Eoin Morgan’s England face New Zealand at Lord’s on Sunday desperate to win the World Cup for the first time after four years of hard graft.
Fans swarmed towards the London ground with their umbrellas, undeterred by light morning rain as the players warmed up on the outfield, with the sun breaking through the clouds.
The showers meant the start of play was pushed back until 10:45 am (0945 GMT), with the toss also delayed by 15 minutes until 10:15.
England have been in the final three times but have never won the trophy while New Zealand were beaten finalists in 2015.
“It means everything really,” said England fan Mark Colley. “We have never won a 50-over World Cup. We have been to three finals so it’s a chance of a lifetime. For a nation that started the game of cricket, we have never won a World Cup.
“I think Morgan’s leadership has been a big factor. Brings quite a positive influence. He doesn’t get over-excited and seems to have a game plan.“
New Zealand fan Cameron Sullivan, 25, flew from Auckland to watch the match.
“From the Black Caps’ point of view the comeback that they had against India (in the semi-final) got my heart racing,” he said. “Hope we can see Kane (Williamson) lifting the title here.“
There were also lots of Indian fans at the ground. They had bought tickets for the game anticipating that Virat Kohli’s side would be in the final.
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.
Australian World Cup-winning captain Steve Waugh said England could go down as one of the greatest teams in one-day international history if they win on Sunday.
The challenge for the host nation is to embrace Sunday’s occasion at Lord’s without it inhibiting their “fearless” brand of cricket.
“It’s the culmination of four years of hard work and dedication, a lot of planning and it presents a huge opportunity to go on and try and win a World Cup,” said Morgan.
Back-to-back group-stage defeats by Sri Lanka and Australia effectively saw England playing knockout cricket before the semi-finals but they got their campaign back on track with impressive victories against India and New Zealand.
“I think it has helped us because it’s lent itself to actually being more positive and aggressive and a bit smarter about how we play. It’s sort of been the last-chance saloon,” explained Morgan.
New Zealand, who have also never won the World Cup, helped shock England into a change of approach by humiliating them in Wellington four years ago and cannot be underestimated after seeing off Kohli’s India in the semi-finals.
They boast a well-balanced attack led by left-arm quick Trent Boult but their batting has been hugely reliant on captain Williamson, who has scored 548 runs in the tournament at an outstanding average of 91.33, and Ross Taylor.
Williamson said his side were happy to embrace their underdog status, acknowledging that England deserved to be favourites.
“But whatever dog we are, it’s just important that we focus on the cricket that we want to play,” he said. “And we have seen over the years that anybody can beat anybody — regardless of breed of dog.“
While some members of the home side were not even born when England made the last of three losing appearances in a World Cup final in 1992, the Black Caps have the experience of their heavy defeat by co-hosts Australia in the climax of the 2015 edition in Melbourne to call on.
But there is a sense that England will never have a better chance.
“I haven’t allowed myself to think about lifting the trophy,” said Morgan.
“Cricket and sport in particular is very fickle. If you ever get ahead, it always seems to bite you in the backside. For us to win it, I think around the country it would be awesome, great for the game.”