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England have talent & mentality to become the world champions

Kane’s New Zealand will not make it easy for Eoin & Co.
David Ivon Gower
David Ivon Gower
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David Ivon Gower/Eye On Cup   |   Published 13.07.19, 09:25 PM

Can I just start with a massive wow? It is a huge relief to all of England, or at least those that have followed their cricket team through thick and thin, that their team has made it to the final.

The tag of “favourites” is not an easy one to wear.

England players gave themselves and supporters a nasty scare when they needed to win against India and New Zealand in order to ensure a place in the semi finals. But those two must-win matches obviously gave them all the incentives they needed to start playing at the level which had taken them to No. 1 spot in the ODI rankings and had earned that favourites tag in the first place.

To raise that level yet again in demolishing Australia in the semis was just awesome to watch not just because of the long rivalry between the two countries. It was an absolute demolition, a trouncing or, to use one of the favourite words of the great man himself, Richie Benaud, a “shellacking”.

It was a day when all the pieces fell into place pretty much perfectly, with the only element untested being all those batsmen in the order below No. 4. I wrote before the game how it might be decided in the first 10 overs but I had not anticipated quite how dramatically that would come to pass, with Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer both bowling so much better than they had in the group stage encounter against the same batsmen.

You know it’s your day when your first ball, as in Archer’s case, is straight enough and good enough to take out the opposition captain and as a moment to set the tone for the rest of the day it does not get any better.

The trick now is to achieve the same level of planning and execution for this era-defining match at Lord’s.

Everything that happened against Australia was very much according to a plan. The lengths and lines bowled at the top of the game were exemplary and the response with the bat, again led and inspired by Jason Roy, was very much of the school of thought “this is how we do it at the top of the innings” and a relatively modest target wasn’t going to change that.

It reminds me of all those pre-match team meetings over the years. In my days there were some very erudite dissertations from Mike Brearley on how to bowl to our various oppositions, then came an era when every batsman would be dealt with by Ian Botham, who usual contribution to the discussion was along the lines of “Leave him to me” and so on.

The gist of all such meetings was a strategy by which we would win each and every any game by a distance but seldom has such a strategy been put into practice in such fashion as it was the other day.

In essence the plan will be the same today with suitable adjustments for the Black Caps. It would be easy to dismiss Martin Guptill, who on his form in World Cup 2019 has been easy to dismiss. I suspect that the England analysts will still look at him as a potentially destructive force and will have a dossier on him on his 178 matches in which he has a decent average over of 42. Who knows?

There will be an air of it might just come right on the day for him, maybe a psychological boost from the Mahendra Singh Dhoni run out, and from England’s point of view it is obviously better to be prepared than simply dismissive.

The big two are of course Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, whose collaboration at Old Trafford kept New Zealand in the game. A lot of England’s planning will be on how to keep them in control. In that respect, and of course depending on what sort of pitch they all get to work with at Lord’s, I would keep things as simple as possible.

If Woakes and Archer can replicate their opening bursts from the semi-final then, even if wickets do not fall quite so quickly, runs will be hard to come by.

It is one of those times when focus on one’s own strengths is as or more relevant than appreciation of those of your opponents.

The truth is that even the best batsmen can and will be troubled by great bowling.

The evidence from both semi-finals, which plainly shows that Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Aaron Finch and David Warner managed 11 runs between them proves the point.

One that England’s top four will be aware of too, having seen the way Trent Boult and Matt Henry used their new ball the other day!

I mentioned ahead of the semis how New Zealand have consistently made the whole greater than the sum of their parts through assiduous team work and that is exactly what they achieved again at Old Trafford.

Look at the scorecard and even the lower scores add something in a close game. The fielding was dramatically good, the Jimmy Neesham catch, the Guptill run out both brilliant, and one cannot plan moments like those.

Eoin Morgan and his team, both the players and those assisting in the broader sense behind the scenes, will be fully aware of all the possible pitfalls but he and they have built this machine on the back of four years of very positive thinking and hugely positive execution.

The semi-final was the embodiment of all that and the mood in the camp must be to see it through in the same way.

If it goes the same way as the semis then there will be little to worry about and I will be there in the stands toasting a historic victory along with the other 28,000 at Lord’s.

Where Morgan and his men might have to be rather cleverer is obviously enough if they find themselves somehow up against it, a very realistic proposition given the circumstances.

It is all very well and very lovely not to trouble the middle order but as and when you need them to step up then we have seen before in this self-same World Cup, against Sri Lanka in particular, that pressure can do strange things to even the most confident of teams.

The mantra, neither new nor complicated, is that each and every player assume that he must take responsibility for his and the team’s success and not leave the task for someone else to take on.

So, from the captain, coach, psychologist, analyst, even the bloke who wheels the tea into the dressing room in the morning, the England view has to be to look at the men involved and say who would you rather have in your middle order? Is it Neesham, Colin de Grandhomme, Tom Latham, Mitchell Santner or is it Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, Woakes, Liam Plunkett?

I know my preference and it is another reason to back England in this match.

I am confident that England have the talent, the mentality and maybe even the sense of destiny that will make them champions of the world by the end of the day.

I am equally confident that New Zealand will not make it easy for the hosts.

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