DHAKA: CWC 2019 reached Dday today Sunday 14 July. Mother country of cricket England yet again reached Final 4th time of the 12 versions of the cricket’s global event. Earlier in the very second event of Prudential World Cup England lost to the then all conquering West Indies at Lords in 1979. In the final of the 4th episode at Eden Gardens Kolkata Allen Borders Australia beat them in the final in 1987. England also lost to Imran Khan’s cornered tigers at MCG final in 1992.
Today when England plays New Zealand at Lords Eoin Morgan's England is clear favorite. But in no extent of imagination New Zealand is mere push overs. Their spirit must be sky high from the glorious win in the semi final against hot favorites India. Kane Williamson's Kiwis squad are well aware of the strength and weakness of the team and can very well vex and sicken English Lions. Whether it is Eoin Morgan or Kane Williamson who lifts the trophy CWC 2019 is going to crown a new champion.
If we look back in retrospect the format of CWC 2019 has been a long distance mini marathon. Each of the 10 teams played one other requiring 45 games in the preliminary round for settling the four top teams for the semi finals. India and Australia finished 1st and 2nd in the points table. England and New Zealand came out third and 4th. The semi finals witnessed India and Australia exciting and two bottom teams of semi finals qualifiers moving to the finals which many cricket analysts could not comprehend.
On player to player basis England may be well ahead than New Zealand. But cricket is a funny game and ODI on many occasions have proved like a gamble where you win some and loose some. The all conquering India finding New Zealand in the semi final was so confident of winning that they were rather planning for the finals even before the match was played at Manchester. New Zealand shocked India and deservedly marched ahead to their second successive final. In CWC 2015 Australia beat them at MCG in the final.
Kiwi fast bowlers Henry, Boult, Fergusson, Southee are world class. On a pacey wicket in swinging condition they can destroy the best batting unit as they proved twice in the last few weeks. India has been beaten twice (once in the warm up match). On a turning wicket left arm spinner Santner teased and tormented Indian batsmen reputed as the best players of spin. Bowling wise New Zealand is nor behind England.
I would rather rate them marginally ahead considering their razor sharp fielding. It needs to be seen whether Williamson gambles playing with four frontline fast bowlers including Tim Southee in the final. The fifth bowling option of Kiwis appear to be the weak link and England batting deep and having blasters like Buttler and Stokes in the late middle order can exploit that. One must not forget that in Guptil , Williamson and Taylor New Zealand possess three of the top batsmen of the present day cricket. Of them Guptill has not fired yet. Who knows his best may have been saved for the big event. Williamson and Taylor have shouldered their team squeezing their wealth of experience so far. Nicholls, Latham, Neesham and Grandhomme need contributing if New Zealand has to challenge England in the final.
England on the other hand is one of the pre tournament favorites. The name of England and India featured in almost every pre tournament previews. But nature planned different. New Zealand has turned the table. England looked great before the tournament. Indian Captain Virat Kohli thought English batting was so strong that they could even score 500 in 50 overs. Very strong England white washed strong Pakistan 5-0 in their bilateral series just before world cup where they either scored and defended 350 plus scores or chased successfully. In the group matches however their qualification even became uncertain at a stage losing matches against Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia. In the very crucial do or die match against India they survived by the skin of their teeth. Few analysts thought India did not go all out for winning for a strategic reason.
However, at this moments England has the best batting unit in ODI. Roy, Bairstow, Root, Morgan, Buttler, Stokes are all big hitters and all are in great form. Even Moeen Ali, Woakes, Archer and Adel Rashid are also all-rounders. Still this batting has some weaknesses. English batsmen have not shown plan B as yet. Henry, Boult, Fergusson and Santner may test them if wicket and condition suits their type of bowling. England also possess a great all round bowling attack. Archer is a great addition to already strong unit of Wood, Woakes, Plunket, Adel Rashid and Moeen Ali. Whatever New Zealand lacks in batting may be compensated by their fielding superiority.
Toss in the final will be a major issue. If New Zealand wins the toss and can somehow post 280 plus, England will be hard pressed chasing that against aspiring home crowd. But having said all above this is going to be the best chance England ever had for winning the trophy which has eluded them for 44 years. Over the last two version of CWC however home teams (India in 2011 and Australia in 2015) have won. England is favorite. But favorites do not always win .Miracle does happen in the game of glorious uncertainty.
Last night at immigration at Netaji Subhas Chandra International Airport at Kolkata even that officer finding my cricket jacket talked more of World Cup cricket than my purpose of visit. How mad Kolkata could be if India featured in the final. But man proposes and God disposes. Cricket is a game which needs luck as well.
BDST: 1046 HRS, JUL 14, 2019