The co-hosts collide in Sunday’s World Cup final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground but will four-time champions Australia triumph or can New Zealand – forsaking home advantage for the first time in the tournament – pick up their first title?
Ahead of the blockbuster experts verdicts…
“I have an inkling that home advantage will count for a lot on Sunday; New Zealand have generally played at small grounds in this tournament with the ball swinging around but at the games I’ve covered at the MCG the ball hasn’t swung.
“If the ball does swing, New Zealand have the better attack because of the lengths and pace that Trent Boult and Tim Southee bowl at – if they get early wickets, that could cause a problem for Australia. They also have a frontline spinner, which Australia lack, but Australia have the better end-of-innings attack.
“You also have to factor in the massive playing area – Brendon McCullum has got around 86 per cent of his runs in boundaries, which he won’t find so easy. However, the size of the ground will bring Daniel Vettori into the game a little bit more.
“McCullum is the best captain in the world in one-day cricket at the moment and the way that he uses Vettori will be absolutely vital. But I think Australia are just about favourites given they are on home soil, but don’t write off a side with McCullum as captain.”
“Australia are worthy finalists and they’re going to be very tough to beat at home because they’re very good at suffocating opposition teams – once they get on top of you, it’s almost impossible to come back at them. So New Zealand are going to have to take the game to Australia and that is why Brendon McCullum is so important.
“They are going to have to meet fire with fire and play that style of high-tempo cricket they’ve played up until now but do it against a very good bowling attack in Australian conditions. It’s going to be asking a lot from McCullum and the rest of his team. I hate to say it, but I think Australia are going to win it.”
“It’s a tough call. I thought that New Zealand would get through to the final, I thought they would meet Australia there and Australia would win. But they have so much momentum and power because of Brendon McCullum.
Look at the dressing room, some of the performances from New Zealand – Martin Guptill, Grant Elliott – good but not top echelon international players. Somehow they are producing on the world stage in a quarter-final and a semi-final.
“It’s incredible and says a lot about the environment and the culture that dressing room has. So don’t write them off, but I just feel that Australia have the most complete side and they’re still not operating at 100 per cent yet.
“Australia have stumbled on their best side. They left Shane Watson out, put Steve Smith to three and then brought Watson back because they wanted to change the balance of their attack. They didn’t feel they could put him to three because they’d dropped him. So he then comes in at five and it works so much better.”
“New Zealand must be worried about their fourth and fifth bowling options. They’ve taken a lot of wickets through Trent Boult and Tim Southee upfront. Daniel Vettori is not really a wicket-taking bowler, he brings a different kind of pressure with his miserly economy rate.
But the fourth and fifth bowler, whether it is Corey Anderson, Grant Elliott or Matt Henry is a problem. Henry did OK against South Africa in his first game but he is still raw. It’s a similar problem for Australia, but at least James Faulkner and Shane Watson are better bowlers than New Zealand’s. If the ball doesn’t swing and Boult and Southee don’t take wickets early on, there will be tremendous pressure on New Zealand.
“The best move Australia made was moving Steve Smith to three – because he’s the man in form – and all the best teams have a number three who takes total control of an innings. Like Steve Smith did in the way he paced his innings in the semi-final – he was the aggressor in his partnership with Aaron Finch – but he can also play a defensive game if required.
“The balance of this Australian side is perfect – they’ve got Brad Haddin coming in at number eight, that shows the depth of the batting line-up.”
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