England’s reasons to be cheerful or fearful ahead of the World Cup final
We present the arguments that may tip the scales in England’s favour, as well as those against.
England stormed into their first World Cup final since 1992 after dispatching Australia, setting up a showdown against New Zealand at Lord’s on Sunday.
A comprehensive eight-wicket victory over their oldest rivals was England’s first in the knockout rounds of the tournament in 27 years and they now have a first global 50-over title firmly in their sights.
Here, PA presents the arguments that may tip the scales in England’s favour, as well as those against.
Reasons to be cheerful
Recent record against New Zealand
England have won eight and lost four of their 12 one-day internationals against the Kiwis since the end of the last World Cup, including edging both bilateral series 3-2. Perhaps more significantly, England have prevailed in their two tournament meetings by thumping margins of 87 runs in the Champions Trophy in 2017 and 119 runs in the group stage earlier this month. Previous form perhaps counts for little on the day but England have proven experience of holding their nerve against their next opponents when it matters most.
Peaking at the right time
Falling short in a run-chase against Pakistan was a surprise but then back-to-back defeats against Sri Lanka and Australia left England’s hopes of reaching the knockout stages in major doubt. Since then England have rediscovered their mojo, Jason Roy’s return from a hamstring tear proving to be a turning point. He and Jonny Bairstow have been instrumental at the top of the order with three-successive century stands. Following a blip earlier in the tournament, England look to be firing on all cylinders once again.
Better batting line-up
New Zealand captain Kane Williamson has had a stellar past few weeks with 548 runs at an average of 91.33 but there has been little support – Ross Taylor the next best Kiwi on the list with 335 at 41.87. England’s usual top five – Roy, Bairstow, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan and Ben Stokes – have all amassed more than Taylor at a better average, Root leading their charts with 549 runs at 68.62. Their handiwork has meant ‘finisher’ Jos Buttler has had a relatively-quiet tournament. Keep an eye on Bairstow, who needs four more runs to join the 500-club for the tournament.
Reasons to be fearful
History is against them
England have reached the last hurdle on three occasions and each time they have come away empty-handed. A defeat to the West Indies in 1979 may have been entirely predictable while Australia were their conquerors 12 years later. Pakistan’s ‘Cornered Tigers’ got the better of them in 1992 and that was as good as it got for England over an abysmal next 23-year period characterised by humiliating group-stage exits and limp defeats in the knockout rounds. That changed after a watershed 2015 tournament, after which Morgan and England pursued a bolder approach.
England have played 16 ODIs at the home of cricket in the last decade, winning only five of those. It was telling that Morgan chose Edgbaston, Trent Bridge and The Oval as his three preferred venues recently, England having won only three out of six under his captaincy at HQ. Lord’s was the venue when England crumpled to 20 for six against South Africa a couple of years ago following a series of injudicious strokes to Kagiso Rabada and Wayne Parnell. Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Lockie Ferguson may look at the game as a blueprint to topple England’s formidable batting line-up.
These are two well-matched sides but where New Zealand might have one edge is in experience, having reached the final four years ago. The spine of that side remains and will be wiser for their seven-wicket defeat to Australia in Melbourne. England will correctly point out they were on the cusp of 2016 World Twenty20 glory only for Carlos Brathwaite’s power-hitting to deny them but this is the deepest they have gone in this tournament. What is inarguable is that it is the biggest game in every player’s life.