On 14 July, the cricket World Cup 2019 will get a new winner. It would either be New Zealand or England who will clinch the trophy for the first time.
New Zealand and England might not have had a smooth campaign till the semi-finals, but they stepped up their game when it mattered the most. If Black Caps' precise planning and control over proceedings helped them edge out India, England displayed a professional performance to oust the defending champions Australia.
The hardwork has been done and now it's time for the most important match in the careers of these players. While the big battle is hugely awaited, there will be small battles within this big clash which will decide who lifts the trophy.
We look at five interesting battles:
Trent Boult vs Jason Roy: Jason Roy has been a big difference for England in this World Cup. For when he was out with a hamstring injury, England lost to Sri Lanka and Australia. Their World Cup campaign hit an unseen speed-breaker. A fit-again Roy was blooded in against India and immediately, England became the same old ruthless side which dominated ODI cricket in last few years. Roy continued his good run against Kiwis and then against Aussies in the semi-final, stroking a quickfire 85 which dented the defending champions' confidence.
One hallmark of Roy's innings in the semis was how he played Starc, covering his off stump with his body right behind the bat. He started off slowly and when he felt that there was not too much swing, he began using his wrists to good use, maneuvering the ball it on both sides of the wicket to score runs. There was one shot off Starc that should be etched in memories of those who witnessed it, the flick off the legs for six over backward square leg, using the wrists. Roy owned every single minute against Starc, not letting the most successful bowler in 2019 edition come on top of him. On 14 July, Trent Boult has his task cut out. He was exceptional against India in the semis. In the final, he would want to do what Starc could not. That is bowl more short balls at Roy. Let him hook and pull. He should make Roy play in air as often as possible. Anything over-pitched will be thumped by the England opener. In all likelihood, this will be a contest to watch out for.
Mitchell Santner vs Jonny Bairstow: Jonny Bairstow has played second-fiddle to Roy in the past three matches whenever the two have been at the crease together. But he remains as much a danger at the start as his opening partner. Proteas had given a prototype at the start of the tournament in dealing with Bairstow, by letting leggie Imran Tahir had a go at him. He got him on the first ball he bowled at him, pitching it up at off stump line and spinning it away. It's not that Bairstow cannot play spin but it is easy to curtail him, keep him on toes right at the start with spin from one end. Santner can do the job for New Zealand, knowing that Ish Sodhi might not play. The left-arm orthodox spinner can target him from around the wicket and create problems with loopy off-spinners and the occasional arm ball.
Kiwi openers vs Woakes and Archer: Colin Munro, Henry Nicholls and Martin Guptill have appeared as openers in different pairs throughout the tournament and there is not a single standout performance that can be written in golden words. Guptill's fall in the semis would have been watched and rewatched by England's new-ball pair of Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer. Jasprit Bumrah consistently annoyed him by landing deliveries around the off-stump channel and there was no end to Guptill's issues as the ball moved in and away from the same spot every now and then, eventually, leading to an under-confident shot from the right-handed batsman that brought his end. Munro and Nicholls have been a big headache for Kane. Nicholls showed some fight in the semis against India, and that would make him the contender for the opening slot beside Guptill. However, he will be tested by Archer's surprise bounce and Woakes swing bowling.
Williamson and Taylor vs Adil Rashid: England leg-spinner has neither been excellent nor too bad in the World Cup so far. In the semis, he started off on a bad note but then came up with moment of brilliance midway through his spell to pick two wickets in one over, breaking the back of Australian batting even more after Archer and Woakes got them off to a spectacular start. A key feature of Kiwi batting has been how Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson have approached the innings in the middle overs. Kane has been slow but effective while Taylor has struggled against leg spin. Not to forget, other batsmen in Black Caps line-up don't play spin too well. Rashid will play a big role in Sunday's final for England. Williamson, who forms the backbone of New Zealand's batting, need to make sure that they play as many of his deliveries as possible.
Ferguson vs Morgan: Eoin Morgan is a world class batsman but even world class batsmen have weaknesses. One weakness of Morgan that has surfaced in the tournament is against the short ball bowled at him. He is a good puller of the game but also a keen puller. On a number of occasions he has fallen attempting a pull, getting caught at deep fine leg eventually. Ferguson, who is in red hot form and who is building up good pace consistently would be aiming to bounce out Morgan on Sunday. Will the England captain resist the pull?
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