WORLD CUP FINAL | England, New Zealand a win away from immortality

WORLD CUP FINAL | England, New Zealand a win away from immortality

The world order in cricket will witness a new dawn when a title-starved England, led by an Irish, meet their match in New Zealand's feisty Black Caps in a World Cup final that will produce a new champion come Sunday.

England's global ambitions have never been fully realisedsince Sir Alf Ramsey's team won the 1966 FIFA World Cup. Whether it is GaryLinekar or Hary Kane, the 'Cup' that they desperately want never came homeduring the last five and half decades.

Even the 'Three Lionesses' – England's women football teamunder their mercurial manager Phil Neville — had insane following during theirWorld Cup campaign that ended in a heartbreaking semi-final defeat.

This was at a time when Eoin Morgan's men were going througha roller coaster ride but were hardly followed.

Parched for success, in this backdrop arrives a cricketteam, which on other days can't be followed because the sport in UK is nolonger free to air.

But on Sunday, as all roads would lead towards Saint John'sWoods, for a day, football will take a back seat.

Never ever had an England limited overs team fired theimagination of cricket loving public in general with their aggressive brand ofcricket like the current one, the turnaround that started after their exit atthe group league stage of the 2015 World Cup.

New Zealand, on the other hand, have banked on a committedbunch of individuals with a quiet yet assertive leader in stylish KaneWilliamson, who would like to go one better than his predecessor BrendonMcCullum during the last edition.

At the hallowed Lord's, England will certainly start asfavourites with perhaps the most destructive 50-over batting line-up comprisingJonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.

The 'Famous Five' of England's '50-50′ line-up would like toensure that they are fourth time lucky after missing out in 1979, 1987 and1992.

They are way superior in quality from the batch of 1979 thatplayed final against the mighty West Indies.

The legend has it that Mike Brearley (64 off 130 balls) andGeoffrey Boycott (57 off 105 balls) during their 129-run stand in pursuit of287 off 60 overs (quite an ask in those days) were so defensive in theirapproach that West Indies didn't want to get them out.

In 1987, England captain Mike Gatting played the mostinfamous reverse sweep off his opposite number Allan Border in the history ofthe game which cost them the final at the Eden Gardens.

The 1992 though was more about a genius called Wasim Akram,who bowled a couple of deliveries to Ian Botham and Allan Lamb that one coulddream of but would find extremely difficult to execute.

However those were the teams of different eras where Testplayers also played 50-over cricket. This team has Test players who are alsogame changers in ODI cricket with their explosive power-hitting skills.

Roy (426 runs) and Bairstow (496 runs) have beenintimidating in this tournament and Trent Boult and Matt Henry would love torepeat their semi-final show in the final too.

Joe Root (549) has exactly been what England needed in thetournament, a stable man holding the middle-order yet playing his strokes. BenStokes has teed off whenever he got a chance and perhaps Buttler is the onlywho is due for a big knock.

Whatever the condition of the pitch is, England wouldn'tmind bowling first as Joffra Archer (19 wickets), Chris Woakes (13 wickets) andLiam Plunkett (8 wickets) have been phenomenal.

Even Mark Wood (17 wickets), despite some inconsistencies,has been good and Adil Rashid (11 wickets) has fired in the semi-final when itmattered.

New Zealand, despite their final loss to Australia at animposing MCG, wouldn't carry much of a baggage even though they have sixplayers with the experience of playing a big final unlike England which hasnone.

Williamson (548 runs), possibly the most loved and respectedcricketer (even if his twitter following is remarkably less than any averageIndia player), will like to play one good knock and expect a bit more supportfrom Martin Guptill (167 runs) and Ross taylor (335 runs).

Then a bit more support from a disciplined Mitchell Santneror the real 'three-dimensional' players like Jimmy Neesham and Colin deGrandhomme, the Black Caps could suddenly look more menacing than what theyseem on paper.

In the end however, even if England win, cricket will neverever topple football. Ditto for New Zealand where 'All Blacks' – the worldbeaters in rugby has captured the imagination for years now, and a cricketWorld Cup is unlikely to change that.

But it will still be a refreshing change as 50-over formatwill enjoy a breath of fresh air.

Teams (from):

England: Eoin Morgan (captain), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer,Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Liam Plunkett, AdilRashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Martin Guptill, Colin Munro, Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Tom Blundell, Colin de Grandhomme, Jimmy Neesham, Trent Boult, Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Mitchell Samtner, Henry Nicholls, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi. Match starts 3 PM IST. PTI

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