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  1. Cricket

Cricket: England unlikely to stop rampant Australia

Australia's unbeaten run to the women's cricket World Cup final means they are expected to prevail when they take on reigning champions England in Sunday's showpiece.

All the stats point to an Aussie triumph at the Hagley Oval this weekend. Australia are the number one-ranked country in the world, have won all eight of their games in the tournament in New Zealand so far and got the better of England in this winter's multi-format Ashes series, winning 12-4 overall.

Their impressive ODI form has seen them win 37 of their last 38 50-over games, so confidence will be sky-high throughout Meg Lanning's side, who are 2/7 to defeat England.

Australia eye seventh World Cup success

The way they dismantled West Indies in the semi-final when some were predicting a tight contest means things are looking ominous for England, who are 11/4 to win on Sunday and stop Australia picking up a record-extending seventh world crown.

The 157-run semi-final win was the biggest margin of victory in terms of runs in the competition so far and a record for World Cup knockout matches, so Australia couldn't be in better shape for the final.

Healy and co in fine form

Coming into Sunday's clash, Australia have several players in fine form and it's no surprise to see them available at 8/15 to make the highest first 15 overs score.

Alyssa Healy scored 129 against the Windies, while her opening partner Rachael Haynes made 85, so it makes sense for Australia 4/6 to compile the highest opening partnership in the final.

Beth Mooney demonstrated her athleticism in the field again with a stunning catch to dismiss Rashada Williams and, even without star all-rounder Ellyse Perry, who continues to be hampered by a back injury, Australia are clearly a formidable outfit.

England looked extremely vulnerable at the start of the tournament and were on the brink of an early exit after losing their first three matches, which included a 12-run defeat to Australia.

They have recovered superbly since then, though, and crucial victories over India, New Zealand, Pakistan and Bangladesh secured third place in the group to set up a last-four tie against South Africa.

Heather Knight's side then took their chance and booked their place in the final with a dominant 137-run triumph, thanks largely to Danni Wyatt's century, although she was dropped five times on her way to 129 off just 125 balls.

Ecclestone key for England

If England are to pull off an unlikely victory, they will need Wyatt, Knight and the likes of Sophia Dunkley - who hit an eye-catching 60 against the Proteas - all to be on top form, while they also have spinner Sophie Ecclestone in their ranks - a player who can strike fear into Australia and pose serious questions of their batters.

Ecclestone is the top-ranked bowler in ODI and T20I cricket and her 20 wickets in the World Cup so far make her the leading wicket-taker in the tournament.

If she can work her magic then England's chances of pulling off a shock will certainly improve, while the experienced Anya Shrubsole will also hope to inspire the underdogs.

England have won the World Cup four times, including most recently in 2017 - when they beat Australia on home soil en route to lifting the trophy - but a repeat of that triumph looks too much to ask against an opponent in such tip-top shape.

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