Plunkett sets England up for World Cup glory

Kane Williamson and Jos Buttler (Getty)
Kane Williamson and Jos Buttler (Getty)

London – England, thanks largely to a superb effort from seamer Liam Plunkett, will need to score just 242 to secure a first ever Cricket World Cup title at Lord's on Sunday.

This comes after New Zealand carded 241/8 in their 50 overs in a final that has been tense throughout.  

SCOREBOARD: England v New Zealand

The target might not seem like much of a test for this star-laden English top order, but the scoreboard pressure will be real given the circumstances while conditions are also testing for the batsmen.

Every ball was cheered on by a packed London crowd at the Home of Cricket, with a small but vocal Kiwi support making their collective voice heard.

The Black Caps' top order all made starts, but nobody could go on and post a match-winning individual score as the English bowlers picked up wickets at crucial times.

Plunkett was the difference for the favourites, finishing with figures of 3/42 (10) despite having gone 0/19 in his first three.

With the toss delayed by 15 minutes due to a wet outfield, New Zealand skipper Kane Williamson's decision to bat first came as somewhat of a surprise. 

Runs on the board was prioritised, with New Zealand backing themselves to post something substantial and then bank on their classy fast bowling unit doing the damage to win them the game and their first ever World Cup. 

On a green wicket and under cloudy skies, batting was never going to be easy and that much was seen in a nervy start following Williamson's brave decision at the toss.

Martin Guptill survived a close call for a caught behind off Jofra Archer while Henry Nicholls was given out LBW on 0 only for the decision to be overturned after he sent it upstairs for review. 

Guptill (19 off 18) was eventually out LBW to Chris Woakes (3/37) in the 7th over, wasting New Zealand's review in the process as the Black Caps fell to 29/1. 

It was a slow start, but Nicholls and Williamson soldiered on, fighting hard for every run as New Zealand looked to lay the foundation for an attack later. 

Williamson, as has so often been the case at this tournament, started slowly but as the sun tried to break through, the pair began ticking along and brought up their 50-run partnership off 76 balls.

When the Black Caps reached 100/1 in 21.3 overs, they were well placed as Plunkett, Mark Wood and Adiel Rashid found it difficult to build any pressure. 

The biggest roar of the innings came soon after, though, when Williamson was out caught behind for 30 (53) off Plunkett.

Umpire Kumar Dharmasena had given Williamson 'not out', but the English were quick to send the decision for review and when Ultra Edge showed a soft nick on the big screen, Williamson was off as Lord's erupted. 

Nicholls moved to his 10th ODI 50 off 71 balls in what was his most telling contribution of the tournament so far, but he was bowled for 55 (77) by a devastating Plunkett delivery that moved back into the left-hander through the air. Nicholls could only drag on, and at 118/3 and with two new batsmen at the crease, New Zealand were back to square one and looking to rebuild. 

Ross Taylor and Tom Latham came together with the contest in the balance and going into the final 20 overs, New Zealand were 126/3 (30). 

The loss of Taylor (15 off 31) was a major blow to their chances. 

With Williamson gone, the pressure fell squarely on Taylor's shoulders, but he was given out LBW by South African umpire Marais Erasmus off the bowling of Mark Wood.

Erasmus had a long, hard think before his finger went up, but replays showed that the ball was in fact sailing over the top of the stumps. 

With Guptill having wasted the review earlier, Taylor was left with no choice but to leave the fray. 

New Zealand, in the contest without ever managing to get ahead, kept chipping away and looked to be making inroads before Jimmy Neesham (19 off 25) was out trying to clear mid-on, only to hit Plunkett to Joe Root.

It left them 179/5 going into the final 10 overs and with a lot to do.

Latham's 47 off 56 before hitting out to Woakes was an important contribution from a New Zealand perspective, but Colin de Grandhomme struggled to get going and he was out for just 16 (28) when his side needed him to deliver something special. 

New Zealand came up short of what they would consider par, but they have set a target that will be no easy task for the English.

It is, well and truly, game on.

@LloydBurnard is in England covering the 2019 Cricket World Cup for Sport24 ...

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