The World Cup has entered its final stage. Both the semifinals are done and on Sunday, Australia and New Zealand battle it out for the ultimate crown in the game.
Of the two semifinals, the New Zealand-South Africa game was by far the more entertaining with no one being able to tell the outcome till literally the last ball of the match was bowled. South Africa may have missed a trick by electing to bat first after winning the toss, but all credit to the New Zealand seamers for utilizing the conditions that existed at the time so well.
Perhaps South Africa were also a bit hasty about bringing back Vernon Philander to the playing eleven, especially when Kyle Abbot had performed so well in the previous game. I also think they were a bit unfairly done by the Duckworth-Lewis ruling which gave them just another 17 runs for what was a major change in the way this match was to be played.
Yet, to score 298 in 43 overs could not possibly have been easy and though Elliot rightly took the man of the match award, it was yet again Brendon McCullum who played a huge part in New Zealand’s successful run chase. His blitz which enabled New Zealand to notch up 71 in just four overs meant that New Zealand were never under any pressure with regard to the run rate.
The other semi-final was, disappointingly, a rather one-sided affair with India never really looking like winning. Except for the first dozen or so overs of their innings when their openers Rohit Sharma and Shekhar Dhawan were going at almost six an over, they were never in the game. And after they lost their top three batsmen for 93, they were out of it. Dhoni made a very late attempt but by that time the task was all but impossible. It was a masterly display by the Australians who controlled the game from start to finish, playing like the true professionals that they are.
I think a lot of people would like New Zealand to win the final, mainly because the myth of so-called “elite” nations needs to be broken, and what better way of doing this than for a non-elite nation to lift the World Cup? But the odds are stacked against them. They are playing for the first time in Australia and within a few days of landing there will be walking into the most important match any of their players have ever played.
New Zealand will also have to get used to the much larger MCG where shots that went for six on most of their grounds in New Zealand could be caught well within the boundary line. And the Australians will be thirsting for revenge, having been cut to the quick by their defeat in the group match in New Zealand. But no final is ever easy to call and this one is no exception. If New Zealand can replicate the form they have been showing thus far in this tournament, they could well win their first World Cup.