One team is assured of their semi-final place. The other is just one win away. But whatever the implications, whatever the occasion, matches between Australia and New Zealand mean the world. Throw in the added edge of this being a rematch of the 2015 ICC Cricket World Cup final, and we’ve got all the makings of a classic contest at Lord’s.
The pair served up not one, but two thrillers four years ago as Australia lifted the trophy for a record fifth time, boasting the honour of doing so in their own backyard. But New Zealand aren’t in London just to make up the numbers – their place in the semi-finals tantalisingly close and a first World Cup title still up for grabs.
Throw in their history and bragging rights for years to come and you get just a flavour of why this game means so much for both countries. So where do the match-winning factors lie at Lord’s?
Left-arm fast bowling is so often a delight to watch – and in Trent Boult and Mitchell Starc, class in abundance looks set to be on show.
With 22 wickets apiece at stunning averages below 17, the two were a cut above in the 2015 World Cup as they finished as leading wicket-takers.
With the ball on a string, admirations and comparisons between the two are plentiful and growing rapidly, unnerving consistency the fundamental element of their charge towards the semi-finals.
This tournament has also seen the pair cross 150 ODI wickets each, with no player reaching the milestone quicker than Starc’s 77 innings.
Boult sits third on that respective list and while records will far from concern two masters of their trade, this is a battle that will go a long way to deciding the overall champion in this match.
Captains fantastic shows how it’s done
No team worth their salt in World Cup cricket can operate without their captain orchestrating them from the front.
In Aaron Finch and Kane Williamson, both Australia and New Zealand can boast leadership in spades – not only in the field, but with the way they’ve batted so far this tournament.
Four consecutive 50+ scores have come Finch’s way heading into this contest, with two of those converted to three figures in victories over Sri Lanka and England, the latter at Lord’s.
But Williamson has arguably overshadowed his Australian counterpart, twin centuries and an unbeaten 79 the foundation of his country’s strong showing thus far.
In the field the pair have also ably juggled the box of tricks that is their bowling attacks, with the Kiwis in particular seeing their basket of options bearing fruit in reducing all but one team to less than 250 so far this tournament.
Famine v feast underpins mixed opening fortunes
One team has flourished, the other has faltered with opening partnerships so far this tournament – and a fast start looks set to be essential at the home of cricket.
Australia have revelled in runs galore atop their order, Finch and David Warner becoming the first pair in World Cup history to register five successive 50+ opening stands in World Cup cricket.
It’s taken Warner to the dizzy heights of leading run-scorer of this edition – but there’s still the feeling that more could be in the offing for Australia’s explosive opener.
New Zealand, meanwhile, have not enjoyed such success with Williamson and Ross Taylor in earlier than hoped, with opening partnerships of and 5 for Martin Guptill and Colin Munro after a stunning start against Sri Lanka.
But there’d be no better time than now to put that unwanted record to bed.
England showing to back up for Behrendorff
Jason Behrendorff must wish he could play at Lord’s every week if he can produce performances like that against England last time out.
His 5/44 saw both England openers dismissed before coming back to stifle a middle-order looking to charge, as Australia booked their place in the semi-finals.
Now the challenge is backing up a display which saw him comfortably beat his previous best figures in ODI cricket.
But it won’t be easy. The 29-year-old was somewhat suited to England’s batting unit but New Zealand will be ready for the task knowing what has gone before.
It’s a potential problem Finch and his side have certainly thought about, however, with the captain knowing it’s tactics more than history that will determine matchday strategy.
Spin it to win it?
Not a hint of change in personnel has come from New Zealand’s ranks this tournament but could Saturday finally be the day they shift up their attack?
On a used Lord’s pitch, Ish Sodhi is among those touted for the nod – potentially lining up alongside Mitchell Santner as the Black Caps look to add another string to a bow that has been pace dominated to date.
Get the call and it would be just the second time Sodhi has played an ODI against Australia but potential partner Santner has fared much better, with his 13 wickets in the fixture unmatched against any opponent.
Then there is the potential spin pair of Nathan Lyon and Adam Zampa to consider for Australia, knowing just how vital it is to keep the lid on the run-scoring in the middle overs, particularly with Williamson and Taylor in good form.
(Inputs from ICC)
For in-depth, objective and more importantly balanced journalism, Click here to subscribe to Outlook Magazine