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Dhaka Tribune

Trans-Tasman rivals brace for World Cup climax

Update : 28 Mar 2015, 06:56 PM

The 2015 ICC World Cup has finally reached its climax following 42 days of drama and 48 matches filled with nerve-wracking action as co-hosts Australia and New Zealand prepare to battle it out in the grand finale under the Melbourne sky today at 9:30am.  

The trans-Tasman rivals have played some extraordinary cricket right throughout the flagship event and the final could not have asked for better teams.

While Australia have only been beaten once en route to the final, New Zealand have remained unbeaten having won all their eight matches including one group stage match against the Kangaroos.

However, even though Australia’s lone defeat came against the Kiwis, one can hardly pick a favourite. While the Kiwis recorded a thrilling win over South Africa in the first semi-final, the Aussies hardly broke sweat against a dominant Indian side in the second.

Australia skipper Michael Clarke and New Zealand boss McCullum will both target the top prize today but, in comparison, the occasion will be more emotional for the former. 

Thirty-three-year old Clarke has already announced that today’s final will be his last one-day international outing so he will be desperate to sign off with a memorable win.

Whether “Pup” realises his dream will largely depend on their deadly fast bowling department comprising Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and James Faulkner. With 20 scalps, Starc is the second highest wicket-taker of the 2015 World Cup while Johnson, Hazlewood and Faulkner have played their parts well.

Australia’s batting, meanwhile, will be spearheaded by young and brilliant Steve Smith. Smith, at 25, is no doubt the next big thing in Australian cricket and after an astonishing summer, the right hander will be looking to conclude the season on a grand note.

Alongside Smith, Aaron Finch, David Warner and Glenn Maxwell form the core of Australia’s versatile batting. However, Clarke, a veteran of 244 one-day internationals, has been unable to shine so far. Just a solitary fifty against Sri Lanka hardly does justice to one of the best players of his time.

The Black Caps on the other hand are just a step away from glory. They have never come closer, having previously succumbed in six semi-finals.

Unlike Clarke, McCullum will not be bidding his ODI farewell today but this may very well be the last World Cup for him and also for wily old spinner Daniel Vettori. 

The Kiwis have prospered in the World Cup and more often than not, it was due to the solid opening partnerships provided by McCullum and Martin Guptill. Guptill is the second highest run-scorer of the tournament with 532 runs and has the opportunity to surpass highest scorer Kumar Sangakkara, who has 541. 

In-form Kane Williamson and seasoned Ross Taylor shore up the Kiwis’ middle order while semi-final hero Grant Elliott and big-hitting Corey Anderson add strength to their lower-middle-order.

Kiwi bowling is spearheaded by Trent Boult, whose 21 wickets make him the highest wicket-taker thus far, and along with Tim Southee, the opening pair have ripped apart many a side’s batting.

Two factors, however, might work against the Kiwis today.

So far, the Kiwis have played all of their eight matches at home. None of the venues in New Zealand are as big as the Melbourne Cricket Ground and sixes have been few and far between at the final venue. So the batsmen have to find that extra bit of strength.

Secondly, it does not swing much at the MCG in comparison to the turfs in New Zealand. Most of Boult and Southee’s victims have fallen prey to swinging deliveries. Hence, the Kiwi opening bowling duo have to maintain a tight line and length in order to deny explosive batsmen like Warner, Finch and Maxwell.

At the end of it all, it promises to be a grand occasion and millions of people will be eagerly waiting to find out which of the two sides hold onto their nerves and clinch glory for their nation. 

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