The grab for underdog status is a time-honoured tradition in every sport, but neither Australia or New Zealand want a bar of it.
Australia allrounder Shane Watson and Blackcaps coach Mike Hesson fronted the press at Eden Park on Wednesday, when both sides ramped up preparations for Saturday’s World Cup clash.
It is shaping as the most-anticipated match of the pool stage, with a sell-out crowd to watch the co-hosts battle it out. The teams are ranked first and second in most betting markets for the overall title.
Victory for Australia will go a long way to ensuring they don’t risk having to play a semi-final on the other side of the Tasman.
Both sides are in terrific form, having crushed England with absolute ease. They both boast formidable pace attacks and many batsmen capable of scoring in a hurry.
So is it Australia or New Zealand that deserve to be favourites on the weekend?
“I honestly don’t think there’s an underdog. Both teams are very even,” Watson opined.
“We’ve been playing very good one-day cricket and we know New Zealand have been as well.”
“Two good sides playing pretty well,” he said.
“We don’t really buy into favouritism or not, we just get on with it.”
Bookmakers expect Australia to continue their undefeated one-day run, which including World Cup warm-up matches now stands at 10 matches.
“They’ve been playing very well. They’ve had a very, very good summer and they’re ranked No.1 … Australia are favourites,” Sir Richard Hadlee said.
Steve Waugh, captain of the Australian side that won the 1999 World Cup, isn’t quite so sure.
“New Zealand is probably going in a slight favourite. They’ve really got their confidence up and Auckland is a very hard place to play,” Waugh told News Corp Australia.
The unique dimensions of Eden Park, where the straight boundaries are just 55m, make for an intriguing subplot.
The lofted drive was again very much the focus during Australia’s centre-wicket practice on Wednesday.
Watson, one of few in Australia’s squad to have played at the rugby ground, conceded it would take the side some time to get their bearings.
“It’s going to be a big challenge,” he said.
“It’s not your standard cricket ground … it’s an interesting place to play cricket.
“We’re going to have to spend a bit of time out there … just getting our head around the different dimensions.”
James Faulkner has started bowling in the nets as he recovers from a side strain.
“He is getting very close,” Watson said.
Medical staff are yet to give Faulkner a licence to bowl at full tilt so the allrounder is unlikely to play on the weekend.
However, captain Michael Clarke is a certain starer.
“He’s a world-class player so to be able to have him back in the team is a great thing,” Watson said.