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Knight emphasises 'fresh slate, fresh day, fresh game'

Australia may be riding an 11-match unbeaten streak, but England believe that won't count for much in a World Cup final

Vishal Dikshit
Vishal Dikshit
Heather Knight:  I think they key is just remembering that we're really not that far away from Australia  •  ICC via Getty Images

Heather Knight: I think they key is just remembering that we're really not that far away from Australia  •  ICC via Getty Images

Despite the whitewash in the recent Ashes, despite the loss in the league stage against Australia, and despite their contrasting runs to the World Cup final, England captain Heather Knight believes Sunday afternoon in Christchurch will be a "fresh slate, fresh day and a fresh game," where both teams "go in as equals" to try and lift the trophy.
As opposed to Australia's domineering and unmatched march to the final with eight wins in the World Cup and 11 unbeaten ODIs this year, England have had to turn their fortunes around - big time - after starting 2022 with a winless tour of Australia across formats where they could not score 180 in any of the three ODIs. Their rut stretched into the World Cup too, where they lost three in a row.
Since then, knowing they were facing a virtual knockout every single time, England won five in a row, including a 137-run victory over South Africa in the semi-final. Knight said there was no single moment where things just clicked into gear but it did help when the team realised that a lot of the stuff that was going wrong was within their control. Stuff like "fielding, bowling extras, poor shot selections". So they could all be fixed, quickly.
"The stage is set a little bit for us to write a remarkable story but like I've said previously, I think it's a completely fresh slate," Knight said a day before the final. "A fresh day, fresh game where both us and Australia will go in as equals and its who performs the most on the day, who deals with the pressure of a World Cup final and knowing what's at stake. So yeah, it would be a great story [if we win] but we're going to have to bring our best cricket to beat Australia who obviously are a very good side.
"Yes, it's obviously brilliant. To be in this position knowing where we were just a couple of weeks ago is remarkable. And it shows how things can change so quickly in sport. And just says a lot about the character in this group that we managed to obviously put ourselves in a position to be in a World Cup final and give us a chance to actually win that trophy. Remarkably proud of the group, proud of the staff that have been in the shift as well. So yeah, hopefully we can pay off all that hard work and all the lows I guess we've had over this trip and make winning if we do that even better."
Recalling the league stage loss to Australia, in which England very nearly chased down 311, Knight admitted they had to get better at finishing games off. She was, however, very pleased that her bowling attack has been picking up steam throughout the tournament, helped in part by adopting a "knockout mentality".
"I think, knowing the fact that we push them so close, I think is a really good sign," Knight said of their rivalry with Australia. "I think in that first group game we pushed really hard, batted remarkably and actually I think our bowling's starting to peak towards the back-end of the competition. I don't think our bowling was quite on in that game, and the bowlers as a unit are working much better as a group now. So I don't think it's motivation [to do better]. I think it's just remembering that we're really not that far away from them. We obviously haven't got the results against them recently. But on the day we definitely believe that we can beat them.
"We've had that knockout mentality for a long time. It almost feels a little bit like another game. I'm sure there'd be nerves and dealing with that but the fact that we've been able to do that when we've been under pressure, it's been very pleasing and hopefully we can do it against for one more win."
There is one variable in England's favour on Sunday. Hagley Oval. The last time Australia played an ODI at the venue which is hosting the final, it was the year 2000. England, on the other hand, beat Pakistan here towards the end of the round-robin stage and knocked out South Africa here in the semi-final. They would have fond memories of another ODI victory in Christchurch last year as well, when Knight herself led the chase with an unbeaten 67.
"Definitely, I think is a slight advantage, potentially," Knight said. "We obviously know the conditions, we've played a few games here last year as well. We managed to play here before the World Cup. So yeah, we would definitely use that to our advantage, hopefully, it's obviously going to be a fresh wicket, though. So both team have to assess quite quickly how it's playing."

Vishal Dikshit is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo