ICC World Cup 2015: New Zealand eye World Cup history against Australia
New Zealand take the field in their maiden World Cup final on Sunday looking to cap an unbeaten streak by defeating co-hosts Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Some 90,000 fans at the vast stadium and millions of television viewers around the world will follow the blockbuster title clash between the two best teams left standing in the 14-nation, six-week event.
Brendon McCullum`s Black Caps have won eight matches in a row, including a one-wicket victory over Australia in a low scoring pool stage thriller in Auckland a month ago.
Then at the same Eden Park last Tuesday, New Zealand downed mighty South Africa in a nerve-tingling semi-final with a penultimate-ball six by Grant Elliott.
New Zealand`s first semi-final win in seven attempts has left an enthralled rugby-mad nation backing their cricketers to take home the sport`s biggest prize.
"We are not intimidated, we are excited," McCullum said on the eve of the match.
"This has been the greatest time of our lives. We dreamed right from the start and to reach the final is an amazing achievement.
"The brand of cricket that we`ve played has really touched a lot of people and endeared ourselves to a lot of people who follow this game.
"Hopefully, if we play well we will be smiling at the end of the day and be able to look back on a fantastic campaign and something which would hopefully invigorate the game and New Zealand."
Australia, the top-ranked side in one-day cricket bidding for a fifth title, will be considered favourites on home turf at the MCG where New Zealand last played a one-dayer in 2009.
But even as the confident Black Caps named an unchanged side for the decider, Australia were taken aback by skipper Michael Clarke`s announcement on Saturday that the final will be his last one-day match.
"I think it`s the right time for me and the Australian cricket team," said the 33-year-old Clarke, who will however continue to play five-day Test matches.
Clarke, a veteran of 244 one-day internationals and a World Cup winner in 2007, hoped his decision to retire will not affect the team`s morale in the final.
"It`s a wonderful opportunity for every single player in that change room to walk out onto the MCG in a World Cup final," he said. "It`s a very special event. But it`s no more special because it`s my last game.
"I believe if we play our best, we can beat New Zealand."
New Zealand have defeated Australia in three of their last five ODIs at the MCG, including a six-wicket win with seven deliveries to spare in their most recent appearance six years ago.
Opener Martin Guptill, who hit a World Cup record score of 237 not out against the West Indies, is just 10 runs away from surpassing Sri Lanka star Kumar Sangakkara`s tally of 541 to become the tournament`s leading run-getter.
Left-armer Trent Boult is the leading bowler in this edition with 21 wickets, one more than Aussie paceman Mitchell Starc, while seamer Tim Southee and veteran spinner Daniel Vettori have 15 wickets each.
The 36-year-old Vettori is expected to end his international career after Sunday`s final.