Kiwis will give everything to win their first World Cup trophy, says NZ skipper McCullum while Australia captain Clarke confident of fifth triumph today
Melbourne: The World Cup trophy up for grabs today at the Melbourne Cricket Grounds is one man’s dream and the other’s destiny.
Oz skipper Michael Clarke (left) and NZ captain Brendon McCullum pose with the World Cup trophy in Melbourne on Saturday. PIC/Getty Images
Going by form, the New Zealanders have been unbeaten in the eight matches they’ve played in the tournament, but on head-to-head statistics, Australia seem to be the firm favourite having beaten the Kiwis a whopping 85 times to their 35 in the 126 ODI meetings till date. New Zealand’s dashing opener and captain Brendon McCullum admits it’s like a dream come true for a country lad like him, who was born and brought up in South Dunedin. “The ride has been pretty amazing so far, and it’s been the greatest time of our lives. It’s been an amazing trip. We dreamt right from the start and now give ourselves a 50-50 chance in the final. I think the brand of cricket that we’ve played has really touched a lot of people and endeared ourselves to a lot of people, who follow this game. We’ve got one more big hurdle tomorrow and we’ll give it everything we’ve possibly got. Hopefully, we’ll be smiling at the end of the day,” said McCullum.
But then again, on form, the Australians have comprehensively beaten defending champions India by 95 runs in the semi-finals. And in the numbers department, NZ are ahead of Australia when it comes to the top three batsmen and bowlers in this tournament. NZ batters Martin Guptill has amassed 532 runs, McCullum has 328 runs and Corey Anderson has collected 231 runs in this tournament. Among Kiwi bowlers, Trent Boult leads the pack with 21 wickets, Daniel Vettori has 15 and Tim Southee has 15 wickets too. On the other hand, Australia’s Steve Smith tops the charts with 346, Glenn Maxwell is second with 324 and David Warner third with 300 runs. Among the wickets, Mitchell Starc is on 20, Mitchell Johnson is on 12 and Josh Hazlewood on seven.
All in all, it’s an even battle and both captains know that. “New Zealand have been the form team of the competition. They have beaten us once in this tournament,” said Clarke, before adding: “But I’m confident that if we play our best, we can beat them tomorrow.”
Steve Smith (Australia)
In a rich vein of form since his switch to No 3 after Shane Watson’s demotion to lower in the batting order and has four consecutive scores above 50, highlighted by his last start 105 off 93 balls in the semi-final victory over India. Smith has all the shots, both conventional and quirky, to keep opposing bowlers on their toes as they try to restrict his fidgety high-scoring tempo. He is also influential in the field and has taken some exceptionally athletic catches and he insisted on skipper Michael Clarke going after a review for a caught behind of Ajinkya Rahane (44) that was confirmed by ‘Snicko’ and given out at an important stage in the India semi-final.
Brendon McCullum (New Zealand)
Much rides on the NZ captain setting a good foundation for the side with his fearless batting at the top of the innings. McCullum has made four fifties in the tournament, including a frenetic 77 off just 25 balls with eight fours and seven sixes against England and his pulsating scoring tempo eases the pressure on those who follow. He is the fulcrum of the Black Caps, inspiring his team with a lead-by-example approach as NZ chase their first World Cup crown. His toughness is legendary: he took a nasty blow on his unprotected left arm from Australia’s fast bowler Mitchell Johnson but, after lengthy treatment on his swollen forearm, batted on.
>> He retires from ODIs with a ton
>> Steve Smith scores another century
>> McCullum has an off day
>> Boult and Southee provide early breakthroughs
>> He and Guptill get off to a flying start
>> Vettori restricts flow of runs