Australia v New Zealand, Champions Trophy, final, Centurion October 4, 2009

Underdog tale reaches tough climax


Match facts

Monday, October 5, 2009
Start time 1430 (1230 GMT)

Big picture

Underdogs in films make a mockery of the form book. Exhibit 1: New Zealand come to the Champions Trophy, sans superstars, sans high ICC rankings, and after being well and truly battered for more than a month in the sapping heat of Sri Lanka. They are - it is fair to say - the outsiders in this tournament.

Underdogs in the movies start out of their depth, find the happy knack of winning, and then start liking what they feel. Exhibit 2: New Zealand are outclassed by South Africa on a true Centurion pitch. Then Sri Lanka, fooled by the earlier two pitches at the Wanderers, put New Zealand in, and discover they have given their opponents first use of a batting beauty. Against England, New Zealand get a spitting beauty of a pitch, call right at the toss, and run through the batting.

Underdogs in the movies are hit by injuries, handicaps, and miseries, but every setback inspires them. Exhibit 3: New Zealand lose Jacob Oram before their campaign starts. Jesse Ryder pulls his left abductor muscle during the Sri Lanka game, but before leaving plays the kind of innings that must have led to the coining of the phrase "beware the wounded batsman". Then Daryl Tuffey, at the time looking their best bowler, breaks his hand while fielding and is ruled out for the rest of the tournament. Next up, Grant Elliott, hero of the win against England, breaks his thumb, but braves the injury to score a heroic unbeaten 75 in the semi-final.

The real villains start appearing only in the later stages of underdog movies. Exhibit 4: On paper Pakistan have everything they need to end this underdog tale, but their occasional overconfidence and exceptional play from the underdogs take New Zealand to the final.

Underdogs in the movies meet the biggest, scariest villain right at the end. Exhibit 5: It is always Australia's fate, or that of any champion team, that their excellence, consistency, their hard work, will always be seen as villainous in romantic underdog stories. We can also conveniently forget that they too lost three of their most important players - Nathan Bracken, Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin - in the lead-up to the tournament. Champions, though, don't deserve such considerations. Every good underdog story needs a mean villain, and Australia have rarely failed to oblige at world events.

If more context is needed, New Zealand have historically seen Australia as big brothers, and have always sought to bring their best against them. Moreover, New Zealand are yet to beat Australia in a tournament final, and have lost six times (tournaments with more than one final have been considered as one). Centurion will not provide them with a freak pitch either. It's all stacked up against New Zealand this time, and no self-respecting underdog story would have it any other way.

How good this story is will be known by Monday evening, or rather early on Tuesday morning in Australia and New Zealand.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)

Australia - WWWLW
Ominously they are peaking at the right time. Even more ominously they have survived the one token scare that champion sides face, in the game against Pakistan.

New Zealand - WWWLL
Their weakened line-up has made the rest even more determined. They will rely a lot on their bowlers and fielders to find a balance between defence and attack, and restrict Australia like they did Pakistan.

Team news

Both teams gave satisfactory performances in the semi-finals, and both are more or less settled - even if not entirely by design.

Australia (probable): 1 Shane Watson, 2 Tim Paine (wk), 3 Ricky Ponting (capt), 4 Michael Hussey, 5 Cameron White, 6 Callum Ferguson, 7 James Hopes, 8 Mitchell Johnson, 9 Brett Lee, 10 Nathan Hauritz, 11 Peter Siddle.

A discussion on allrounder Brendon Diamanti has its merits - Neil Broom hasn't had much to do in the tournament - but New Zealand are not likely to tinker with a winning combination. And the way Elliott came through the semi-final, a big worry for them has been taken care of.

New Zealand (probable): 1 Brendon McCullum (wk), 2 Aaron Redmond, 3 Martin Guptill, 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Neil Broom, 6 Grant Elliot, 7 James Franklin, 8 Daniel Vettori (capt), 9 Kyle Mills, 10 Shane Bond, 11 Ian Butler.

Watch out for...

Daniel Vettori is definitely in the running for the Player-of-the-Series award. Against Sri Lanka he rescued a floundering middle order, and against Pakistan he promoted himself to No. 6 and guided a nervous side through to the final. And that's besides his routine job, during which he has taken seven wickets at an average of 17.71 and an economy-rate of 3.97. He is now four wickets short of the leading wicket-taker of the tournament, Wayne Parnell.

Ricky Ponting has a habit of turning it on on the big day. But he is a bruised captain, too, the only Australian leader since time immemorial to have lost the Ashes twice. He has also led them to successive unsuccessful campaigns at ICC events. When was the last time they failed to win three majors in a row?

Shane Watson is a threat to Vettori for that series award. He has taken six wickets at 16.83, and put behind him the lean run with the bat that he experienced at the end of the England series and at the start of this event. If he bats like he did in the semi-final, we could be in for a swift finish.

Pitch and conditions

Centurion, apart from the Pakistan-Australia game, has had flat batting pitches, which could made it harder for New Zealand to pull off an upset. A 30% chance of precipitation means we should get a complete game.

Stats and trivia

  • New Zealand have entered 13 tournament finals before this, and have won four of those.

  • Since their 1999 World Cup triumph, Australia have reached 19 tournament finals, and have lost only three: in 1999 to Sri Lanka in Colombo, and two CB Series finals to England and India in 2006-07 and 2007-08 respectively.

  • The whole New Zealand team has scored six ODI centuries between them (Ross Taylor 3 and Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill and Grant Elliott one each), Ponting has 28.

  • Australia have beaten New Zealand in six tournament finals. This will be their first meeting in a final at a neutral venue.


"We are playing at a level which would win us the big games. We look to play best cricket when it matters. We are peaking at the right time for the finals."
Ricky Ponting can feel what those wanting a close contest are dreading.

"But once you reach that level, you realise there is an immense desire to go all the way and I think there's no relief in the camp. It was all about how we're going to win tomorrow as opposed to it's great the we've made it"
Reaching the final was once New Zealand's goal, but not anymore, says Daniel Vettori.

Sidharth Monga is a staff writer at Cricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Greg on October 6, 2009, 10:04 GMT

    Did NZ deserve to be in the final? Yes of course, they have one of the best ODI bowling attacks in the world, three bowlers in the top five ICC rankings supported by the resurgence of Butler and Tuffey. Fair enough NZ's Batting is not brilliant but on good pitches they put together team efforts and get enough. The have bowled and fielded brilliantly in the tournament and SA apart no one even India (in the lead up game) have had any answers. They deserved it all the way and its about time people paid tribute to the ODI brilliance of bowlers like Vettori, Mills and Bond They are not workman like they are three of best ODI bowlers in the world. Its not that rare the team with the best bowling come the fore in world tournaments so its no accident the team with 3 top ten ODI bowlers got to the final (Current ICC ODI bowling rankings Vettori =2, Mills = 2, Bond = 5)

  • Syed Rehan on October 5, 2009, 12:18 GMT

    Being a Paki and fan of Pakistan cric team i will be suppting the Kiwis today. They are the most hard working side, with no super stars and hence should play fearless crciket and give Aussies a run for their money. Considering that they achieved the success so far without some of their more prolific players say a lot about the character of the team. Unlike the Indian team which despite the stars could not go beyond the first stage. They are a team obsessed with individual stats and lack team spirit. They will continue to struggle under a leader who's only goal is to keep his batting average above 50. I hope Indian cricket fraternity understand that a well made 20 at the death is sometimes more valauble than a 50 at the top.

  • Avery on October 5, 2009, 12:07 GMT

    Vettori out with a dodgy hammy!! Man, this victory is going to be even sweeter for us underdogs!

  • Muhammad on October 5, 2009, 12:06 GMT

    I agree, Pakistan lost because they played bad. They were over confident and lazy. Even Shahid should have run out Vetori. Only thing I will stress is that ICC needs to do more than just randomly appoint umpires for finals at least.

    Australia was in Final already and appointing Australian umpire was not a right decision from ICC for that match.

    No umpire from 4 teams should be appointed in finals.

  • Umair on October 5, 2009, 11:41 GMT

    Newzealand will be thrashed today and then those who are saying they have gud bowling attack will come to know that how stupid they r to even say like that.. Pakistan hasnt have a gud bating line up that doesnt mean Nzl is a gud bowling unit.. just See wat Ponting Watson and Hussey will do with them with their so called gud bowling attack...

  • Rohan on October 5, 2009, 11:36 GMT

    The reason NZ has a reasonable good chance of batting well is that there is no good spinner in Australian team. NZ can bat very very well and agressively against all kind of fast bowlers since most of NZ players like McCullum, Guptill, Taylor, Elliot can play short pitched deliveries exceedingly well by hooking or cutting. NZ bats badly only when they are excessively sceptical of some bowler like they were of Malinga in 2007 World Cup or Akhtar (few yrs ago in pakistan). In todays match i dont think that there is any bowler, which NZ will be excessively worried about so that to me makes them a strong favourite if they bat first.

  • Hozefa on October 5, 2009, 11:35 GMT

    Pak always cries and blame umpire when things are not going according to their wish. The same thing happened with Ind also in that match when decision went wrong against India and when Raina was given wrongly out. This is a part and parcel of the game and at the end of the day whatever decision were taken by the umpire on field, all have to accepted it, Not like if you lose then you blame umpire and if you win then you are good team. This is cricket and at the end of the day only that team wins who play well in all departments. Pak didnt played well and they are giving reason that they were 20-30 run short. The way Kiwis were playing I think that if the score was of 300, Kiwis would have achieved even that too with ease. we must say that they have outplayed pak in all departments. Kiwis have played exceptionally well through in this tournaments in this conditions and one has to say that its going to be tight finish in final if they continue play like this. All the best to Kiwis.

  • Rohan on October 5, 2009, 11:19 GMT

    Its going to be an exicting final and m looking forward to a close contest because no matter how good Australia may be, history suggests that NZ is one team that always stretches Australia. Well if Bond gets a couple of his yorkers right, then who knows Australia could be 10/2 in 5 overs. Its such a shame for ICC and every cricket fan that Shane Bond didn't play international cricket for more than an year. What an actiona he has and what speed he generates. Few of the bowlers whom one can pay to watch and Vettori, well no praise can be high enough for this steel hearted guy.

  • Him on October 5, 2009, 11:17 GMT

    I think many fans would welcome it if the underdog story comes to fruition! However, on a flat Centurion track, i think Australia's batting will probably prove too strong. Still, let's hope we have a great game.

  • Tharun on October 5, 2009, 11:10 GMT

    Newzland is going to Win Mcculum,Franklin,butler will Rock

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