One of the more interesting facts to brighten up tomorrow's climax to what has been a weather-hit and largely uninspiring NatWest Series is it will be the first time New Zealand have played a one-day international at Lord's. They've played virtually everywhere else in the country, from Chester-le-Street to Chelmsford, but tomorrow's final against West Indies should be a historic day for them.
While New Zealand have won all three of their completed matches which escaped the rain, West Indies have won two, but also lost two. One of those defeats was to New Zealand in a five-wicket defeat at Cardiff. Indeed, the last time they beat the Kiwis was in June 2002 in St Vincent, and, on current form, the odds are on another New Zealand victory tomorrow.
Considering that every side who has won the toss in this tournament has bowled first, and gone on to win, the fall of the coin will probably again be a key factor. In keeping with the tournament so far, the forecast is for scattered showers throughout the day, but the good news is it shouldn't be a repeat of yesterday's dress rehearsal at the Rose Bowl, which was entirely washed out.
Tomorrow will be New Zealand's fourth one-day international final is as many years, after the 2000 Champions Trophy at Nairobi, the VB Series in 2002, and last year's Bank Alfalah Cup in Sri Lanka. With two wins in those matches, they will start as favourites, something which Chris Cairns, New Zealand's allrounder, said his side must come to terms with. "We've been in three out of four finals recently so it's becoming a habit, which is a good thing," Cairns said, before adding, "but if we are going to progress and become one of the best sides in the world, more often than not you will be in the tournament as a favourite. When you have that tag, for a lot of teams it can actually be detrimental - but with our side we need to make sure we are comfortable with dealing with that, and we have so far."
Cairns added that victory would be a welcome lasting memory of their tour of England, which didn't quite start to plan after they were beaten 3-0 in the Tests: "It'll be nice to leave these shores with a memory of the fact we can play," he said, "but we don't want to pat ourselves on the back at the moment just yet. There is the small matter of the final to come, and we know we will be judged on what we do then."
It's been a while since West Indies last won a triangular tournament. That was back in 2001 when they took the Coca-Cola Cup against India in Zimbabwe, and they are likely to revert back to a more balanced line-up from the batsman-heavy team which that beat England at Lord's. Jermaine Lawson has recovered from flu, and he may replace Devon Smith.
Brian Lara, West Indies' captain, said his side was upbeat after that victory over England, but didn't make any predictions for the final. "If they [England] had scored 350, I would still have been confident that we would have got it with the batting line-up that we have."
He continued, "In the past couple of months we have shown how good chasers we are, so I had no doubt that we would win." When asked about the final, he would only say: "I've always stressed that we have a game plan, and everyone has to fit into the game plan and see themselves playing a part."
Ian Bradshaw, West Indies' fast bowler, suggested it would be how each side peformed in the field that would be the deciding factor: "I won't read too much into the first game [against New Zealand] that was rained out, as it was a rained shortened game," he said. "In our second game we should have posted a much better score than we eventually did. That is what cost us that game and once again we realise we cannot afford to make those mistakes in the future." He added, "With the confidence and experience in the batting departments in both teams I believe that tomorrow's game will be determined by the team that bowls and fields better on the day."
For New Zealand, Cairns is almost certain to return after a two-game rest with a minor ankle injury, but Andre Adams, who was a late call-up to the squad while playing in the Lancashire leagues, may have to wait a bit longer for his comeback if Jacob Oram recovers from a side strain. In any case, the New Zealanders are likely to make their Lord's debut a winning one.
New Zealand (probable) 1 Stephen Fleming (capt), 2 Nathan Astle, 3 Hamish Marshall, 4 Scott Styris, 5 Craig McMillan, 6 Jacob Oram, 7 Chris Cairns, 8 Gareth Hopkins (wk), 9 Daniel Vettorri, 10 James Franklin, 11 Ian Butler.
West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Brian Lara (capt), 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Ricardo Powell, 7 Dwayne Smith, 8 Ridley Jacobs (wk), 9 Ian Bradshaw, 10 Tino Best, 11 Jermaine Lawson.