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Williamson remains grounded as World Cup final pressure ramps up

New Zealand meet England on Sunday.

Kane Williamson was in relaxed mood ahead of New Zealand’s World Cup final against England (John Walton/PA)
Kane Williamson was in relaxed mood ahead of New Zealand’s World Cup final against England (John Walton/PA)

Kane Williamson insists every dog has its day, unfazed by the expectation that New Zealand will be the fall guys for a second successive World Cup final.

The New Zealand captain was in a relaxed mood at Lord’s 24 hours before their showdown against England, who thumped the Black Caps by 119 runs when they met in the group stage of the tournament earlier this month.

A third defeat in a row meant the Kiwis were left sweating on their progression to the knockout stages, only qualifying on net run-rate after finishing level on points with Pakistan.

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England captain Eoin Morgan and New Zealand counterpart Kane Williamson pose with the World Cup trophy (Handout).

They upset the form book, beating India by 18 runs on the reserve day of their semi-final at Old Trafford, but will once again be underdogs on Sunday against the top-ranked side in one-day internationals.

Williamson was content to confer the favourites tag on to England, who have won eight of their last 12 ODIs between the sides, as New Zealand look to go one step further than four years ago, when they were beaten by Australia.

“I think England, rightly so, deserve to be favourites,” he said, when asked whether he feels New Zealand are the underdogs.

“Coming into this tournament from the start, they were favourites and they’ve been playing really good cricket.

“But whatever dog we are, it’s just important that we focus on the cricket that we want to play and we have seen over the years that anybody can beat anybody regardless of breed of dog!”

Williamson was the deputy to Brendon McCullum during New Zealand’s march to the 2015 final, where five of the starters at the MCG showpiece are expected to take to the field at HQ.

He is not underestimating the occasion though he was equivocal about whether having experience of the grand finale is a benefit to New Zealand.

“To be involved in a World Cup and representing your country, let alone to turn up here at the home of cricket and be involved in a final, is pretty special,” he said.

“I think both teams will be savouring the opportunity to be where we are at the moment.

“Any final you get the opportunity to play in is a really positive thing. But at the same time as we know in this game nothing promises.

“We have a very different group, a slightly different vibe and ethos and how we operate, but at the same time there’s a real commitment to that which is a really positive thing. It’s held us in good stead to this point

“It does come down to putting a performance on the board that gives us the best opportunity to win and both sides will be very much looking to do that and trying to treat the game as any other game.”

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England’s Jonny Bairstow, left, and Jason Roy have been key men at the top of the order for the tournament hosts (Nigel French/PA)

Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow have been at the forefront of England’s resurgence in this tournament, registering three consecutive century stands for the opening wicket since the former returned from a hamstring tear.

Williamson added of the pair: “Those two have been fantastic throughout this whole competition and prior as well.

“But there is a huge amount of respect for the match-winners that they have within their side, obviously the top of the order and throughout.

“But the focus for us is very much about the cricket that we want to play and the performance we want to put on the board. If we do that, we have seen throughout this competition that anybody can beat anybody.”

PA

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