After 47 games and one-and-a-half-month of action, hosts India and Australia will battle for glory in the final of the ICC World Cup in Ahmedabad on Sunday. Both sides have been the most consistent ones in the competition and are deserving finalists. India are on a 10-match winning streak, while the Aussies are on an eight-match unbeaten run after starting their campaign with two losses.
There is absolutely nothing to choose between the two teams ahead of the final. It will all come down to who plays better on the big day. The Indian batsmen have been making merry. Captain Rohit Sharma has given the team explosive starts, while his opening partner Shubman Gill has been solid at the other end. Virat Kohli has been the mainstay of the Indian batting. The veteran has held the Indian innings together. Both Shreyas Iyer and K L Rahul have not been afraid to express themselves. Suryakumar Yadav and all-rounder Ravindra Jadeja have not really been called into action with the bat. But they may well be needed to step up in the summit clash.
The Australian openers David Warner and Travis Head have been eager to seize the early momentum. Head came up with a match-winning 62 off just 48 balls on a tricky Eden Gardens wicket in the semifinal against South Africa. Mitchell Marsh has blown hot and cold, but he remains a dangerous batter. Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne lend solidity and experience to the middle order, while magician Glenn Maxwell has the X-factor. Maxwell could destroy any bowling attack on his day.
The Indian pace trio of Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Siraj and Mohammed Shami has been largely impressive. Both Bumrah and Shami have been among the wickets, while Siraj has not been quite at his best in the last few games. Indian spinners Kuldeep Yadav and Jadeja have done the job for Rohit in the middle overs. The two have kept it tight besides picking up crucial wickets.
Australia boast of a world-class pace attack in Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and captain Pat Cummins. Left-arm spearhead Starc raised his game in the semifinal and is always a threat with his deadly yorkers. Hazlewood is tough to get away and is a constant threat with his nagging line and length. Cummins too has struck vital blows. Leggie Adam Zampa has had a terrific tournament. Though he was taken to the cleaners by David Miller in the semifinal, Zampa will be eager to bounce back in the final. Maxwell has been regularly completing his quota with his off-spin and Australia can always fall back on the part-time off-spin of Head if needed.
Australia bat deep unlike India, who have Shami coming in at No. 8. Fielding could well make the difference in the final. Australia were simply brilliant in the semifinal, while the Indians showed signs of wilting under pressure in their last-four clash with the Kiwis. One big plus though for the Men in Blue will be the home support.
The pitch will have a huge effect on the outcome. Batting first and putting up a challenging total remains the safe option in the big game. However, the threat of dew could force the captains to chase in the pressure match.