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Mission Impossible for Kiwis against England

July 12, 2019 11:41 IST

Despite their up and down showing in the league stages, there is no doubt that England are one of the most complete teams in the World Cup and are heavy favourites for Sunday's final, but New Zealand won't give up without a fight, says Harish Kotian.

IMAGE: Chasing 224 in a World Cup semifinal was not expected to be a walk in the, park but England made it look easy with an aggressive approach. Photograph: Cricket World Cup/Twitter

Can New Zealand stop England from winning the World Cup?

Going by how the two semi-finals played out, New Zealand face an impossible task to stop the English juggernaut after the hosts thrashed five-time champions Australia by 8 wickets in a lop-sided second semi-final.

And you don't need to look far to know why England are the heavy favourites against New Zealand.

Just a week ago, England destroyed the Kiwis by 119 runs in a league stage game, with Jonny Bairstow hitting a century to guide the hosts to 305/8 before the pacers, led by Mark Wood (3/34), turned in a fiery performance to bowl out the visitors for 186.

England were at their dominating best in the semi-final too. Eoin Morgan's men skittled out Australia for a below-par 223 before romping to the target in just 32.1 overs.

Jason Roy (85) and Jonny Bairstow (34) posted their fourth successive century opening partnership to give England a huge boost going into Sunday's title clash.

 

Jofra Archer

IMAGE: Jofra Archer is England's highest-wicket taker with 19 wickets from 10 games. Photograph: Michael Steele/Getty Images

England, who last made the final in 1992, when they lost to Pakistan, started the tournament as one of the favourites along with India.

After starting their World Cup campaign with a confident 104 run win against South Africa, they stumbled against Pakistan before reeling off three wins in a row (against Bangladesh, West Indies and Afghanistan) to get their campaign back on track.

However, the 20 run defeat to Sri Lanka was a big shock, which was followed by another loss to Australia. It put England on the brink of ouster from the World Cup.

The turning point for England came against India when they beat the two-time champions by 31 runs, with their openers -- Roy (66) and Bairstow (111) -- taking centrestage. They Englishmen haven't looked back since.

On the other hand, New Zealand, who came into the semi-final on the back of three successive defeats, survived a tense finish in their semi-final against India as they sneaked home by 18 runs.

For New Zealand to stop England, the key would be to get early wickets and they certainly have the bowling to do it, as they proved against India.

Bairstow and Roy have the ability to knock the daylights out of the opposition with their no-holds barred approach in the early overs.

Jason Roy

IMAGE: Jason Roy has hit three fifties and a century in his last four innings in the World Cup. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

So far, Bairstow has hit two centuries and two fifties while scoring 496 runs from 10 games at a strike rate of 95, while Roy has slammed 426 runs from seven games at a strike rate of 117.

And if any of them do perish early, England have the in-form Joe Root to follow at No 3, who has so far scored 549 runs including two centuries, while Eoin Morgan (362 runs), Ben Stokes (381) and Jos Buttler (253) are all capable of winning games on their own.

Despite their up and down showing in the league stages, there is no doubt that England are one of the most complete teams in the tournament.

If the English batting looks menacing, then their bowling is equally capable with four frontline fast bowlers; in fact you could make that five with Stokes capable of bowling some testing spells in the middle, along with the spin threat from leggie Adil Rashid.

Trent Boult

IMAGE: Trent Boult celebrates Virat Kohli's wicket in the first semi-final. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

New Zealand, who lost the 2015 World Cup final to Australia, will need to play out of their skins to go one better this time around.

The Kiwis only sneaked into the semis ahead of Pakistan due to a better run rate despite losing their last three league games and are far from genuine title contenders.

New Zealand's batting is heavily reliant on the two senior pros -- Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor.

As compared to England, the Kiwi openers are struggling for runs. Martin Guptill (167 runs from 9 games) has been woefully short of runs, while his other opening partners Colin Munro (125 runs from 6 matches) and Henry Nicholls (36 runs in 3 matches) have not inspired much confidence either.

Kane Williamson

IMAGE: New Zealand's hopes will largely depend on Captain Kane Williamson. Photograph: David Rogers/Getty Images

England will be aware that if they dismiss Williamson (548 runs from nine games) early, then it will be more than half the battle won.

Taylor has not convinced so far despite getting 335 runs, while the likes of Jimmy Neesham, Tom Latham and Colin de Grandhomme won't exactly set the house on fire.

One thing is certain: New Zealand, as they showed against India, will fight till the very last ball and won't let England have it easy.

Can Trent Boult & Co. deliver one final time?

Or will it be a grand English party at Lord's? Very few will bet against the latter!

HARISH KOTIAN / Rediff.com
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