Even the bookies cannot split the teams. In a repeat of the 1993 final at Lord's, England will face New Zealand at North Sydney Oval on Sunday in a match holding much promise. England were victorious in the original match-up, with their second title, but New Zealand have since etched their names on the trophy with a win in 2000.

Neither side have won the World Cup away from home - but one of them is now guaranteed to do so here in Australia. And, if they both play to their potential, this could be the most exciting final yet and, naturally, a great advertisement for the game when the world is watching.

The tournament's most dominant teams, the sides each lost one match en route to the final, with England triumphing in the head-to-head. Having looked utterly unstoppable, however, England then came up against a fierce Australia, baying for any blood after being shut out in the cold.

England had already qualified, but it was the end of their 17-win streak, and there was a worrying batting collapse to boot. Still, their captain Charlotte Edwards has brushed off such concerns as "hopefully a minor blip." Speaking at the press conference at the SCG on Saturday, she said: "We're all really looking forward to it. We're all ready."

New Zealand, meanwhile, started their campaign with some batting wobbles, but have stabilised in recent matches. They are easily capable of taking the title, which would be a second for Haidee Tiffen, the only survivor from the successful home campaign of 2000, who draws comparison with her current side. "Whilst the teams are different, certainly the passion, dedication, commitment and pride for our country is evident in both teams," Tiffen said. "The one thing I will be telling the girls is to enjoy it."

This tournament has thrown up surprises and challenges, though, and so it is impossible to say which of these tight-knit units has the advantage. Both sides have strong batting line-ups, and they field and bowl well - and both are up for the cup.

Tiffen said it was about self belief. "It's about sticking to your role within the team. England have got three or four top-class batsmen that are really in good form at the moment. We need to take our opportunities and try to get them out early. It's about being consistent in all areas of the game.

"We need to stick to our gameplans and we're a team that bats right down and we need to make sure that we're using our resources wisely and giving ourselves the best opportunity to win the match. We've got attacking batters that can put the ball in all areas of the ground and we'd be stupid not to use that."

Gary Stead, the New Zealand coach, said his side would "go hard" at England. "We are going to try to smash them off the ground early in the game," he had already promised - or threatened, depending on whose side you're on.

For her part, Edwards was guarded. "Tomorrow's game is about who deals with the pressure the best out of the two teams and whose key performers perform," she said. "There are two good teams who are very evenly matched and who's going to play the best cricket on the day is going to win the game."

The world's No. 1 batsman Claire Taylor has impressed all who have seen her and has continued her exciting form in this tournament, too. New Zealand will certainly look to target her, Sarah Taylor and Edwards. With the ball, fast bowlers Katherine Brunt and Isa Guha, the world's No 1 bowler, are of note along with spinner Holly Colvin. Jenny Gunn is their star allrounder.

Tiffen is the form batsman for New Zealand. Averaging a fraction under 50 in the tournament and struck a timely maiden ODI hundred in the final group game against Pakistan. But for sheer excitement, look no further than Suzie Bates, who her own captain describes as "a freak".

If ever this is England's time to win their third World Cup, it's now. They have won the last 17 of 18 matches on the spin. Their well-honed and hungry team is that classic cocktail named Youth and Experience, mixed to perfection with a generous dash of confidence. They aim to stir, not be shaken - and to be the first England side, men or women, to put their country's name on an ICC trophy.

Then again, it's also New Zealand's time. They have a similar make-up to England and had one of their best chances to wrest back the Rose Bowl prior to tour, continuing the good run into the trophy. They play their best when aggressive which can mean higher risks but when it comes off, it does in style, as with Suzie Bates' breathtaking 168 in their final Super Six match against Pakistan.

These warrior-like cricketers will be keen for a successful hunt with prime spoils up for grabs but a buoyant England are just as capable of going in for the kill.

Jenny Roesler is a former assistant editor at Cricinfo