Richard Mann previews Sunday's Cricket World Cup final between England and New Zealand at Lord's.
It didn't look likely when suffering defeats to Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Australia earlier in the tournament but England are only step away from Cricket World Cup glory having booked their place in Sunday's final at Lord's with a ruthless defeat of the old enemy at Old Trafford on Thursday.
Despite struggling through the middle of the tournament, victory over New Zealand would be just reward for England's two years of domination in the 50-over format and in truth, surely only the huge weight of expectation and the pressure that brings can stop Eoin Morgan's side achieving something that has appeared to be their destiny for some time now.
Standing in England's way on Sunday are the impressive Black Caps, runners-up in Australia in 2015 and a side who continually find a way to go deep at ICC events despite seemingly lacking the depth needed to compete with some of their more illustrious rivals.
A fine start to the competition all but assured New Zealand of a place in the last four but following three consecutive defeats, very few would have given them a chance of beating India in the semi-finals.
Nevertheless, Kane Williamson's side produced a never-say-die display reminiscent of their quarter-final heist against South Africa in 2011, defending 239 thanks to a match-winning opening burst from Matt Henry and some terrific catching and fielding from this typically well-drilled and well-led outfit.
Having failed to play to anywhere near their potential when losing to Australia in the final four years ago, few would begrudge this thoroughly likeable outfit their biggest success yet but it is hard to escape the feeling that they could find themselves overpowered and outgunned by England's more intimidating batting line-up.
With Colin Munro and then Henry Nicholls failing to develop any sort of opening partnership with a struggling Martin Guptill, the Kiwis have generally found themselves in early trouble and it has only been the continued excellent of captain Williamson, backed up by Ross Taylor, that has kept the batting afloat.
Tom Latham is a much better player than he has shown in England so far while Guptill and the dangerous Colin de Grandhomme also need to come to the party on Sunday.
239 might have been enough on a desperately poor Old Trafford surface against India but Lord's is unlikely to offer such a leveller and New Zealand will require runs, and plenty of them, if they are to bat first and put England under enough pressure to see just what they are made of in the heat of a World Cup final.
With that in mind, Williamson will know he and Taylor will again need to do the bulk of the work with the bat whether from the gun or in chase, and the temptation to take a gamble and recall the ultra-aggressive Munro at the top of the order must be strong given what a difference a fast-scoring opening 10 overs could make to their chances.
It no surprise to see Williamson again head the betting at 9/4 for top New Zealand batsman honours but Taylor did this column a favour when obliging in this market in the semi-finals and at 4/1, he is worth sticking with.
In 34 One-Day Internationals against England, Taylor has made amassed 1409 runs at an average of 50.32 - with five hundreds - and his impressive form over the last 18 months, and at this World Cup, suggests the veteran right-hander has his batting in perfect working order ahead of what will surely be his final shot at becoming a World Cup winner.
Expect Taylor and Williamson, both experienced, big-match performers, to make runs - they simply have to - and I'm keen to back the former to make over 30.5 at 4/5 as well as supporting him for top New Zealand batsman honours.
While New Zealand have become over-reliant on the aforementioned pair, their bowling certainly has plenty of depth to it with Trent Boult leading a strong attack that has been improved by the inclusion of the impressive Henry and can also boast Lockie Ferguson's raw pace and canny left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner.
Boult has 17 wickets in the competition already - eight in the last three matches - and he is someone who tends to rise to the big occasion.
A fearsome competitor who will surely use the famous Lord's slope to his advantage, he might not have the pace possessed by the likes of Ferguson or England's Jofra Archer but his ability to swing the new ball back into England's right-handers could well prove vital, just as was the case when Mitchell Starc and Jason Behrendorff shared nine wickets between them on this ground for Australia in their group match.
New Zealand need Boult to fire against an England batting order that has gone from strength to strength since Jason Roy's return from injury - England lost twice in the three matches he missed earlier in the tournament - which continued with a blistering 85 in Thursday's semi-final to land the knockout blow on Australia in a one-sided affair.
With all but Jos Buttler from England's top six averaging over 40 at this World Cup, there really does appear to be few weaknesses in England's batting and Roy's opening partnership with Jonny Bairstow might well be the most potent in world cricket right now.
Nevertheless, Boult, Henry and Ferguson ought to test their mettle and Ben Stokes cannot be ignored in the England batsman market.
Stokes wasn't even required with the bat on Thursday but he has enjoyed a brilliant six weeks, making 381 runs at an average of 54.42, and he has top scored for England three times in 10 matches at this World Cup.
At odds of 9/1, I'm happy to stick with the Durham star who looks like a man on a mission this summer as he bids to finally close the door on those regrettable events in Bristol almost two years ago.
If redemption is driving Stokes, what better place to complete the turnaround than in a World Cup final that precedes an Ashes series, so don't be at all surprised if the all-rounder steals the show on Sunday.
As well as siding with him for top batsman honours, I can't resist a supplementary bet on Stokes to pick up the Man of the Match award, his excellent bowling record at Lord's another pointer to a bold showing from the 28-year-old.
As mentioned earlier, Roy's brutal 85 landed the knockout punch against Australia on Thursday but it was Chris Woakes and Archer who inflicted the first and most significant blows with their impressive new-ball burst.
In fact, Archer's searing bouncer that knocked Alex Carey's helmet from his head and left blood pouring from his chin was an in image that might well become iconic in years to come, just as Steve Harmison drawing blood from Australian captain Ricky Ponting is recalled over and over again as the moment that England announced their arrival in the 2005 Ashes.
This might well go down as Archer's 'Harmison moment' and after a troubled and, at times, stuttering campaign, it might well be remembered as the point that England finally embraced the label as favourites and showed the rest of the competition their readiness to become World Cup winners.
With India on the plane home and the old enemy now banished, England are back on script with only the final act needed to be played.
Posted at 1415 BST on 12/07/19.
- The final will now be screened live from 10.30am on Channel 4 as well as Sky Sports, although during the British Grand Prix, More 4 will take over coverage.