New Zealand must play like they have nothing to lose

2015 Cricket World Cup Final preview

After 48 matches, 12 teams knocked out and countless memories we have reached the closing stage of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup. It is time for the final, and one could not hope for a better two teams to be playing in it. Australia and New Zealand compete in numerous other sports, but historically cricket has been one of the sports in which contests between the two hold less value, mainly due to a lack of quality in the New Zealand team. Now, however, it is different, as some great young talent, aggressive captaincy by McCullum and some confidence-boosting wins early on in their campaign have set up a final with Australia, who they beat in dramatic circumstances at Eden Park earlier in the tournament.

Teams

It is likely that both Australia and New Zealand, barring injury, will enter the match unchanged. There are no real selection queries that need to be answered, especially given the effortless manner with which Matt Henry replaced an injured Adam Milne against South Africa.
Australia (likely): David Warner, Aaron Finch, Steve Smith, Michael Clarke, Glenn Maxwell, Shane Watson, Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood.
New Zealand (likely): Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott, Corey Anderson, Luke Ronchi, Daniel Vettori, Tim Southee, Matt Henry, Trent Boult.

Strategy

Australia must look to remove Brendon McCullum from the game early. They should look to bat first, as they will struggle to chase much more than 250 against the New Zealand attack. If they can post a 330 total and remove McCullum for less than 20 they will have gone a long way to winning the tournament. When batting they need Finch, Warner, Smith and Clarke to make it to around the 35-over mark to give Maxwell time to do maximum damage.

New Zealand will be helped by the fact that the game-plans of Australia and South Africa, who they played in the semis, are very similar with the bat. If New Zealand can get Maxwell in with over half the innings to go, like they did in Auckland, they will go a very long way to winning this final. When they bat New Zealand must not be worried by the occasion and especially not the opponent. If New Zealand start to put pressure on themselves to win then they will play less aggressively, and this does not help their cause.

Key Players

Solid Batsman: Steve Smith (Australia) and Kane Williamson (New Zealand)
Smith is by no means a defensive player, and neither is Williamson, but both will be relied upon to bat time and make as big a score as possible. After a slow start to the tournament Smith seems to be peaking at the right time, while for Williamson this is a chance to build a reputation as one of the calmest batsmen in world cricket.

Strike Bowler: Mitchell Starc (Australia) and Trent Boult (New Zealand)
These two left-armers are the most prolific bowlers at this World Cup, and it is due in no small part to an ability to strike with precise and dangerous yorkers. While Josh Hazlewood and James Faulkner have just started to fire Starc is still the one Australia rely upon for wickets. Boult bowls mainly at the start of the innings and he will be trying for the early strikes New Zealand desperately need.

Slogger: Glenn Maxwell (Australia) and Brendon McCullum (New Zealand)
Again these two players are very different in their styles. While Maxwell bats to the field McCullum uses his brute strength to muscle the ball to whatever boundary he sees fit. They also bat at different times, with McCullum batting at the start while Maxwell bats at the end of the innings. Each will be relied upon to dramatically boost the run rate throughout their time at the crease and score some decent runs.

Middle-Overs Bowler: Josh Hazlewood (Australia) and Daniel Vettori (New Zealand)
Hazlewood only established his place in the side recently after poor games against England and Afghanistan. He came back for the quarter final and since then his reliable line, length and bounce has returned. Vettori, on the other hand, has been one of the best bowlers in a tournament where unfair restrictions have led to many spinners being smashed. He has been clever and against Australia he was crucial in stopping the quick runs being scored by Warner and Finch.

Prediction

I think that the outcome of this game depends on how New Zealand approach it. If they play like they have nothing to lose their chances of victory will rise, but if they put pressure on themselves the Australians will win easily. I think that against Australia it will be very difficult for New Zealand to play without inhibitions and so I expect Australia to win. As for the margin, it depends on how New Zealand play.

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