NZealand, England seek redemption, glory in World Cup final

LONDON (AP) — New Zealand and England have waited four years for this moment, for this life-changing shot at redemption.

For the Kiwis, the Cricket World Cup final at Lords on Sunday is a chance to avenge their drubbing at the hands of Australia in the 2015 showpiece. It was their first World Cup final and they didnt do themselves justice in Melbourne.

“A little bit overawed,” recalled batsman Ross Taylor, who will be one of five New Zealand survivors from that seven-wicket loss.

For the English, its a very different opportunity for atonement from 2015, when a group-stage exit proved to be an all-time ODI low for the country that invented cricket. What has happened since — an overhaul of domestic white-ball cricket, a new team and mindset, and a rise to the top of the ODI rankings — has been both surprising and stunning to watch.

“They have been the benchmark in one-day cricket for a fair while now,” Australia captain Aaron Finch said after his teams semifinal loss to England .

So, a new name — the sixth — will be etched on the World Cup trophy at the home of cricket after Australia, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and West Indies.

That it is New Zealand and England vying for the trophy is perhaps validation of the approach both countries have taken to the one-day game in recent years. Indeed, England captain Eoin Morgan has openly acknowledged that his team has copied the New Zealand model in this format, playing with fun and a smile on your face.

“Express yourself,” Morgan tells his players.

England — in its fourth final, the first since 1992 — is the favorite, with potential match-winners everywhere.

There are the openers, Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, brimming with belief and strokeplay. They are on a run of four straight century partnerships and if they provide another such platform, England will be hard to stop.

Theres the middle order, blessed with dependability (Joe Root), experience (Eoin Morgan), exuberance (Jos Buttler) and a mix of all those qualities (Ben Stokes).

And then theres the bowling department. Jofra Archer, fast-tracked into the team just before the World Cup following a change in residency rules, mixes sheer pace with accuracy (he has more dot balls, 338, than anyone this tournament) and has struck up a great new-ball partnership with allrounder Chris Woakes; Liam Plunkett and Mark Wood are solid first-change options; and legspinner Adil Rashid can be a partnership breaker in the middle over.

New Zealand remains the unassuming underdog.

With openers Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls and Colin Munro enduring a dismal World Cup, captain Kane Williamson has taken on most of the batting burden and stood up to the task. Understated, determined and simply brilliant, Williamson is averaging a tournament-high 91.33 and challenges Virat Kohli as probably the best batsman in the world, though Australias Steve Smith and Root run them close.

Taylor, in next at No. 4, is New Zealands other key batsman but it is the teams bowling attack that will strike most fear into the hearts of England fans who will dominate Lords on Sunday.

Under cloudy skies offering movement in the air, there might not be a better asset than left-arm seam bowler Trent Boult, as he showed against India in the semifinals . He will enjoy using the slope from the Pavilion End. Fellow strike bowler Matt Henry is a danger at the top of the innings, not so much at the death, while Lockie Ferguson at first change is New Zealands leading wicket-taker this tournament with 17.

If this World Cup is anything to go by, Englands batters will look to bludgeon New Zealand out of the game if they bat first. The Blacks Caps, alternatively, would likely be satisfied putting 250 runs on the board and letting their bowlers and outstanding fielders defend it with their lives.

If the past six weeks is anything to go by, much will hinge on the toss (even if the team winning it has losRead More – Source


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