MELBOURNE - Dominant New Zealand will have no fear of the enemy's den as they take on co-hosts Australia in an intriguing World Cup final at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Sunday. Brendon McCullum's men go into their first title clash in cricket's 50-overs-a-side showpiece as the only unbeaten team in the tournament, having won eight games in a row.
One of those wins was against Australia in a low-scoring pool stage thriller in Auckland on February 28 when a Kane Williamson six off Pat Cummins helped them surpass a modest target of 152 with one wicket standing. It was at the same Eden Park in Auckland that the Black Caps downed South Africa in a nerve-tingling semi-final on Tuesday with a penultimate-ball six by Grant Elliott.
New Zealand 's first semi-final win in seven attempts left an enthralled rugby-mad nation backing their cricketers to take home a trophy that has always eluded them in the event's 40-year history. 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.
Australian captain Michael Clarke said the Black Caps may struggle to adjust to conditions at the MCG after playing all their eight matches so far on their own grounds across the Tasman Sea. "Conditions are a lot different to what New Zealand have been playing in New Zealand ," Clarke said after his team's emphatic 95-run semi-final victory over defending champions India in Sydney on Thursday.
"But we will have to play our best cricket to win. New Zealand have been the form team of the competition and they certainly deserve to be in the final. "There is always that great rivalry between Australia and New Zealand and the fact that the two hosting nations are in the final is extremely special."
For at least four Kiwis expected to make the playing XI on Sunday -- batsmen Williamson and Corey Anderson and fast bowlers Trent Boult and Matt Henry - it will be their first appearances at the MCG. But New Zealand should have no problem adjusting to the vast 90,000-capacity amphitheatre where they have defeated Australia in three of their last five one-day internationals.
In their last appearance six years ago, it was semi-final star Elliott's unbeaten 61 that fashioned a six-wicket win with seven balls to spare after Australia had been restricted to 225 for five from 50 overs. Tall 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 Kumar Sangakkara's tally of 541 to become the tournament's leading run-getter.
Left-armer 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 likely to end his international career after Sunday's final, giving his team-mates extra motivation for that will be the biggest match of their careers.
Australia have a short recovery period of two days before the final, but skipper Clarke said his team was ready to win the "pinnacle of one-day cricket." "We've been building up throughout this tournament to get this opportunity to play a World Cup final," he said. "It would be extremely special, there's no doubt about it. We have to make sure we're as well prepared as we can be, and if our attitude does not change and we stay focused, I am confident we can win this World Cup."

head to head record

     Total played    Australia    India

Matches played    126    85    35
In World Cup    9    6    3
AT MCG    19    14    4
Last match
Feb 28, 2015 - New Zealand won by 1 wicket at Auckland.

SQUADS

Michael Clarke (capt), George Bailey, David Warner, Aaron Finch, Shane Watson, Steven Smith, Brad Haddin (wkt), Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson, Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummins, Xavier Doherty
Brendon McCullum (capt), Trent Boult, Grant Elliott, Tom Latham, Martin Guptill, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Kyle Mills, Matt Henry, Daniel Vettori, Kane Williamson, Corey Anderson, Tim Southee, Luke Ronchi (wkt), Ross Taylor