By Amlan Chakraborty
LONDON (Reuters) – New Zealand captain Kane Williamson has no problem that hosts England have been branded favourites for Sunday’s Cricket World Cup final but says anything is possible.
A new 50-overs world champion will emerge at Lord’s after what many consider will be a battle between England’s deep batting lineup and New Zealand’s incisive bowling attack.
England ruthlessly destroyed five-times champions Australia to move to the cusp of their first ever men’s 50-overs World Cup title, while New Zealand’s crafty bowlers defended a small total against two-times champions India in the other semi-final.
“I think England rightly so deserve to be favourites. Coming into this tournament from the start, they were favourites and they’ve been playing really good cricket,” a relaxed-looking Williamson told a news conference when asked if his side were underdogs.
“Whatever dog we are, it’s just important that we focus on the cricket that we want to play and we have seen over the years that anybody can beat anybody regardless of breed of dog,” he said with a smile.
The canine reference appeared to amuse the Kiwi skipper who was also asked how it would feel to play party-pooper in a match which would be broadcast free-to-air on TV.
“Party-poopers? You talking about dogs again, hey?” he said with a smile.
“Look, we are really looking forward to the occasion and the end point and the result…focussing too much on it, I don’t think, is a positive thing.”
England will expect another flying start from openers Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, who have combined in four successive century partnerships.
Williamson acknowledged the threat they pose, but said nothing can be taken for granted.
“Those two have been fantastic throughout this whole competition and prior as well,” said the Kiwi batting mainstay.
“There is a huge amount of respect for the match-winners that they have within their side, obviously the top of the order and throughout.
“But the focus for us is very much about the cricket that we want to play and the performance we want to put on the board and if we do that, we have seen throughout this competition that anybody can beat anybody.”
Williamson was part of the Brendon McCullum-led squad who suffered a heavy defeat in the 2015 final against Australia.
The 28-year-old’s level-headed leadership, along with his prolific form with the bat, have been instrumental in New Zealand’s second straight run to the final.
“I try not to get too caught up in the results and hopefully not too emotional about just the outcome and maybe look at it with a bit more reason…and then try and move on from that as quickly as possible.”
“There’s always more to the picture than just the end point…
“We look forward to tomorrow, treating it with a huge amount of respect because it’s not very often you get the opportunity to be out in a World Cup final, but very much focussed on what we need to try and achieve.”
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in London; editing by Toby Davis)