POOL A | Saturday 28 February | Auckland | 03:00
To Win Match
New Zealand 5/4
The Black Caps have proven that their form coming into the World Cup was no fluke, overpowering Sri Lanka comfortably before brutally mauling England. Scotland managed to give New Zealand a scare but perhaps a slight dip in form is acceptable so long as the match is won. In this case however, against their neighbours and nearest rivals, any mistakes will be punished. New Zealand put on a show for the crowd in Wellington, showing hunger in the field as Tim Southee ripped through England’s batting line-up with an exceptional display of swing bowling. His figures of 7/33 were only a wicket short of a World Cup record. Captain Brendon McCullum then proceeded to destroy England’s attack, breaking his own record for the fastest World Cup fifty in his 77 from 25 balls. The Black Caps hit the required runs in 12.2 overs to finish eight-wicket winners on 125/2. Something very close to the intensity of that performance will be required here.
Rain marred proceedings in Brisbane as Australia’s meeting with Bangladesh was abandoned without a ball bowled. It does mean that Australia haven’t played a match in almost a fortnight but it seems unlikely to have affected the focus and motivation of the the side. Michael Clarke will return to skipper the team and although his skill and record cannot be denied, he may be considered a weak point in the middle-order following a long injury absence. David Warner seems intent on ensuring that McCullum has a “brain explosion”, presumably referring to applying pressure on the opposite captain until he loses patience. In Warner and Finch, Australia have perhaps the deadliest opening combination in the tournament. Finch is fresh from his 135 against England in the opening match. Australia’s pace attack will make use of the swing on offer and as it stands on paper, it is difficult to pry these two sides apart.
As discussed, the short boundaries are the biggest feature of Eden Park. Bowlers who miss their lengths under pressure are going to travel here. Even top edges go for six in Auckland. Many of the Australian players are strangely unfamiliar with the ground, which New Zealand haven’t been very successful on in ODIs in recent years. It likely to be rather cloudy, which could assist the seamers during the day.
VERDICT: Australia 13/20
This is probably the toughest match in the World Cup to call. I’d like to believe that New Zealand have what it takes to get over the line here but Australia, with the crowd against them and their backs against the wall, know how to get the job done. If anything, it only serves to fire them up and remove the weight of expectation. This is going to be a fiery clash and certainly worth waking up for.