By Amlan Chakraborty
LONDON (Reuters) – England captain Eoin Morgan knows New Zealand have the ability to defend small totals and says the hosts will need to replicate their near-perfect game against Australia to prevail in Sunday’s Cricket World Cup final.
Morgan’s men dished out a ruthless performance against arch-rivals Australia, bowling out the five-times champions for 223 and romping home with nearly 18 overs to spare in a lop-sided semi-final at Edgbaston.
Asked if they would need to maintain a similar standard against the 2015 finalists, Morgan said: “I think we will need to, yeah.
“New Zealand are an extremely tough side, with a lot of experience, a lot of skill. They were the best side in the group stage and they improved, very similar to us, from the group stage to the semi-final performance.
“We are striving to improve on our performance. No doubt they (also) will.”
New Zealand are one of the two sides, along with Afghanistan, who have not posted a 300-plus total in the tournament, but successfully defended a modest 239 against India in the first semi-final.
Morgan does not expect Sunday’s final to be a high-scoring contest and feels the likes of Trent Boult and Matt Henry could prove quite a handful for his batsmen.
“Throughout the tournament the scores have been a lot lower than they have previously here in the last three or four years. Us adjusting to that has been harder work than it normally is,” Morgan said.
“New Zealand have done it brilliantly and Lord’s isn’t ever a high-scoring ground. I’d say tomorrow isn’t going to be a high-scoring ground, so it will be a bit of a battle.”
With Sunday’s match available on free-to-air television in England, Morgan acknowledged the importance of winning England’s maiden men’s 50-overs World Cup title though his focus remains on the final only.
“I haven’t allowed myself to think about lifting the trophy,” said the left-handed batsman.
“Cricket and sport in particular is very fickle. If you ever get ahead, it always seems to bite you in the backside.
“So for us to win it, I think around the country it would be awesome, great for the game.
“I think quite iconic in certainly young kids’ memories if they are watching it at home and we manage to lift the trophy, it would be awesome.”
Morgan paid tribute to Brendon McCullum, saying the former New Zealand captain had made a deep impact on his leadership style.
“We are close mates and he’s taught me a lot about leadership and I think in 2015 the way that New Zealand played is very similar to the way they are playing at the moment.”
Morgan credited the former wicketkeeper-batsman for New Zealand’s distinct brand of cricket.
“They proved to everybody that you can perform at the highest level and get to the top by being yourselves and not trying to be somebody else, or a different team, or be somebody that is a bit of a novelty for everybody else, so that’s quite cool.”
(Reporting by Amlan Chakraborty in London; editing by Toby Davis)