Australia v New Zealand, World Cup 2015, final, Melbourne March 28, 2015

Five things New Zealand must do to win

15

1. Ignore all of the stats

For example:

a. Australia have won 13 ODIs in a row at home, and 24 of their last 26. They have won their last six at the MCG, 10 of the last 12, and 28 out of 37 this millennium.

b. Mitchell Starc could potentially end with the best set of tournament statistics by any bowler in a World Cup, thanks in large part to his 6 for 28 against New Zealand.

c. Steven Smith has four hundreds and six fifties in 17 ODI innings this season.

d. Australia have won three of the last four World Cup finals.

e. In their five matches since losing to New Zealand in Auckland, Australia have scored 1470 runs, at an average of 50 runs per wicket and a scoring rate of 7.4 per over. In the whole tournament, only one team has scored more than 233 against them (Sri Lanka's 312), and they have taken 69 wickets, at an average of 20 runs per wicket and striking once every 23 balls.

f. 0% of this match will be physically played in Auckland.

And many more. All not worth thinking about. And all worth not thinking about.

Stats are like goldfish - you should not allow them to affect you once you walk on to a cricket field; and if they do, you are probably doing something wrong.

2. Remember some of the stats

For example:

a. New Zealand have had their opponents two wickets down within 10 overs in six of their eight matches; one of the exceptions was their win over Australia, in which they had to wait until the 14th over to strike for the second time, but then took seven more wickets inside nine overs. If they repeat this form, they will expose an out-of-form Michael Clarke, batting on an occasion that will be one of his defining moments.

b. Of the 17 knockout stage rematches in World Cup history between teams who had met earlier in the tournament, the winner of the first game has won the second encounter on 14 occasions.

c. According to the most recently published player rankings of 15 March, for whatever they are worth, New Zealand's top seven batsmen have a higher collective score than Australia's; and the five main New Zealand bowlers also score collectively higher than their opponents. Not by much in either case, but by a little. That might mean almost nothing, but it does mean slightly something.

d. Since 1979, there have been three first-time finalists: India in 1983, Pakistan in 1992 and Sri Lanka in 1996. All have won their first final. Australia have played six finals. They have won the four they have played against teams which have previously appeared in a World Cup final (1987 v England, 1999 v Pakistan, 2003 v India, 2007 v Sri Lanka), and lost against the two first-time finalists they have faced (West Indies in 1975, Sri Lanka in 1996).

e. Only two of this Australian team have beaten New Zealand at the MCG (Clarke and Mitchell Johnson, in 2007; even in victory, Clarke scored 9 off 20 balls, Johnson took 0 for 48 in 7 overs). Six of the New Zealand side have beaten Australia at this stadium, in 2009: Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill, Ross Taylor, Grant Elliott were all batting in the places they currently occupy (McCullum and Taylor made useful 40s, Elliott saw the chase home with 61 not out); Tim Southee opened the bowling, Daniel Vettori bowled ten tight overs.

f. Slightly more than 0% of this match might have been psychologically played in Auckland.

Other stats are also worth remembering. Some more relevant than others. These kind of stats should be lodged away in your mind before you walk on to the field, to be summoned as a source of reassurance in times of tension.

New Zealand won the group-stage match in Auckland. None of the World Cup final will be played in Auckland © Getty Images

3. Imagine the looks on the Australian crowd's faces should the home team lose

Win or lose, New Zealand have made themselves national sporting heroes. Obviously, they will be even greater heroes if they win, but, nevertheless, they have achieved success that will not be forgotten. If Australia lose, they will have failed, and there will be some stroppy-looking supporters wearing "you guys have failed" faces. For New Zealand, it is as close to a no-lose situation as a World Cup final can be (which is, admittedly, not very close at all).

Judging by the number of India fans around Melbourne in the last couple of days, there will be a substantial neutral contingent in the crowd, likely to back the Kiwis. And a fair number of Kiwis, certain to back the Kiwis. They will have support, representing their own country, and the large proportion of neutrals who have been entranced by their thrillingly attacking cricket, passionate support, and six-blasting nerve under pressure.

