July 14 would be the biggest day of the year from a cricketing point of view. The World Cup will conclude with hosts England locking horns with the perennial underdogs New Zealand in the big final at the Mecca of cricket – Lord's. England are certainly going into the match as favourites but after their amazing performance in the semis, nobody would dare to discount the Kiwis.
One of these two teams would end up becoming a new World Champion. England have lost three finals so far while New Zealand's only appearance in a title bout came in 2015. Handling the pressure and keeping nerves in control would be as essential as the usage of skills in this game.
With all set for a grand finish to what has been a brilliant World Cup, let us identify those big factors that will decide the fate of the two teams in the grand final.
The conditions in the two semi-finals couldn't have been more different. While the overcast conditions in the New Zealand vs India match greatly assisted the bowlers, the other semi-final had a flat pitch where England made a mockery of the 224-run target. If the pitch for the final is another shirt-top, then the hosts will have a huge advantage as they have played on such tracks over the last four years and achieved great success. But if there is help for the bowlers, then, the Kiwis, thanks to bowlers like Trent Boult and Matt Henry, would fancy their chances. Hence, the skies and the 22 yards of ground will make a big difference.
Toss has proven to be extremely crucial throughout this tournament. England came into this World Cup with the reputation of a side that is extremely comfortable while chasing, even when the target is big. However, that reputation got torn in shreds with three losses and after that, the team opted to bat first in their key matches when their captain won the toss. Hence, batting first in the finals will also be a big advantage. Yes, the hosts thrashed Aussies in the semi-final batting second but New Zealand, who just defended 240 against India would be a different proposition. On top of that, the pressure of final will also bear upon the teams. So, the side batting first will have a head-start.
Before the World Cup, most people, when asked who would be the most important players for England in the tournament, would have mentioned Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Jos Buttler, Jofra Archer, etc. But it has turned out that the man who seems most indispensable to the home side is their opener Jason Roy. His absence from the team due to an injury co-incided with a serious dip in the form of the English side. The moment he came back into the side, their fortunes turned as Roy started to blaze away in the first 10 overs and give his team the early advantage which they capitalised on to win matches. His comeback triggered a turnaround for England and they haven't looked back. Due to his presence, Jonny Bairstow has also been able to get himself in and score hundreds. Whether he succeeds or fails will be a huge factor in Sunday's final.
Root vs Williamson
Two of the best batsmen in the world, Joe Root and Kane Williamson, would have a lot riding on their shoulders going into this match. Both would be expected to hold one end up for their teams and bat till the end. For these two, a hundred or more in the final would be a big achievement. Both are not only important for the runs they themselves score but also for how much pressure they absorb and freedom they give to the batsmen at the other end. It would be essential for one of them to bat through the innings and shepherd their side to, either victory in chase or a high score in first innings. Whoever does that better is likely to end on the winning side.
Utilizing the new ball
Both New Zealand and England are in the final because their new ball bowlers destroyed the opposition's top order in their respective semis. This clearly illustrates the dependence of these two teams on the success of their new ball bowlers. Archer and Chris Woakes on one side and Boult and Matt Henry on the other would be needed to fire and get early wickets for their team to gain ascendancy in the game. The success or failure of these bowlers to do that would be another key factor.