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

Time to have the neighbours over

New Zealand may be the "little brothers from across the ditch" but they are heading to the MCG and keen to remind their hosts of the local rivalry
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One more to the rack? New Zealand claimed the Chappell-Hadlee trophy earlier in the tournament. © ICC

There was a time when everyone knew their neighbours intimately, popped around often for a cup of tea and a gossip, collected your mail and fed your dog when you went away. India and Sri Lanka seemed about that close when they met in the 2011 World Cup final; in the previous five years they had tossed the coin in 39 ODIs against each other. They were co-hosts in name and nature.

Australia and New Zealand have slipped into the modern neighbourly way, nodding politely when they happen to run into each other on the street, but never visiting each other's house. In the past five years they have met in not a single ODI outside of ICC events. It hasn't always been that way: in the previous five years they played 23 such one-dayers against each other.

They have drifted apart, Australia more interested in the big-ticket campaigns against India, England and South Africa. But then, it had always felt like New Zealand prized the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy far more than Australia. In 2006-07, Australia didn't even bother sending their captain or vice-captain to the series in New Zealand, and Michael Hussey led them to defeat.

Of course, there is nothing new about such goings on - or non-goings on. Australia did not deign to play a full Test series against New Zealand until 1974, a full 44 years after New Zealand were admitted to Test cricket. The underarm incident and the might of Richard Hadlee sparked a 1980s rivalry, but it is now a decade since the teams have played a Test series of more than two games.

In the eyes of the Australians, the rivalry has died off. When the teams met in the Champions Trophy in England in 2013, they forgot to put the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy up for grabs as they had done when they played in the 2011 World Cup. It was dusted off for their World Cup meeting in Auckland this year, and New Zealand won a low-scoring thriller.

And yet, when New Zealand arrive later this year for Tests in Australia, they will use a pink ball and play day-night cricket, and will not be granted the Boxing Day Test at the MCG. No extra motivation is required for a World Cup final, but if New Zealand need it they have it. On Sunday they can prove they belong in front of a packed MCG.

"We're probably seen as the little brothers from across the ditch and we do quite well in other sports to compete," New Zealand fast bowler Tim Southee said on Friday. "Australia have had the wood on us in cricket over the last few years but we're slowly starting to even that ledger.

"As a kid growing up it was always Australia that you wanted to play against, or if you're playing against someone in the backyard it was New Zealand-Australia. There is a massive rivalry in whatever sport you play and in New Zealand you always want to have one up over the big brothers."

Ask an Australian cricketer what featured in their backyard games when they were kids and it would likely have been an Ashes imitation, or Australia against the golden era West Indies. The 11 Australians who will take the field on Sunday have probably dreamt about playing in a World Cup final, but against someone like India, or South Africa.

New Zealand, with its near identical flag, its non-Australian-passport-stamping ways, its population smaller than Sydney - it has hardly been viewed as a big threat by Australia's cricketers. In rugby union, yes. In netball, sometimes. But not in cricket. They should remember that New Zealand won the most recent Test between the teams, and the most recent ODI, and the most recent T20 (in a Super Over).

"I think in times gone by we probably haven't played to our potential or been as consistent as we should have been," Southee said. "In the last two years we've slowly gained a little bit more respect around the world because of the brand of cricket we've played. We respect Australia.

"They're a quality side, they're not No.1 in the world for no reason. I'm sure they've gained a little bit of respect for the brand of cricket we've played over the last couple of years. I guess that opinion has changed a little bit over the last couple of years in the way that we've played and the sides we've beaten."

Sides like, say, Australia, when given the chance. Beating Australia in a World Cup final would be the ultimate respect-earner. On Friday, the Cricket Australia chief executive James Sutherland said that the co-hosts had "dared to dream" that they might meet each other in the final.

"We knew it was probably a long-odds chance, but here we are a couple of days out and the two host nations are playing each other," Sutherland said. "Congratulations to New Zealand on making the World Cup final. They've been unbeaten throughout the tournament and are certainly deserving of playing off."

