Australia v New Zealand: Hosts have the edge as tournament serves up dream final
Ed Hawkins previews the big one in Melbourne in the early hours of Sunday as the Aussies and Kiwis clash in a unique Trans-Tasman contest...
"In the tournament only Brisbane and Dunedin have seen fewer sixes than Melbourne, which had 19 in four games."
Back 0-5 sixes at [2.4]
Australia v New Zealand
Start time: 05.30GMT
TV: live on Sky Sports
Australia's thumping victory over India in the semi-final felt like the hosts finally coming to their own party. That's not to say they have disappointed, it's just that, defeat by New Zealand in the pool aside, it's all been rather rudimentary.
They have had a quiet menace about them but against India they were raucous. The 327 they posted first up was the sort of psychological blow that few sides would be able to get up from in a game with the magnitude of a semi, and when Australia's bowlers tore in with pace and accuracy, India had been cowed.
The victory highlighted their strength in depth. James Faulkner, with 21 off 12 balls, and three wickets, is a stellar player while Mitchell Johnson's rapid cameo at No 9 would have deflated any side.
If Australia have concerns it is the form of Michael Clarke, the captain. Apart from a 68 against Sri Lanka, he has looked out of sorts and this could be his final international appearance.
Brendon McCullum said his players were having the time of their lives following their sensational victory over South Africa in Auckland. It was the type of improbable win which makes a side believe they can beat anyone, anyhow. Just as well given Australia's power.
There has never been a New Zealand side as confident as this one. Previously they were a team who squeezed every ounce out of their ability and relied on meticulous plans and nous to upset the odds. Now they are winning matches like an international powerhouse.
Grant Elliott's superb half-century proved they have match-winners in almost every position, a boast that probably only Australia could match. Martin Guptill and McCullum can be terrifyingly fast out of the blocks, Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor have placement and power, and then there are the all-round attributes of Corey Anderson, who also had the game of his life against South Africa.
If they are a little unsure in any area, it is with the ball. Tim Southee and Trent Boult are great but the loss of Adam Milne to injury has meant a late reshuffle, throwing in Matt Henry with little game time.
Each of the four matches at the MCG in this World Cup have seen first-innings scores of 300 or more. That is a significant bucking of a trend. The first-innings average in the previous ten ODI was 269. And six of those seven first digs had produced scores of 275 or fewer.
When the sides met at Eden Park and New Zealand skittled Australia for 150, it was on a surface which also once had a similar reputation for seam and swing. That means we have to be alive to the possibility that bowlers could dominate.
The MCG does provide us with a betting opportunity, although it's down to the size of the venue rather than the surface. It's a big ground and sixes are hard to come by. In the tournament only Brisbane and Dunedin have seen fewer sixes than Melbourne, which had 19 in four games. That's an average of 4.75 and the [2.4] about zero-five sixes looks a fair shout.
Australia are [1.45] and New Zealand [3.15]. We have to admit to being surprised at how big the Kiwis are, particularly as we tipped them to win the group game at [2.60] because we thought the price was unfair.
So have we seen anything in the three weeks since which makes us believe that Australia have improved, or New Zealand have deteriorated, to justify those odds?
No. They are based purely on Australia's big game reputation. This would be their fifth World Cup victory. Consider that no other side has more than two and you realise just how dominant they are.
In that regard cricket World Cups are a lot like the football variety. So many matches are played, after so many weeks, and then the Germans win.
We agree that Australia have the edge. They have not had to tweak their bowling throughout the tournament and, unlike South Africa did against New Zealand, no side has been able to put them under pressure in the field.
With the bat, too, they sneak ahead. Johnson's late onslaught against India was timely in that regard. By contrast, New Zealand might bat Henry or Southee at No 9. We're talking fine margins here when analysing batting positions as low as that.
At the start of the tournament we advised a back-to-lay of New Zealand at [8.0] and you have to say they have done us proud. So now is the time to take our profit and not be greedy.
Top Australia Runscorer
Aaron Finch, in form after a half-century against India, hit 135 at the 'G against England in the first match of the tournament. He is [5.6] and the best value - he is the top runscorer at the venue in the last four years and no other Aussie comes close to his average. Steve Smith, centurion in the semis, is the [4.6] favourite ahead of David Warner at [4.8].
Top New Zealand Runscorer
Elliott has a decent record against the Aussies, averaging 36 with a strike rate of 81. He is [9.00], although he did get a duck against them in the group. McCullum, Williamson and Guptill are all around [5.0]. McCullum top scored when the sides met earlier in the tournament.
Lay off New Zealand from [8.0] to [3.15]
Ed Hawkins P/L
2014: +315.10 (ROI 27%)
2013: +250.80 (ROI 25%)
To £10 level stakes, based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice
Follow Ed on Twitter @cricketbetting
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