In the unlikely event that the New Zealand players feel intimidated by the Australian crowd, they should imagine the entire population of their country, crammed into 50 MCGs, or 90 Eden Parks, all going, in Benaud's words, "noisily berserk". That might help.

4. Do not panic if things go wrong

Unless they go very wrong, for a prolonged period of the match, in which case panicking might be a sound strategic option. However, even if, say, McCullum, Guptill and Williamson fall early, or Boult and Southee fail to dislodge the potent but vulnerable Australian openers, they should take confidence from the fact that New Zealand's campaign has been characterised by significant contributions from throughout the team.

They began by scoring 331 against Sri Lanka, with a top score of 75 but six of the top seven reaching 29 (only the third time that had been done in a World Cup innings). They reached the final courtesy of five of the top six scoring 30 in the semi-final (the first instance of that happening in a World Cup knockout match since 1987). Four of their bowlers have taken at least 14 wickets (only two Australians have taken 10 or more, Starc (20) and Johnson (12)).

New Zealand have a range of match-turners and match-winners with bat and ball.

5. Sacrifice 100 head of oxen to Zeus

New Zealand need no divine intervention. They are good enough to win this final. They have formidable depth and firepower in batting, an in-form and well-balanced bowling attack, athleticism and brilliance in the field, and an excellent captain unafraid to attack.

Their only obstacle is that their opponents are also good enough to win this final, and also possess those same qualities.

So whatever marginal, mystical 'one-per-centers' that the Kiwis can apply could prove crucial. I have no idea whether Zeus was as receptive to mass animal sacrifices as the Ancient Greeks thought he was, nor is anyone entirely sure what the former Mount Olympus supremo is up to these days, but a cheeky pre-match ritual slaying of agricultural beasts could not possibly do any harm in the circumstances, and the noise, confusion and media attention might even distract the Australians from the cricketing task in hand.

ZALTZMAN MICROPREDICTION: Australia by 53 runs, and/or 5 wickets with 3.3 overs to spare.

Andy Zaltzman is a stand-up comedian, a regular on BBC Radio 4, and a writer

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Fish on March 29, 2015, 9:53 GMT

    Wow ! Congrads to all of you who picked NZ to win.

  • Prasad on March 29, 2015, 2:57 GMT

    Great article as always and typical Zaltzman prediction. He says Australia by 53 runs or with 3.3 overs to spare. But doesn't say whether Australia will WIN or LOSE by that margin.

  • Avinash on March 29, 2015, 2:39 GMT

    Everyone knows it's difficult to beat Aussies at home, hope kiwis will fight hard to win the trophy. all the best guys!!! support from Indian fans!!!!

  • Md on March 29, 2015, 2:18 GMT

    New Zealand should win..that I like to see :)

  • Jake on March 29, 2015, 1:40 GMT

    The Aussie and Kiwis don't really care about the toss in a one day game. They will generally both back themselves regardless if they are setting a target or chasing. Only teams like India give up if they loose the toss.

  • Tahir on March 29, 2015, 1:34 GMT

    One important fact is the difference both the teams have reached the final. NZ won chasing a stiff target against SA bowling attack while Aus had a one sided semi. This is much like india reaching semi on the back of win against lowly rated Bang and succumbing meekly in the semi. So, here NZ have a upper hand for sure.

  • Dummy4 on March 29, 2015, 0:18 GMT

    Let first time finalist New Zealand win for Martin Crowe and Vettorie with good contribution from Vettorie.

  • Tahir on March 28, 2015, 22:38 GMT

    One important fact is the difference both the teams have reached the final. NZ won chasing a stiff target against SA bowling attack while Aus had a one sided semi. This is much like india reaching semi on the back of win against lowly rated Bang and succumbing meekly in the semi. So, here NZ have a upper hand for sure.

  • Dummy4 on March 28, 2015, 22:02 GMT

    NZ bat first and make 270, Australia will lose

  • aba on March 28, 2015, 21:48 GMT

    Indians will have no choice but to support kiwis .. and boyy yes they will. With either outcome, you will get to see much of these teams in india playing on those same flat tracks for the spicy mullah. Right?

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