First time finalists New Zealand battle Australia for Cricket World Cup crown

Can Australia benefit from home advantage at the MCG?

Can Australia benefit from home advantage at the MCG?

 

It may have required an exhausting 44 days and 48 matches to reach, but finally the Cricket World Cup crescendo tops out in all the flip-flop, vest top glory joint-hosts Australia can offer. In the end, the final match-up was predictable, as Australia and maiden finalists New Zealand thrashed their way with unrelenting prowess to meet for the chance to become world champions.

Both deserve their place in the final for the attacking, edge-of-your-seat style cricket they have played. No team has matched their appetite for runs and ruthless fast-bowling, and as the pair walk out at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday we are likely to witness a truly stunning contest.

 

Cricket World Cup Final Betting Odds:

Australia win 11/25

New Zealand win 7/4

(All odds provided by AllYouBet.ag are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

Having smashed their way around both of their own islands, New Zealand now travel across the Tasman Sea for their first game of the World Cup on foreign soil. And while Australia will enjoy home advantage, their Kiwi cousins enter the final as the only side to win every match of their campaign including the group stage fixture between these two sides.

New Zealand offer better outright winner odds, but Australia are peaking at the right time and, as shown by their unforgiving dismissal of current champions India in the semi-finals, it is almost impossible to predict a victor.

As such, we need to look elsewhere, and one bet that is more tempting is Australia’s opening partnership to be under 29.5 runs at 5/6 with Coral.

Australia have posted an opening partnership over 30 just once in their seven games so far, striking 57 against England in their first match of the World Cup. Even then, they gave a simple chance in the first over, when Chris Woakes dropped Aaron Finch on a duck; New Zealand are unlikely to be so generous.

 

Indeed, so disciplined have they been in the early overs that only one side scored an opening partnership above 30 against them. Though new-ball pair Tim Southee and Trent Boult suffered late on in their last match with South Africa, where Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers and David Miller went Thor-like hamming the seamers to all parts, they share 36 wickets in the tournament. Crucially for this bet, they remove opposition opening batsmen cheaply: on four occasions the opening stand has fallen for five runs or fewer.

And if the pace bowlers don’t work, New Zealand can turn to the spinning threat of Daniel Vettori in the knowledge he is unlikely to leak runs. The oldest player left in the tournament, 36-year-old Vettori has taken 18 wickets already in this World Cup, and his canny ability to change delivery speed will cause problems in Melbourne. Added to the attacking mind-set of captain Brendon McCullum’s field settings and the MCG’s larger boundaries and Vettori can be used from the off.

In comparison, New Zealand’s forthright batting has their first 15 overs run rate averaging at 6.97 runs per over (Australia lagging on 5.87). Opener McCullum proved against the pace attack of South Africa that even the world’s best bowling won’t prevent him from playing big shots. And though many will point to New Zealand’s smaller boundaries for their big-hitting success, 16 of their 25 knock-out round maximums would have still cleared the MCG ropes. So backing New Zealand to have the most runs after 15 overs (around evens with most sportsbooks) is a worthwhile bet.

 

Lastly, for those who enjoy bet-in-play options, look no further than an Australian win if Steve Smith reaches his half-century. The Australian batsman was pushed up to number three for their quarter-final bout with Pakistan where he made 65, and then backed it up in the semi-finals notching up a man-of-the-match 105.

Once mocked, Smith’s contribution with the bat has been telling, with Australia yet to lose an ODI contest when he makes 50. Averaging 71.50 in the number three slot, Smith provides a calm but powerful presence, building a platform for the likes of Glenn Maxwell and Shane Watson to exploit with their hefty middle-order blows.

 

FRANCIS KELLYfrancis avatar is a sports writer who has contributed to the Independent, the Guardian and The Cricketer magazine. He can be found waxing lyrical about Norwich City on Twitter

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Cricket’s elite poised to deliver highest-scoring World Cup in history

The 49 matches involving 14 nations and preposterously spread over six weeks make the Cricket World Cup the most pointlessly truncated showpiece event in world sport. Yet despite the best efforts of the ICC and television broadcasters to elongate a process that guarantees the success of nations that provide the grandest viewing figures, the cricket itself will be of a high enough quality to dissuade the cynicism. Eventually.

