The Black Caps play in a Cricket World Cup final (!) against England at 9.30pm tonight. Niall Anderson runs through all you need to know – well, at least most of what you need to know - about the clash.
Well, they made it, huh? The Black Caps are in a World Cup final. They could make history! And we won't have to read this laboured preview format anymore! What a time to be alive.
Um, excuse me, I may be sleep-deprived and on the brink of insanity, but I'm still here you know. But, well, yes – we're at the finish line people, after nine games and one washout, and over six weeks of cricket, it's time for the Cricket World Cup final. New Zealand v England. At Lord's. It doesn't get much bigger than this.
How did they do it again? I still can't quite believe it.
Their semifinal win over India was truly stunning, perhaps not strictly due to the result – there was always a 25-30 per cent chance or so that New Zealand could win – but by the bizarre two-day nature of the clash, and by the fact that most fans had resigned themselves to a loss after the first day.
So, when the Black Caps came back from 211-5, and even 239-8, to reduce a world-class Indian top order to 5-3, it was a sensational turnaround, and worthy of my third obscenely long Oral History of the tournament. (God help me if they win tonight.)
If you're not a Premium subscriber, go out and buy a Herald on Sunday to read that piece. I promise that's my last shameless plug of the tournament, though if you want to continue to support my work after the World Cup, my bank account number is [REDACTED].
Could we see similar scenes in the final?
Well, we could see similarly favourable conditions for the Black Caps, but England are an even more dangerous batting lineup than India, capable of causing utter destruction every time they come out to bat. The Black Caps saw that in their group game in Durham, where they were at 194-1 after 30 overs, but the excellent batting conditions which were on show in the first part of that innings are unlikely to present themselves at Lord's.
Lord's is not traditionally a high-scoring ground, and we saw Australia and New Zealand struggle at the venue recently. Also, the wicket revealed the day before the game was rather green, and although that's expected to fade slightly before the first ball, the expected overcast conditions could help New Zealand's seam bowlers. More chance of a low scoring game = more chance of a Black Caps victory?
Wait, go back a second. England's batsmen are even more dangerous than a team with Rohit Sharma and Virat Kohli?
Yup. Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow are the best opening partnership in ODI history – and the only team to have managed to dominate the Black Caps new ball bowlers – and then you get to Joe Root, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and the best tail-order batsmen in the world. With India, at least they had some uncertainty about their middle order. That's not the case with England's firepower.
The new ball bowlers should have more of a chance today though, it sounds like?
Definitely. In Durham, the pitch was a belter to start, and without Lockie Ferguson, the Black Caps forced an experiment of using Mitchell Santner to open (for one over), then throwing the ball to the rusty Tim Southee. It didn't pay off, and after Matt Henry didn't play at Lord's against Australia, a Lord's debut for the new ball duo of Trent Boult and Henry – in better conditions for bowling – could give them a chance to take what will be absolutely crucial early wickets.
So it will be the same team as the semifinal, you reckon?
Most likely. Henry Nicholls passed his fitness test at the Black Caps' final training, meaning he will open alongside Martin Guptill. And the likely conditions on display means we should see the same bowling attack that performed so well in the semifinal, as well. England too, should go in with an unchanged 11, with all their players fit and ready to go.
How can I follow the game tonight?
We will be live blogging at the mighty nzherald.co.nz from 8.00pm, with the real cricket expert, Dylan Cleaver, expected to be in the hot seat to answer your questions. I will be there too (in the cold seat?) to provide whatever updates I can from all the pre-game festivities at Lord's. There will also be live commentary on Radio Sport.
I know we usually end on that note, but one more thing … can the Black Caps win the World Cup?
To quote Kane Williamson from today's press conference, but in a more inspiring way…