Four years ago, back in the sub-continent in 2011, India and Sri Lanka were the two finalists.
History repeats itself and the two hosts find themselves up against each other in this dream final, hoping for a fairy-tale ending to their spectacular run.
Before we move onto the final just yet, lets talk a little about the two semi-finals:
Semi-final 1: New Zealand vs South Africa, 24th March, Auckland
In a nutshell: in a rain interrupted match, Duckworth-Louis favoured the batting side one more time, and South Africa’s semi-final rain jinx continued. The Proteas have been in four semi-finals now and they have ended on the unfortunate side in all, three because of the showers from above.
South Africa was batting first and they got off to a pretty stable start and were just gathering momentum when rain stopped play. At this time, they were 216-3 in 38 overs. When the match resumed, the overs had been reduced to 43. There’s not much one can do in 5 overs but nevertheless they made the most of them and finished at 281.
New Zealand had an adjusted target of 298 in 43 overs. Despite the fact that it was a nearly impossible score to chase, and that too in a semi-final, the Kiwis always looked in control. They maintained a good pace through the innings, but towards the end, it became very close.
12 runs were needed off the last over and when it was 10 off 4, a boundary pretty much sealed it. On the second last ball, 5 runs were required to win and the ball was smashed into the stands. That was it. Elliott had taken his side home.
Maybe South Africa choked, maybe they didn’t. There were a lot of fielding errors in the final overs that could have possibly cost them the match.
After the final blow, there was a paradox of emotions. Big smiles on one side and crushed hearts on the other.. I have watched a lot of cricket matches, but I have not seen this too often. The team broke down on the field, and millions over the world cried with them.
Semi-final 2: Australia vs India, 26th March, Sydney
Although this match was being played in Sydney, it was expected that there would be more Indian supporters than Australian.
As the umpire announced, “gentlemen, let’s play” everyone wondered, would the two hosts meet in the finals or would the two league toppers meet?
The Indian bowlers took an early wicket, but that was it for a long long time. The Australians put up 182 run partnership and the team was looking at a total well over 300.
Wickets started falling again but it was too little too late and Australia finished at 329. Finch and Smith were the highest contributors.
The Indian openers started well but this was extremely short-lived as wickets started to fall. It was always going to be a difficult chase and the continuous trail of dismissals didn’t help. In the end, Australia won by 95 runs.
Any moments of revival were temporary; any hope was false. The lethal Australian bowling attack slowly and painfully took the game away from the Indians. Starc, Hazlewood, Johnson and Faulkner all had wickets against their name.
The match ended, and there was déjà vu: same big smiles, same heartbreak and same tears. This is sport though, there can only be one winner, and Australia were undoubtedly the better team that day. Perhaps Pool A was the tougher one.
What people had remembered was that India was still unbeaten this World Cup; what they had forgotten was that India had played a number of matches against Australia in Australia in the past few months, and hadn’t beaten them even once.
Let’s shift our focus back to the final now.
A big final is lined up for tomorrow; here is some food for thought before you choose which side you want to back:
- Most people would already know that New Zealand is still unbeaten this World Cup. Australia has lost just one match, and that too to New Zealand.
- New Zealand have played all their matches in New Zealand and Australia have played all their matches in Australia. This one is in Australia and New Zealand fields are comparatively smaller than the huge MCG. It would be interesting to see how the Kiwi batsmen adapt to these conditions.
- Australia has a home ground and home crowd advantage. This home factor may make all the difference in a high-pressure game.
- New Zealand has reached the final for the first time after losing 6 semi-finals, while Australia has won the World Cup 4 times.
Why New Zealand will win:
Their from is formidable. They have reached the final in a dream run, defeating every team that came their way. If they take this form to the field, they will be a difficult side to beat. Having emerged victorious in a tight game has tested them and they have learnt how to pull themselves out of a tough spot and take every chance that comes their way. Looking for their maiden title, they will not let this one go easily.
Why Australia will win:
They have the all-important home advantage and crowd support and are well adapted to the conditions at the MCG. They are a consistent side, known to perform well under pressure and snatch the big games. After the massive win over defending champions India, where both their bowlers and batsmen performed well, they are extremely high on confidence. Michael Clarke has announced his retirement and he will make sure his last game is a memorable one.
So what’s going to happen tomorrow? The heart says New Zealand, but the head says Australia. This past week, the head-to-heart is 2-0.
If history were to repeat itself one more time, would Australia be the winner at MCG just like India was at Wankhede? We will find out soon!