Melbourne, Australia: Fast bowler Tim Southee says that after reaching the Cricket World Cup final for the first time and with its most well-rounded limited-overs team ever assembled, New Zealand is ready for "one more big push" to beat Australia and to write a new chapter in its history.
Southee said New Zealand had allowed itself a day to celebrate the dramatic semifinal win over South Africa which carried it into Sunday's final in Melbourne, and had now "parked" the memory of that match.
Playing in a World Cup final, particularly against Australia in Australia, was his "dream come true."
"As a kid growing up you either wanted to be an All Black or a Black Cap and this is as good as it gets," he said. "I'm sure the guys are very excited to fulfill a childhood dream."
Southee said New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum "speaks a lot about it being the time of our lives and the last couple of months we wouldn't replace for anything. We never wanted it to end, we've made it last as long as we possibly cane and one more big push and the guys will remember it forever."
Southee spoke of a sporting rivalry with Australia in which New Zealand was always "the little brother." He was asked directly at a news conference on Friday whether Sunday's final was about winning the respect of a fierce sporting rival whose attitude to New Zealand cricket has always contained a note of condescension.
Southee allowed that there had been cause in the past for Australia to view New Zealand in that manner.
"In times gone by we haven't played to our potential or been as consistent as we should have been," he said. "In the last two years we've slowly, slowly gained a bit more respect because of the brand of cricket we're playing.
"We respect Australia, they're a quality side and they're not No. 1 in the world for no reason. But I'm sure we've gained a bit of repsect for the brand of cricket we've played over the last couple of years. I guess that opinion has changed a little bit over the last couple of years in the way that we've played and because of the sides we've beaten."
Southee said a World Cup final between the tournament's co-hosts at the Melbourne Cricket Ground — one of cricket's greatest stages — was "pretty exciting."
"It's an awesome opportunity," he said. "It's going to be a great game of cricket. Obviously both teams are playing exceptionally well at the moment and both are playing a great brand of cricket so it should be an exciting game and a great game to watch."
The first appearance of gamesmanship in the leadup to the match came early, when former Australia batsman Matthew Hayden said New Zealand might be at a loss in the giant auditorium of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, because it is so much larger than the venues in which they typically play at home."
New Zealand hasn't played Australia at the MCG in almost six years but Southee doubted they would struggle to adapt to the dimensions.
"We're not too worried about the size of the ground," Southee said. "Yeah, we haven't played here for a long time but there are half a dozen guys who were part of the last game that we played here and we have good memories of that game. It's a big cricket ground, there's going to be a lot of people, it's going to be loud, but at the end of the day it's another game of cricket."