On Sunday morning, the co-hosts of Cricket World Cup 2015 will face off at the MCG in front of close to 100,000 people. One hundred thousand people. That’s insane, isn’t it? But, given the outstanding performances from these two sides over the course of the tournament, it’s totally justified.
So, let’s look at the two teams in detail shall we? Picking a winner from this game will probably be as difficult as picking between two delicious snacks, and not quite as fun. However, using a super-sophisticated rating system, I'll have a crack at predicting who will come out on top. Wish me luck.
I think New Zealand have the edge here for one simple reason: Brendon McCullum. The Kiwi captain is arguably the world’s most devastating batsmen and, at the top of the order, often gets New Zealand off to lightning starts. Oh, and at the other end is Martin Guptill, a man who has the highest individual score in a World Cup with 237 against the West Indies. If these two are still together after ten overs, expect the Kiwis to score big.
Australia have two aggressive openers themselves, with David Warner particularly belligerent early on. The beauty of Warner and his parnter-in-crime, Aaron Finch is that, most of the time, when one man fails, the other one picks up the pieces. Probably the second best ODI opening pair in the world.
New Zealand – 9.5
Australia – 9
But this is where the Aussies have an advantage. With Steve Smith in a run of good form which seems to have been going for about two years, Sunday’s hosts have a guy who can glue their innings together – and it’s not easy to glue together a batting line up which is almost always on fire.
After him come Glen Maxwell (a guy who pretty much goes berserk from ball one), Shane Watson and Michael Clarke, who seems happy to not bat at all most days, if it gives his more expressive batsmen a chance to shine.
New Zealand’s middle order is handy too, of course. Kane Williamson continues to impress, providing a calm after what is usually a storm of runs from the openers. Ross Taylor isn’t in the best of form, but often saves his best for the big occasions, while Corey Anderson and Grant Elliot are more than good enough for a few runs.
Australia – 8.5
New Zealand – 8
I’ve got to give Australia the edge here too. As an England fan, I find it painful to back the Aussies in anything, but Brad Haddin has been sensational with the bat and gloves for over a year now. Experienced and cool under pressure, I expect him to produce the goods when needed on Sunday. Luke Ronchi is also an exceptional player, as his recent big hundred against Sri Lanka shows, but Brad is the man for me.
Australia – 8.5
New Zealand – 7.5
But this is where New Zealand strike back. With Trent Boult, Adam Milne and Tim Southee in great form throughout the World Cup, the Kiwi attack has enough in it to blow away Australia if everything goes their way. Boult in particular has been superb, swinging the ball in to the right handers early on. If he can remove one of the openers and get at Steve Smith early, Australia’s strong batting line up could be exposed. Southee is also pretty decent; he took seven (SEVEN) wickets against England and is always a threat.
As for the Aussies? Well, with three left arm quicks in their arsenal, they have bags of pace, lots of swing, and something a little different. James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc are all very, very quick. On an MCG surface which will offer pace and bounce, they could get right in amongst the Kiwis. However, I expect Boult to be the best bowler on the day.
New Zealand – 9.5
Australia – 9
A difficult one, this. Why? Because Australia may not even pick a specialist spinner. But if they do, it will probably be Xavier Doherty. A brilliant name, yes. But a brilliant bowler? Not quite.
Which is why I think New Zealand have the edge here, too. Daniel Vettori, the wily old fox is still capable of causing any one problems. As a tall spinner, his extra bounce could bring an added dimension to the Black Caps’ attack. It was he who pegged Australia back in the group stage match between the two. He may well do the same again here.
As for Doherty, he is a capable bowler who has got some of the best batsmen out before, but I can’t see McCullum, Guptill and co being too worried about him. Vettori gives New Zealand the edge here.
New Zealand – 8.5
Australia – 7.5
A difficult one to call, but I’m going to give this to Australia.
Both sides possess incredible fielders, with great stops, catches and throwing likely to be as much a feature of the final as the huge sixes and flying bails.
However, the Aussies have David Warner, Glen Maxwell and Steve Smith, all of whom are unbelievable fielders – Maxwell’s run out of MS Dhoni in the semi-final a particular highlight. In McCullum, Anderson and even Boult, New Zealand are no slouches, but I think Australia have the edge.
Australia – 9.5
New Zealand – 9
So, the final scores?
New Zealand: 52
Oh would you look at that?! They’re level…what a coincidence.
However, I will have to back Australia to squeeze home on Sunday. On a track which should suit their team and with them in front of a raucous crowd, I think Australia will be lifting the trophy on Sunday. New Zealand are arguably more explosive in both batting and bowling, but are perhaps too reliant on two or three players, whereas Australia have a team of players who can make the difference on the day.
That, and their extra experience, will make the difference. Please don’t remind me of this if I’m wrong.