Sutherland's tone was not patronising, though seeing the words in black and white they might look that way. Viewing the Australia-New Zealand fixture list of the past five years they probably appear even more so. The World Cup final might change that.

Perhaps Cricket Australia should remember what all Australian TV soapie fans know: everybody needs good neighbours. Neighbours need to get to know each other. And next door is only a footstep away.

Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Anupam on March 28, 2015, 17:21 GMT

    It's extremely surprising that NZ and Australia have not had any/many bilateral series in any format in the last 5 years. Australia keeps on playing England in the name of a great rivalry knowing very well that England is a pretty average team, Ashes with a frequency of a series per year has become extremely boring. I guess the scheduling needs ti improve if cricket is to survive. I really want to see a 4 test series b/w Australia and NZ, Australia vs SA, maybe SA vs NZ, India vs Pakistan, India vs SL. These are the series which will be more competitive as team are evenly matched. Enough of India playing 4-5 test series in England/Australia/SA and getting trounced everytime, they just don't seem much interested in Test cricket, as well enough of 2 match series for teams like SA/NZ and SL. A test series should be atleast of 3 match except maybe for BD, Zim.

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2015, 8:35 GMT

    Have a feeling that Warner will go big tomorrow with lots of quality cameos meaning a very big Aussie total. NZ will not hunt down a bit total unless Guptil or Williamson has a monster and bats through. Best chance for NZ is to bat first and get a decent total on the board - Australia will tailor its chase to the total and that means any total can create pressure if Aus lose early wickets.

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2015, 5:41 GMT

    Tbey don't play us because we were getting too good.

  • sri on March 28, 2015, 3:55 GMT

    Heart Says NZ but Mind says Aus is stronger.

  • Stratocaster on March 28, 2015, 3:52 GMT

    @Dunger.Bob Nah, just plenty of first timers who have only recently been hooked to cricket. Australia is still the favourite.

  • C on March 28, 2015, 1:10 GMT

    This was the match-up everyone in Aus wanted to see. Shameful that NZ-Aus haven't played each other in so long. Instead there have been endless Aus-Eng encounters, and in ODIs that's just been incredibly dull.

    ODI tri-series of Aus-NZ-SA would be top-drawer cricket.

    As an Aussie supporter I always want to see my country win, but at least in this final I won't be upset if they lose.

  • Jake on March 28, 2015, 0:29 GMT

    Any sporting contest between Australia and NZ is going to be hard fought. The players on both sides will give there all when playing each other. No one will give there wicket away or not run hard for a single or go easy will the ball. There will be bouncers. Union, rugby league, netball, soccer, basketball, hockey, arm wrestling...whatever sport it will be good.

  • rob on March 27, 2015, 23:28 GMT

    I'm one Aussie with a very healthy respect for NZ in general and their sporting capabilities in particular. I've been there a few times and absolutely love the place. @ Al.Turner - I think you can be pretty damn certain that Clarke and his men won't be under-estimating the threat that NZ poses on Sunday. However, just judging by quite a few posters from your side of the ditch, I wonder if the same advice couldn't be applied to your lot. It seems to me that a disturbing number of you think you've already won it and that Australia are easy beats. .. Hmmm, that could be a mistake.

  • Philip on March 27, 2015, 21:36 GMT

    This tournament has gone much the same way as the last. There the two (main) co-hosts featured in the final and with the one who was at home for the final winning that. Here the two co-hosts are featuring. That is the neighbourly story. Home-ground and, importantly, home-season advantage are worth something. That is not to belittle any of the finalists in either tournament. It's just that you need a bit of luck and in an era where winning away from home is not easy, playing at home certainly helps.

  • Anura on March 27, 2015, 20:24 GMT

    it would be interesting to see how NZ quicks are going to perform at MCG. My gut feeling would they are not going to be effective as AUS quicks. Don't forget NZ won all their matches in home grounds. Now it is going to be different. NZ hosted SL for 7-match ODI series before WC tournament. As a SL fan I am grateful for NZ team sportsmanship and how the way they played SL. For that reason I want NZ to win this cup. But, I have a feeling that AUS are going to run away with the cup.

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