Who to watch: Australia vs New Zealand in World Cup final
Mar. 28, 2015
MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Expect the World Cup final to have an entirely different complexion to the last encounter between Australia and New Zealand. The group-stage match involving the tournament co-hosts was a low-scoring thriller in Auckland, where New Zealand edged Australia by one wicket and later sealed top spot in Pool A.
With a more vast arena, with Australia at home on the Melbourne Cricket Ground, and with conditions not likely to be as conducive to conventional swing bowling, the bat could well come more heavily into play.
Here are some players to watch:
Role: Left-handed opening batsman
ODI batting average: 34.51
World Cup batting average: 50.00
A big-hitting opener capable of getting Australia away to a flying start, and can go on to post a big score. He scored 178 in Australia's World Cup record win over Afghanistan in the group stage, coming off 34 in Australia's total of 151 in the match in Auckland. Apart from those two innings, he has only tallied 88 in five other innings at the World Cup and is due for a big score.
Role: Right-handed No. 3 batsman
ODI batting average: 39.28
World Cup batting average: 57.66
Has been Australia's form batsman of the summer, scoring centuries in all four tests against India and then, after two single-digit innings to open the World Cup, has contributed significantly since being elevated to bat at No. 3. Can score quickly while also playing an anchor role for the bigger hitters. Has come to the rescue several times to salvage and maintain the innings after early wickets were lost and scored 95, 72, 65 and 105 in his last four innings. His century against India took the semifinal away from the 2011 champions in Sydney. With Michael Clarke announcing that the World Cup final will be his last one-day international, Smith is a contender to become Australia's ODI captain.
Role: Left-arm fast bowler
ODI bowling average: 18.54
World Cup bowling average: 10.20
Since being on the receiving end of some public criticism from Shane Warne, Starc has outshone his faster and more destructive teammate Mitchell Johnson, the International Cricket Council's player of 2014. Starc's return of 6-28 against New Zealand restored Australia's seemingly lost hope of beating New Zealand in Auckland. Has been bowling the ideal length for the conditions and swinging the ball, giving him 20 wickets for the tournament.
Role: Captain, right-handed opening batsman
ODI batting average: 30.7
World Cup batting average: 41.0
Can be explosive with the bat at the top of the order and holds no fear against the new ball, regardless of who is running in at him. His four half-centuries so for in the tournament have come in the bigger games against Sri Lanka, England, Australia and South Africa. He has galvanized his squad with his astute and attacking leadership, and proudly says they're afraid of no one. Regardless of the outcome, he will always be noted as the first captain to guide a New Zealand team to a World Cup semifinal win — the Black Caps lost six semifinals before edging South Africa on the penultimate ball in Auckland.
Role: Left-arm spinner
ODI bowling average: 31.6
World Cup bowling average: 18.8
Has been playing cricket for New Zealand since he was 18 and has long been a leader within the team. Was part of the extended squad at the 1999 World Cup, and has played in the last four editions, coming back from injuries to have one last crack at the title. His tight bowling is crucial in containing opposition teams and he also regularly picks up wickets — with 15 already in the tournament. His calm and experience was crucial in the World Cup semifinal, when he squeezed a boundary early in the rotated the strike to put Grant Elliott into position to hit the winning six.
Role: Left-arm pace bowler
ODI bowling average: 24.6
World Cup bowling average: 15.8
Leads the tournament with 21 wickets, producing late swing with the right line and length to cause all kinds of trouble for the batsmen in New Zealand conditions. His 5-27 in Auckland was instrumental in cutting down Australia for 151 in the pool stage. How he adapts to his first away match of the tournament could be crucial to New Zealand's prospects in the final. He has form against Australia — in his test debut in 2011, New Zealand had an upset victory in Hobart to register its first test win on Australian soil since 1985.