Opinion: Black Caps have chance to create NZ cricket history

1:11 pm on 12 July 2019

Opinion - England might be the best all-round side in the tournament, but the Black Caps won't fear them when they meet in Sunday's Cricket World Cup final at Lord's.

Matt Henry celebrates the dismissal of Karthik and Neesham's catch during the Black Caps semifinal win over India at Old Trafford.

Matt Henry celebrates the dismissal of Dinesh Karthik and Jimmy Neesham's catch during the Black Caps semifinal win over India at Old Trafford. Photo: Photosport

New Zealand got the result they wanted.

Australia would have been a different proposition, but their eight-wicket loss to the hosts in Birmingham on Friday presents a legitimate opportunity to create New Zealand cricket history.

England are brittle mentally and capable of imploding, while this limited, bits-and-pieces Black Caps' side continues to show that they won't beat themselves.

It's been a weird run to the final for New Zealand.

As tournament co-hosts in 2015, they played swashbuckling, thrilling cricket, getting the nation on board from the moment they beat Sri Lanka in the opening game, then sending them into ecstasy with their semifinal win over South Africa.

Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor.

Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor Photo: Photosport

It's been a tougher watch this time. Even the team's best batsmen, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, have scratched around, while the others have often been neither use nor ornament.

The batting order still looks wrong and the team are playing a man short, with Colin de Grandhomme a virtual passenger and, yet, here they are, on the brink of being crowned world champions.

Strangest of all is how this is being received. Gone are the days when teams were dispassionately reported on and you imagine we'll get more of the same when the Rugby World Cup rolls around.

Man of the match Grant Elliott.

Grant Elliott Photo: Photosport

No, if you aren't pictured in a silly sailor's hat or regularly referencing Grant Elliott in reverential tones, then you're not a real New Zealander.

It's hard to know what the actual purpose of social media is, but there's no doubt it's become a vehicle for people who should know better to profess their undying love for the players.

No wonder athletes bristle when someone has the temerity - and good sense - to ask them an actual question. They've become so used to the fawning.

England are going to get plenty of that between now and the final. Their fans and media have long seen this tournament as a prolonged coronation.

From the humiliation of their defeats to New Zealand and Bangladesh at the last world cup, England have rebranded and re-tooled. They're an explosive and entertaining side, built in the image of the Black Caps teams that Brendon McCullum captained.

So much of England's transformation since the 2015 world cup has been informed by their eight-wicket loss to New Zealand at Westpac Stadium. Not just beaten, but humiliated in that match, England captain Eoin Morgan resolved to do things the McCullum way.

Read more Cricket World Cup coverage:

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  • Opinion: In Ross Taylor we should trust
  • Black Caps beat India to reach Cricket World Cup final
  • Black Caps's win 'stunning, extraordinary' - world media reacts
  • That's worked well for them, but it's something this Black Caps side can exploit come Sunday.

    One of the more peculiar aspects of this tournament has been the supposed deterioration of the pitches. Unless the ball and surface are absolutely brand new, these precious batting pups have said it's impossible to play their natural game.

    Don't ask them to adapt. No, if every second ball can't be dispatched to the boundary, then it's because the pitch is unplayable.

    If New Zealand can bat first and post something in the 240 to 250 bracket, then it's game on. Williamson and Taylor have shown they're happy to occupy the crease and not let strike-rate cloud their judgement.

    You could argue that, as the Black Caps' only serviceable batsmen to this point, that they haven't had a choice, but the fact remains they've shown an admirable ability to adjust to the conditions and circumstances.

    England openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow won't do that. Morgan neither.

    Jason Roy (right) and Jonny Bairstow avoid a collision during the Cricket World Cup 2019 semi-final between England and Australia at Edgbaston, Birmingham

    Jason Roy (right) and Jonny Bairstow during the semi-final against Australia at Edgbaston, Birmingham. Photo: Graham Morris / Photosport

    New Zealand's Ben Stokes is so determined to demonstrate his Englishness that he's liable to take a daft option too.

    This is a massive occasion for England.

    Yes, it was big for Australia in 2015, but they already had four Cricket World Cup trophies in the cabinet.

    England have none and the expectations now are extraordinarily high.

    The Black Caps will be written off. They're not India or Australia. Not even mercurial Pakistan. They're dour, stolid, dowdy old New Zealand, whose presence slightly takes the shine off this showpiece final.

    And that's exactly how they like it.

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