England, kiwis close to a landmark

Morgan and Williamson a win away from leading their side to a maiden triumph in World Cup cricket
England, kiwis close to a landmark

London

The world order in cricket will witness a new dawn when a title-starved England, led by an Irish, meets its 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 realised since Sir Alf Ramsey’s team won the 1966 FIFA World Cup. Whether it is Gary Lineker or Hary Kane, the ‘Cup’ that it desperately covets never came home during the last five and half decades. Even the ‘Three Lionesses’ – England’s women football team under its mercurial manager Phil Neville – had returned home empty-handed following its heartbreaking semi-final defeat in the World Cup earlier this month.

This was at a time when Eoin Morgan’s men were going through a roller coaster ride but were hardly followed. Parched for success, in this backdrop arrives a cricket team, which on other days can’t be followed because the sport in UK is no longer free to air. But on Sunday, as all roads would lead towards Saint John’s Woods, for a day, football will take a back seat.

Never ever had an England limited overs team fire the imagination of cricket loving public in general with its aggressive brand of cricket like the current one, the turnaround that started after its exit at the group league stage of the 2015 World Cup.

New Zealand, on the contrary, has banked on a committed bunch of individuals with Kane Williamson as captain.

At Lord’s, England will certainly start as favourite with perhaps the most destructive 50-over batting line-up comprising Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes. England would like to ensure that it is fourth time lucky after missing out in 1979, 1987 and 1992.

It is way superior in quality from the batch of 1979 that played final against the West Indies. The legend has it that Mike Brearley (64 off 130 balls) and Geoffrey Boycott (57 off 105 balls) during their 129-run stand in pursuit of 287 off 60 overs were so defensive in their approach that West Indies didn’t want to get them out.

In 1987, England captain Mike Gatting played the most infamous reverse sweep off his opposite number Allan Border in the history of the game which cost it the final at the Eden Gardens. In 1992, Wasim Akram stopped England.

However, those were the teams of different eras where Test players also played 50-over cricket. This team has Test players who are also game changers in ODI cricket with their explosive power-hitting skills. Roy (426 runs) and Bairstow (496 runs) have been intimidating in this tournament and Trent Boult and Matt Henry would love to repeat their semi-final show in the final too.

Joe Root (549) has exactly been what England needed in the tournament, a stable man holding the middle-order yet playing his strokes. Whatever the condition of the pitch is, England wouldn’t mind bowling first as Jofra Archer (19 wickets), Chris Woakes (13 wickets) and Liam Plunkett (8 wickets) have been phenomenal.

Williamson (548 runs), possibly the most loved and respected cricketer (even if his Twitter following is remarkably less than any average India player), will like to play one good knock and expect a bit more support from Martin Guptill (167 runs) and Ross Taylor (335 runs).

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