Four years ago, a hastily assembled English team suffered from one of their worst World Cup campaigns. With only two wins over Scotland and Afghanistan, England were knocked out in the group stages of the tournament. The turmoil in the side re. Kevin Pietersen, and the eventual sacking of Alastair Cook – merely months before the World Cup, hardly inspired confidence on England’s future, even after the tournament.
However, a brilliantly laid-out recovery process, with Eoin Morgan being given a free hand to experiment with the side, resulted in the emergence of one of the strongest limited-overs side from the country. It comes as no surprise that four years later, England are in their first World Cup final since 1992.
Taking them on will be New Zealand, who have known little but heartbreak at such stages. The Kiwis, who reached their second consecutive final, will aim to finally break the deadlock which has haunted them for decades.
Kane Williamson’s side may not be perfect - they look weaker on paper against England, but they’ve always been great readers of the game, and they showed it brilliantly in the semifinal against India. Like England, Virat Kohli’s men were crowned favorites against the BlackCaps, but wistful captaincy and an exceptional all-round performance led the Kiwis to victory.
Both the sides meet in the final, with an aim to become the first-ever men from their country to lift the coveted trophy. Let’s take a brief look at how they came to achieve this:
The Kiwis survived a scare towards the end of the tournament, and then defeated the favourites in the semifinal. Call it what you want, but New Zealand were also the second-last side to face a defeat in the 2019 World Cup, which speaks volume about the cricket they played towards the beginning of the tournament.
Kane Williamson’s excellence, with crucial supporting roles from the likes of Ross Taylor and James Neesham in the batting order papered over the cracks which went deep and deeper with every passing game of the tournament. With the ball, however, New Zealand were always the force to reckon with. In favourable conditions, New Zealand’s attack had the quality to provide serious distress to the batsmen, as they showed against India in the semifinal.
New Zealand’s brilliance, however, lies in their fielding – which is often left underappreciated. Their presence on the field is fiery, and their performances under pressure are a lesson. They cling on to tough catches and save important runs on the field, which have usually been the margins between victories and losses in the 2019 edition of the tournament.
Against West Indies, the Kiwis held their nerves even as Carlos Brathwaite continued his assault to scrap a five-run victory, courtesy a terrific catch from Trent Boult. In the semifinal, Jimmy Neesham put on an incredible effort to take a one-handed catch to dismiss Dinesh Karthik, who looked resolute at the time. In the same game, Kane Williamson took two great catches to remove Hardik Pandya and Ravindra Jadeja, who, otherwise, could’ve taken the game away from the Kiwis.
Being the hosts of the 2019 World Cup, England were looked at as one of the natural favourites to win the tournament. Staying true to the claim, England advanced to victory with ease in their opening game against South Africa.
The smiles soon vanished, however, as the side faced a narrow defeat to Pakistan. The age-old clichés began to circulate again, with a few terming it ‘the pressure of the World Cup’.
It might be so, because even as England proceeded to secure comfortable victories in their next three games, the side hit the roadblock again. An injury to Jason Roy almost hampered England’s chances for a semifinal qualification. England lost to Sri Lanka, who, in broad terms, were an embodiment of the 2015-England side. With another defeat against arch-rivals Australia, many fans began to fear the perceived inevitable.
“Surely, not this time?” said the people.
Roy recovered in time, however, to inspire England to victory against India – a statement of intent, many called it. With another win over New Zealand, the side saved themselves from embarrassment, qualifying for the final four.
In the semifinal against Australia, however, England came out all guns blazing to register an 8-wicket victory. The pacers wreaked havoc, and will hold the key to the side’s chances when they take on New Zealand on July 14.