The march of Daniel Vettori's brave men into the ICC Champions Trophy final is a heart-warming story in itself. The side has bucked the odds, retained faith.

Its limited pool of talent stretched by a string of injuries, not many expected New Zealand to rise from the ashes after the defeat against South Africa at SuperSport Park in its first game.

A side without key players - Jesse Ryder (groin), Jacob Oram (hamstring), and Darryl Tuffey (broken hand) - has surprised and stung. Adversity has brought the group together; the Kiwi dream run has been underlined by belief.

In a testimony to the side's resolve, Grant Elliott batted with a broken thumb against Pakistan on Saturday to carve out a match-winning innings under pressure.

Elliott learnt his skills in South Africa before qualifying for New Zealand. He has made his move count.

Awaiting New Zealand on Monday is the formidable Australia, peaking in the climactic stages of the competition.

Skipper Ricky Ponting, rejuvenated and hungry for success, is striking the ball with the ease and grace of a natural that he is.

All-rounder Shane Watson - leaving behind fitness concerns – is re-discovering himself in international cricket as a powerful opening batsman and a busy support seamer.

Ponting's counter-part Daniel Vettori too believes in leading by example. And the underdog tag might just take some pressure off his side in the Trans-Tasman clash.

The affable Vettori's smiling exterior can be deceptive. The man has steel in his bones. In his quiet way, he has rallied his men around him.

But then, all the Kiwi upsets - over Sri Lanka, England and Pakistan - have been achieved at the lively Wanderers track. And in its only earlier match at Centurion, the Kiwis went down to the host.

The final - at Centurion's SuperSport Park - could demand a different set of skills from the Kiwis.

At the Wanderers, the Kiwi pacemen - but for the odd abberation - essentially bowled just short-of-a-good length around the off-stump, neither allowing the batsmen to venture into the front-footed drives nor giving them room and space to slam them off the back-foot. They were hitting the deck hard and achieving some bounce and deviation.

The batsmen were caught at the crease.

The Kiwi pacemen mixed this routine with occasional fuller length deliveries and the odd short-pitched flier with deadly effect. The dismissals of Kamran Akmal and Imran Nazir in the semifinal were a case in point.

The Kiwi pacemen may have to rely on different tactics in the summit clash. Shane Bond's fuller length and swing and skipper Vettori's tight left-arm spin could have a major say. This said, paceman Ian Butler, with his high-arm action and line, was outstanding against Pakistan.

Could the Kiwis play a second spinner in offie Jeetan Patel at SuperSport Park? This could hinge on the surface used for the game.

There is a sluggish pitch that encourages spin - and makes stroke-play hard - and a fresher one that is quicker and bouncier but does not quite offer the bowlers much assistance in terms of deviation.

Irrespective of the nature of the surface, the Aussie batsmen will seek to disrupt the length of the Kiwi bowlers. Anything short or wide could be put to the sword. The Englishmen discovered this the hard way at Centurion.

Importantly, Australia has an in-form left-hander in Michael Hussey, who could handle Vettori's left-arm spin capably in the middle-overs.

Pakistan missed a specialist left-handed batsman in the semifinal. Australia - despite the absence of the injured Michael Clarke – has depth and firepower in batting. The Kiwi bowling need Vettori's calming influence.

The Australian pace attack of Brett Lee, Peter Siddle and Mitchell Johnson with Watson for support is an incisive one; this bunch can hustle a line-up. The pacemen have been supported by an outstanding Tim Paine behind the stumps.

But then, the Aussie pacemen, Johnson in particular, bowled some loose stuff at the Englishmen after making the early inroads.

Despite the improvement in offie Nathan Hauritz, the side is still short on spin.

New Zealand has depth in batting but does not possess much in terms of real quality. It would need the likes of Brendon McCullum and Ross Taylor to produce a big score. McCullum versus Lee in the early overs could be exhilarating. And Elliott, who comprehends these conditions well, relishes the sniff of a fight.

As the innings progresses, the timing of the batting Power Plays will be critical. Both the sides are swift and sharp on the field.

Eventually, it would boil down to handling the pressures of a Cup final.

Australia has a distinct edge, but the spirited New Zealand is in with a shout.

The teams:

Australia (from): R. Ponting (captain), S. Watson, T. Paine, M. Hussey, C. Fergusen, C. White, J. Hopes, M. Johnson, B. Lee, N. Hauritz, P. Siddle, B. Hilfenhaus, D. Bollinger, D. Hussey, A. Voges.

New Zealand (from): D. Vettori (captain), B. McCullum, A. Redmond, M. Guptill, R. Taylor, G. Elliott, N. Broom, J. Franklin, K. Mills, S. Bond, I. Butler, G. Hopkins, S. Styris, B. Diamanti, J. Patel, Iain O' Brien.

Umpires: Aleem Dar and Ian Gould; Third umpire: Asad Rauf; Match

Referee: Roshan Mahanama

Match starts at 6 p.m. IST

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