Australia v New Zealand, World Cup 2015, final, Melbourne March 27, 2015

Size not the only challenge for NZ at MCG


Aaron Finch about the MCG: "First time I played there I had no idea - I felt like I couldn't hit it to the boundary" © Getty Images and Cricket Australia

Clever as New Zealand's fans have been in lampooning questions about the size of the MCG with the tag #MCGsobig, it is difficult to find anyone who does not think the ground's vast dimensions will make a difference to the World Cup final on Sunday.

But it is not merely size that will be foreign to a New Zealand side that has not played in Australia, let alone the MCG, since 2011. Issues such as the relative elusiveness of new-ball swing, a pitch of varying character and an opponent familiar with all such vagaries will provide an obstacle in much the same way as Australia were blindsided at times by Eden Park.

Certainly India's captain MS Dhoni had little hesitation in pointing to the differences drawn out by playing the game in Melbourne and Australia when he was asked broadly about favouritism for the tournament decider.

"One of the biggest things that the New Zealand team will have to deal with is the size of the field," Dhoni said. "In New Zealand you can get away with quite a few mis-timed shots. Generally what we have seen in New Zealand, you get very good wickets.

"But when you come to Australia, you get a bit of reverse swing, and at the same time you may get wickets where it's slightly two-paced, especially if you talk about the MCG. How to take risks will be something that's very crucial.

"Australia have that advantage of knowing the wickets well, and having three fast bowlers in their armoury because that will certainly help them. But overall we have seen New Zealand is one side that's a very competitive side. All the ICC tournaments, they do really well."

Australia's Aaron Finch is exceedingly familiar with the MCG, and also with its difficulties. While Finch has enjoyed success there, notably his century against England on the tournament's opening day, he can also remember the daunting first sight of those distant boundaries.

"First time I played there I had no idea - I felt like I couldn't hit it to the boundary," Finch said. "The MCG is a huge ground, obviously, and it is a place that can be quite intimidating at times.

"It's a place where the ball doesn't swing a hell of a lot - you might get five or six overs out of a swinging ball. And we've had a lot of success there as an Australian team over a long time, so we're very confident."

Asked about Brendon McCullum's fearsome hitting across the tournament, Finch's response could be summed up as one along the lines of: "I'd like to see him try that in Melbourne."

"He's a player who takes the game on and tries to set the tone for his team," Finch said. "Whether it comes off or it doesn't, he does set a tone for them and gives them a lot of belief. But it is a huge ground, the MCG, and I don't think they've played there for a long time, so it will be interesting to see how they go."

One team to battle with the ground's dimensions recently was England. Having concocted a strategy designed to limit Australia's six-hitting, namely the use of shorter lengths and slower balls to encourage hits to the more distant square boundaries, Eoin Morgan's team set poor fields. This allowed Australia to strike 38 fours on the way to 342 for 9, even if Finch's three sixes were the only blows to clear the rope.

The #MCGsobig tag was still going strong on Friday evening without McCullum's help, but it remains to be seen whether New Zealand's gumption can overcome the hard experience of cricket's most celebrated colosseum.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Isiah on March 28, 2015, 19:55 GMT

    Reminds of the time when i was 6 or 7 growing up in Pakistan playing cricket in school in 1992. After the final, we were trying to play on the school ground. We were trying to mark boundary zones and nail stumps in to the ground and measure the pitch to see where we should stick the stumps. After we were done, one of my school mate nervously said "this is even bigger than Melbourne". We ended up shortening the boundaries and staved off a few yards from the pitch. Such is the aura of the MCG.

  • aamer on March 28, 2015, 13:25 GMT

    All the best McCullum, this is life time opportunity for you, please grab it and lets us watch the much awaited convincing and comprehensive victory against the Oz. Trust me the whole world( i mean the world minus once country) wishes NZ to win this final as people round the world think NZ deserves this victory.

  • zeeshan3770 on March 28, 2015, 8:40 GMT

    Size doesnt metter for NZ players they can easily hit out of the park. I think NZ will not find this match as hard as they were against SA. Mc callum is at his best and he is much more confident that micheal clark who is out of form as well.

  • Gary on March 28, 2015, 7:15 GMT

    Have to agree with comments on here about the whole big field thing being Aussie mind games. While this is creating a bit of a story in the media, you can be sure the blackcaps won't even be thinking about it. These guys have played all over the world on big grounds!

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2015, 5:56 GMT

    Mc Callum didn't he use to play for NSW, some play in the Big Bash series, so yeah they wouldn't know how to pls cricket in Australia. Absolute crap, its not some mystic wonderland its just a pitch boundaries are bigger but some of the shots they plays have hit the roof. I'm sure that would have cleared the boundary. Another day in the life of a professional cricket player.

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2015, 4:24 GMT

    Yup all us kiwis are from the bush, we have never seen a clearing that big! Geeze the boys couldn't believe the magic flying bus they took to get to a hot place with all the noisy birds and jumping things.... Nah get off the grass, it's just another stadium and our boys are international cricketers.

  • sri on March 28, 2015, 3:52 GMT

    For a change i want to see Baz stay till the end (play anchor role and hit in the middle) and Ross Taylor do a hit and miss perish with some quick runs under his belt.

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2015, 1:40 GMT

    New Zealand have hit 6's at the MCG before and can do it again. Lance and Chris Cairns are famous for their 6's there and both McCullum and Guptill can hit the ball further than them.

  • C on March 28, 2015, 1:16 GMT

    I am a big fan of Indian and Australian cricket. Yet this time , I am rooting for the underdog and would love NZ to lift the trophy. NZ have played very good cricket so far and it would be a pity if they have a bad day at the MCG. Go NZ and win

  • A.J on March 28, 2015, 0:05 GMT

    I think this will be a one sided affair. NZ have struggled in Australia and against Aus, I don't think a last second win in Eden park is going to be par for the course.

    Man for man, Aus>NZ. Guptil had an average tournament, went big against Banglawho and the Woeful Windies, then came back down to earth against South Africa.

    Williamson has done little and his recently improved average, has recently began to erode.

    Taylor will run out Williamson or Guptil, so Aus will consider him and honorary team member inthe victory speech.

    Southee will take 0/70 - Please keep him as your "spearhead" Boult won't swing so will be effectively countered. Vettori will go for 0/45 and be praised for his economy rate, when you need wickets. Anderson will go for 3/100 because his golden arm is ridiculously expensive. That is all.

  • No featured comments at the moment.