Morgan predicts low-scoring Cricket World Cup final
LONDON (AP) — England captain Eoin Morgan is predicting a tight, low-scoring match against New Zealand in the Cricket World Cup final at Lord's on Sunday.
New Zealand is one of only two teams — along with Afghanistan — to have failed to score at least 300 in any match this tournament but has proved adept at defending or chasing small totals. The Kiwis beat India in the semifinal in Manchester after posting 239 batting first.
Speaking from experience, as he plays his county cricket for Middlesex at Lord's, Morgan said: "It isn't ever a high-scoring ground — so I'd say tomorrow isn't going to be a high-scoring game. I think it will be a bit of a battle."
That would follow past World Cup finals, with only one side ever scoring more than 300 runs. That was Australia, which lost the toss, batted first and posted 359-2 against India in 2003.
Widespread predictions of scores above 400 — even breaking the 500-run ceiling for the first time in ODIs — have proved to be way off the mark this World Cup. England's 397-6 against Afghanistan at Old Trafford has been the highest score.
New Zealand might yet have got there against Sri Lanka in their opening group match, reaching a target of 137 without losing a wicket off only 16.1 overs.
"In general, the scores have been a lot lower than they have been in the last two or three years," Morgan said. "Adjusting to that has been hard work but New Zealand have handled that brilliantly."
Key to that have been the captaincy skills and batting prowess of Kane Williamson, who is averaging a tournament-high 91.33 over eight innings.
England managed to get him out for 27 when the teams met at Durham in the group stage but it required a huge stroke of luck, with Ross Taylor's straight drive glancing off the fingertips of bowler Mark Wood and hitting the stumps to run out Williamson at the non-striker's end.
Getting Williamson out cheaply and early is pivotal for England.
So what is his weakness, Morgan was asked.
"Backing up," he replied with a smile.
Morgan said he is "relaxed" ahead of the biggest match of his life, after which he could become the first men's England captain to raise aloft the 50-over World Cup trophy
"I haven't allowed myself to think about lifting the trophy," he said. "Sport, in particular, is very fickle. If you ever get ahead of yourself, it bites you on the backside."
Steve Douglas is at www.twitter.com/sdouglas80