England have never been under as much pressure in one day cricket as in this tournament. Entering the competition as world number one and host nation will do that to a side. Despite a few wobbles along the way, they’ve stepped up to the crease and smashed it out of the ground when it mattered. New Zealand, meanwhile, entered with few expectations, all of which have been surpassed on their surprising march to the final. With neither side having won the competition before, no matter what, we’ll have a new World Cup winner come the end of the match.
New Zealand were not supposed to beat cricket powerhouse India in the semi-final but beat them they did. New Zealand entered the reserve day with batsmen at the crease – poor weather causing the game to carry over into Wednesday – and posted a total of 239-8, which should not have been an insurmountable target for India. Unfortunately for the Indian openers, the Kiwi bowlers came flying out of the traps and India soon found themselves at 5-3; a position from which they could not recover.
While New Zealand may be surprising finalists, they are not to be underestimated. In captain Kane Williamson the Black Caps have one of the world’s best batsmen and the player with the best batting average, 91.33, in the tournament. Bowlers Lockie Ferguson and Trent Boult are the 5th and 6th highest wicket-takers respectively, while as a team, New Zealand have the highest win percentage in the World Cup.
Make no mistake, England absolutely destroyed Australia in the semi-final at Edgbaston. Yes, Australia who have won the World Cup five times and are unbeaten in seven semi-final appearances. Admittedly, the ground is a stronghold for England and a location at which the Aussies have not tasted victory for almost two decades; but when Finch won the toss and elected to bat, there would have been a certain amount of trepidation within the English ranks. This has been a tournament where batting first has been a distinct advantage.
Luckily for England, their new-ball partnership of Archer and Woakes didn’t get the memo and tore into the Aussie openers immediately, with Australian captain Finch falling lbw to the first delivery he faced. Before they knew it, Australia were 14-3 and in a position from which they would not recover, posting a target of 223 all out for England to chase. And chase it they did. Openers Bairstow and Roy, in particular, were outstanding as ever, before Root and captain Morgan entered the fray and quickly put the game beyond doubt, securing a first final appearance for England since 1992.
England have already defeated New Zealand in the World Cup, with Jonny Bairstow scoring 106 runs to lead England to victory by 119 runs. New Zealand will have to be at their absolute best to triumph and are at odds of 9/4 (3.25) to win, England are favourites at 3/11 (1.27).
Jason Roy had a terrific knock against Australia – just ask Steve Smith – and, had he not been given out by a poor decision, could have gone on to post a massive score. So, we’re backing Jason Roy as the top match batsman at 61/20 (4.05).
*Odds subject to change. Odds correct at time of publishing.