made a slow 81. Warner has started brightly but has failed to carry on to make a substantial score except when he made 170 odd against the Afghans at Perth.

Steven Smith was the man in form for the Australians and he has prospered at number 3. He made a vital half century in the Quarter Final against Pakistan and then followed that up with a stunning century against India in the Semi Final at SCG. His wicket will probably be the most sought after by the Kiwi bowlers. Michael Clarke has not looked comfortable in the middle against the short ball and is sure to be targeted by the New Zealand quicks.

Glenn Maxwell has also been making runs quite consistently and will hold the key in the later overs along with Shane Watson and James Faulkner.

The Kiwi bowling is spearheaded by their left arm quick Trent Boult (it was he who decimated Australia in Auckland with a spell of 5-3-3-5) who has managed to extract swing in New Zealand conditions and right arm Tim Southee who is quick through the air and is also capable of moving the ball both ways. How these two fare against the Aussie top order, whether they will be able to swing the ball, will hold the key to how much Australia can score in the early overs.

Matt Henry was superb as he was thrown in the mix after Adam Milne was injured and was ruled out with an injury. He bowled with pace and accuracy and made run making extremely difficult for the South Africans in their epic Semi Final clash. He is a good foil as a first change to Boult and Southee.

Michael Clarke will be playing in his last ODI and Brendon McCullum plays every ODI like it is his last! Who will hold that trophy aloft tomorrow at the hallowed MCG?

Daniel Vettori will be probably playing his final international match and what a dream script the bespectacled man is writing for himself. He has been stingy with his bowling, getting wickets and tying down the batsmen where generally the batsmen have run amok. He also made a vital little contribution with the bat at the end of their Semi Final win against the Proteas. He will be looking to go out on a high and the big MCG boundaries will help him no doubt.

Brendon McCullum has not defended a single ball probably and he will attack from ball one in the final as well. He is capable of clearing any ground in the world and his assault on Johnson and Starc in Auckland will be fresh in the Aussie minds. Martin Guptill is also in form as he made that blistering 237* against the West Indies in the Quarter Final.

Kane Williamson was the batsmen who I had thought would take the batting of New Zealand by storm and lead the run scoring charts but his blade has been silent up until now. He will be hoping to have the final say in this important match. Ross Taylor, Corey Anderson and last match hero Grant Elliot will shore up the middle order for the Kiwis and they are all in decent form having made runs recently and under pressure as well. There is also Luke Ronchi who will play against the team he has formerly played for and will add some extra spice to the whole affair.

The Aussie bowling is also led by a left arm bowler who has taken the World Cup by storm. Mitchell Starc, with his swing, pace and toe crushing yorkers has been impossible to get away and he was the one who nearly snatched victory for the Australians by claiming 6 wickets in Auckland earlier in the World Cup. Josh Hazlewood is a good foil for Starc as he generally bowls line and length stuff and forces the batsmen to make mistakes.

Any team that has Mitchell Johnson come in as first change has a seriously good bowling line up and the Australians certainly have that. Johnson was taken apart by McCullum in the game at Auckland and he will be itching top get one back against him. James Faulkner and Shane Watson will provide the medium pace options and both will be stump to stump and with a lot of variations thrown in. Maxwell will be the provider of part time spin for the Aussie's.

Key Battles: Australia vs New Zealand

Trent Boult and Tim Southee vs David Warner, Aaron Finch and Steven Smith

Mitchell Starc vs Brendon McCullum

Mitchell Johnson vs Ross Taylor

Matt Henry vs Michael Clarke

Daniel Vettori vs Glenn Maxwell

James Faulkner and Shane Watson vs Grant Elliot and Corey Anderson

These two teams have certainly provided us with some exceptional cricket over the past 50 days and will go toe to toe to claim victory. They have not played each other outside the ICC tournaments since 5-6 years which adds further intrigue to this battle. McCullum and Clarke are both known to be aggressive captains and it will certainly be a spectacle to see them go head to head. Man to man, Australia look stronger but really there is very little to choose from between these two neighbors. I hope that we get to see an exceptionally close and well played final, one that will remain in our minds for a long long time to come.

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