Sir Ian Botham: New Zealand can upset Australia in World Cup final
Last Updated: 29/03/15 10:05am
Sir Ian Botham is predicting a nail-biting World Cup climax - and New Zealand to upset Australia at the MCG.
The Black Caps head into Sunday's final unbeaten in the tournament but face an Australian side who are the bookies' odds-on favourites to secure their fifth world crown.
New Zealand did edge a classic encounter between the two sides by one wicket in the group stages on home soil and Botham expects another close encounter when they meet in the Melbourne showpiece on Sunday, live on Sky Sports World Cup (channel 403).
The Sky Sports commentator said: "It's the final everybody wanted. The Trans-Tasman final, it doesn't get much better than that.
"I think it will be a very close game. Australia are the favourites but that also means they will be under a bit more pressure at home.
"New Zealand have played very well throughout the tournament, have not lost a game and have the edge knowing they have beaten Australia already in this tournament.
"I backed them before the start of the tournament and there is no reason to change that view. They can win it but it will be tight, really tight."
Victory for Michael Clarke would be a fitting send off for the Australian skipper after confirming his retirement from one-day cricket after Sunday's final, while his opposite number Brendan McCullum has been a key driver in New Zealand's exciting brand of cricket en route to the final.
The former England all-rounder added: "They are the two best captains in the World Cup. They are dynamic and that's what you have to be in this format.
"They attack, they go for the jugular and they don't let sides settle. They don't hope for a mistake, they make mistakes happen."
Both sides are expected to be unchanged following their semi-final victories over India and South Africa with Australia fast bowler Josh Hazlewood set to be passed fit despite picking up a thumb injury.
Australia have won their last six ODIs at the MCG but the Black Caps did win on their most recent meeting at the venue in 2009.
The tournament's top two wicket-takers, Mitchell Starc (20) and Trent Boult (21), who took 6-28 and 5-27 respectively when the sides met in Auckland, go head-to-head again and Botham thinks the sides are very evenly matched going into the clash.
He said: "They are the two best sides in the world. It all depends on who performs on the day. Both sides are packed with match-winners, it could be a catch or one bad over. But one thing you can guarantee is it's going to be a great final."
Beefy's World Cup final bets:
New Zealand to win: 7/4