London, Jul 13 : Former Australia captain Ricky Ponting has predicted that hosts England will emerge as the ICC Men's Cricket World Cup 2019 champions, ahead of their clash against New Zealand in the final at Lord's on Sunday.
Hosts England are competing in a World Cup final for the first time since 1992, thanks to back-to-back wins over quality opponents in their last three games. In the second semi-final at Edgbaston, they stormed past their arch-rivals, and defending champions, Australia by a convincing margin of eight wickets. Ponting, who was Australia's assistant coach for the tournament, believed that England, playing their fourth World Cup final, will emerge victorious.
"I think England will win," Ponting told a media channel. "I said before the tournament started that I thought they'd be exceptionally hard to beat. I had them as the favourites coming in, nothing changes now."
The two-time World Cup-winning captain also praised Australia's Trans Tasman rivals New Zealand, who will make their second successive appearance in a World Cup final. He, however, believed that England, with the quality of talent they possess, stand as firm favourites, an ICC report on Saturday said. "New Zealand have done amazingly well to get into the final and well done to them. Two consecutive World Cup finals is an awesome achievement for that group, and they'll have some experiences to take out of that last final, whereas none of the England players have played in a final before," he said. "That being said, I think there's just a bit too much class in this England side for them not to win."
Ponting, who scored a match-winning 140 not out in the final of the 2003 edition against India at The Wanderers, rued his team's failure in crunch moments in this edition.
"Unusually for Australian teams in World Cups, we played our worst cricket in the most critical moments. I said right at the start of the tournament you have to play your best cricket at the back end, and you have to stand up in the big moments," he said. "We won all the big moments in the first half of the tournament and we've lost most of the big moments in the last couple of games."Australia had been a dominant force through much of the group stage, losing only to India in their first eight matches and becoming the first team to qualify for the semi-finals.
However, a 10-run defeat in their last round-robin game, against South Africa, gave them a second-place finish, after they had seemed set to top the points table. To make matters worse, they lost Usman Khawaja, who became the second player, after Shaun Marsh, to be ruled out of the remainder of the tournament due to injury.Ponting emphasised that Australia still had the right combinations, but failed to produce clinical performances when it mattered the most. "Tactically, I think we got things right," he said. "Personnel-wise, we picked the best team that we could for every game. Unfortunately, we've come up short for the last couple of games." (UNI)