The format from the drearily long 2011 tournament on the sub-continent has been retained for this year’s antipodean adventure; 14 teams will take part in the initial stages, divided into two groups of seven; the seven teams play each other once before the top four teams from each group qualify for the quarter-finals. The format ensures that each team gets to play a minimum of six matches even if they exit in the group stage.

 

Cricket World Cup – Outright Betting Odds:

Australia 2/1

South Africa 3/1

New Zealand 5/1

(All odds from Intertops.eu are accurate as of today and subject to change)

 

The process guarantees that the major nations will all play each other, and with qualification a near certainty if they avoid humiliation against the associate and affiliate member nations – this year comprising Ireland, Afghanistan, Scotland and the United Arab Emirates – meaning the competition may well prove a damp squib until the knockout stage begins on March 18.

While the format may work against the action and drama that World Cups bring across the sporting world, the fixtures that the group stage provides will at least bring a spectacle of world-class cricket. The tournament kicks off this coming Saturday – Valentine’s Day – where no love will be lost (apologies) between tournament favourites Australia, and England, who face each other just hours after the opening game between New Zealand and Sri Lanka.

 

The group stage is awash with potential classic encounters: the grudge match between Pakistan and India, the big-hitting of South Africa against the Indians and the carnage of world cricket’s arch mavericks West Indies and Pakistan.

Expect this to be the highest scoring World Cup in history; the pitches in Australia, and New Zealand to a lesser extent, tend to help batsmen, and with the trend of 50 over scores regularly in excess of 300, even 350, there will be runs galore.

 

As is always the case in these major tournaments, thoughts tend to extend to the players that will light up the stage. AB de Villiers, fresh from his record-breaking and astounding 149 off 44 balls against the West Indies last month cements his position as the number one batsman in ODI cricket. Elsewhere there is the nonchalant brilliance of Chris Gayle, who will surely produce something spectacular with the bat, the evergreen Sri Lankan stalwarts Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene in their swansong tournament, and India’s superstar batsman Virat Kohli.

Heroic batting performances often take the plaudits and dominate the highlights reel, but there will be no shortage of high quality bowling on show either, especially with the juxtaposing nature of the pitches in Australia and New Zealand. The hard and bouncy surfaces in the former will suit the fast bowlers that look to hit the deck; look no further than Mitchell Johnson, Morne Morkel or Mohammad Irfan here. While the swing and seam-friendly conditions in New Zealand will assist the fast bowlers looking to add subtle variations to their deliveries, expect the likes of Dale Steyn, James Anderson and Lasith Malinga to excel in these conditions.

 

The destination of the Cricket World Cup trophy is between three teams; Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. The holders, India (9/1 with AllYouBet.ag) , are on the back of a harrowing tour Down Under and have a record away from home that even Queens Park Rangers would be ashamed of. West Indies are in freefall both on and off the pitch while Pakistan lack the star quality. For South Africa, perhaps the nation packed with most quality in all three departments – batting, bowling and fielding – history is against them as they look to finally end their hoodoo of never winning a knock-out match in World Cup history.

New Zealand, so long the perennial dark horses, are now genuine contenders. Home advantage helps, but their form has been irresistible in the one day game and they now possess a litany of match winners, rather than simply leaning on the mercurial efforts of skipper Brendon McCullum.

 

For Eoin Morgan and England (also 9/1) a quarter-final finish would be a minimum requirement, and a semi-final berth a major overachievement. Despite the obvious improvement since Alastair Cook was stripped of the captaincy and removed from the side, they still struggle to post regular scores in excess of 300 – now par for the course in ODI cricket. The big-hitting of Moeen Ali, James Taylor and Jos Buttler will be key to their success, but so too the form of Joe Root at number four, so often the glue that holds the batting order together.

Whatever the qualms surrounding the format and the never-ending feel of the group stage, this World Cup is packed full of world-class cricketers at the height of their game. The ingredients are there for this to be a classic that the ICC needs after the disappointing fares of 2007 and 2011, even though you might be asleep for most of it.

 

JamesDutton JAMES DUTTON is a freelance journalist who has written for The Mirror, The Guardian and The Times. James helps to  run The False Nine football website, contributes to The Anfield Wrap and is a columnist for uMAXit Football. Follow him on Twitter.