England’s Plunkett strikes twice to rock New Zealand in World Cup final

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Liam Plunkett struck twice to put England on top in the World Cup final against New Zealand at Lord’s on Sunday, taking the prized wicket of Kane Williamson before bowling the established Henry Nicholls.

Fellow quick Mark Wood followed up to remove veteran batsman Ross Taylor to leave the Black Caps faltering at 141-4 in the 34th over.

Williamson, just as he had done in his side’s shock semi-final victory over India, batted first after winning the toss in overcast conditions.

A green-tinged pitch also promised to give England’s pacemen some early assistance.

“It’s a tough decision, it’s a bat first surface but if you look above, it adds confusion,” Williamson said at the toss.

Nicholls was still on nought when given out lbw to Chris Woakes, who had started the match with a wide.

Nicholls reviewed Kumar Dharmasena’s decision and was reprieved when replays indicated the ball would have gone over the top of the stumps.

Fellow opener Guptill, the leading run-scorer at the 2015 World Cup, then hit fast bowler Jofra Archer for two boundaries in three balls, an uppercut six over third man followed by a straight drive back over the paceman’s head.

Guptill has struggled at this tournament, however, and on 19 he was lbw to Woakes, who had struck two early blows in England’s eight-wicket semi-final thrashing of reigning champions Australia.

Guptill reviewed but was walking back to the pavilion even before replays confirmed the ball would have smashed into his middle stump.

It left number three Williamson having to mount yet another rescue mission this World Cup.

Before this match, Williamson had scored nearly 30% of his side’s runs at this tournament, 548 at an eye-catching average of 91.33.

However, having put on 74 for the second wicket with Nicholls, he fell for just 30 when he edged a rising cross-seamer from Plunkett to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.

Dharmasena initially said not out but an England review confirmed the end of Williamson’s 53-ball innings, which featured just two fours.

New Zealand, who had been 103-1 prior to Williamson’s exit, then found themselves 118-3 when Plunkett struck for the second time in 14 balls.

Nicholls, who had completed a 71-ball fifty, fell for 55 when he played on after being cramped for room by a Plunkett delivery that curved back into him.

New Zealand were now looking to senior batsman Taylor to bail them out of trouble.

However, he fell for 15 when lbw to Wood. Replays suggested the ball would have gone over the top of the stumps but New Zealand had used up their review with Guptill’s unsuccesssful effort.

Early morning showers meant the start of play was pushed back until 10:45 am (0945 GMT).

England have been in the final three times while New Zealand were beaten finalists in 2015.

When England exited the 2015 tournament after an embarrassing defeat by Bangladesh, few tipped them as potential champions four years later but a revolution in their one-day game took them to the top of the world rankings.