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Favourites England lock horns with rejuvenated New Zealand for World Cup's fitting finale
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Favourites England lock horns with rejuvenated New Zealand for World Cup's fitting finale

History will be made at Lord's on Sunday as the ultimate victors of the highly-anticipated World Cup final will engrave their name on the coveted trophy for the first time in cricket history.

Six weeks of cricket action, forty-seven games espousing a grueling test of caliber and it all boils down to this - Kane Williamson's band of 'underdogs' take on Eoin Morgan's group of flamboyant go-getters to decide who lifts the grandest prize in the sport.

Two contrasting styles of captaincy would be on display at the fateful encounter, determining which brand of cricket triumphs in the final test of skills and strategy.

England's dramatic journey from being a bunch of misfits embarrassingly exiting the 2015 World Cup to achieving the number one ranking in one-day internationals has often been repeated but it once again serves to show how far they have come in their successful and exuberant transformation.

Morgan has frequently referred to the thrashing his side received from New Zealand four years ago as the turning point in England's mindset that triggered a spate of changes to revamp the existing approach to the game.

Morgan did allude to being inspired by the then-captain of the Black Caps Brendon McCullum which led him to adopt a more aggressive style of leadership, in the press conference ahead of the match.

"We are close mates. He's taught me a lot about leadership. He proved you can get to the highest level by being yourselves," he said about the former New Zealand skipper who led his team to the 2015 final.

On a similar note, the Kiwis' march to the final has also culminated from a strength of character and resilience not witnessed in New Zealand sides of the past.

Their advancement to the semi-finals was not the smoothest of rides as they barely edged past fifth-placed Pakistan on the basis of a superior net run-rate.

Riddled with opening pair woes all throughout the tournament campaign and failing to register a 300-plus score even once in the World Cup, New Zealand have still trudged along to safety courtesy the courageous batting of senior duo Williamson and Ross Taylor.

The key component of their success has been the fearsome pace attack boasting great variety which was on song in the surprise semi-final win against India.

Despite a fine performance against the strong title contenders, Williamson's New Zealand are being dubbed as the underdogs - a label which does not bother the 28-year-old too much.

"Whatever dog we are, it's just important that we focus on the cricket that we want to play and we have seen over the years that anybody can beat anybody -- regardless of breed of dog," he said a day before the game.

Roy the destroyer

One common feature of England's losses during this World Cup has been the absence of Jason Roy due to a hamstring stiffness, depicting the amount of value he adds to his side.

Statistics back the level of dominance unleashed by Roy and his opening partner Jonny Bairstow upfront since they possess the highest average for any opening combination that has batted together for at least 30 innings.

He set ablaze Edgbaston with his pristine striking in the semi-final shellacking over Australia, indicating the blistering form he is in at the moment.

If England are to get over the line, Roy's contributions will play an important role in establishing their hold over the proceedings.

Batting heroics still awaited from Guptill

Good form with the bat has continued to evade New Zealand's Martin Guptill throughout this tournament.

Unable to string together any impactful innings, he has come under immense criticism for his lackluster 20.87 average across nine innings in the World Cup.

While it seems unlikely New Zealand will make any drastic changes to the playing XI, the team management would be banking on Guptill to finally come good in one of the most significant clashes of their cricket history.

Guptill was again rendered silent during the New Zealand innings against India at Old Trafford, but he delivered a memorable direct hit to run-out MS Dhoni - a stunning fielding effort that could perhaps galvanize the old warhorse.


England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jofra Archer, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler (wk), Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood

New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Ross Taylor, Tom Latham (wk), Tom Blundell (wk), Mitchell Santner, Colin de Grandhomme, Lockie Ferguson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Colin Munro, Ish Sodhi, Henry Nicholls, Martin Guptill, Matt Henry, Jimmy Neesham