As we are all gearing up for a Trans-Tasmanian battle to decide a new world champion in the T20I format, on the eve of that mega final, the heat of the contest was clearly felt.
Technically, both Australia and New Zealand were supposed to have "optional" training at the ICC Academy ground on Saturday (November 13). However, raising many eyeballs almost the full squads of both teams turned up for two and a half hours of high-intensity practice sessions.
Australian pacers hit the deck hard
Often, while covering training sessions of various teams in this T20 World Cup, it has been noticed that on the eve of the match the mainstream pacers do not bowl with full energy at the nets. They like to take things a little bit easy to remain fresh for the match.
However, we witnessed a completely different approach from the Aussie and Kiwi fast bowlers here. At 2 PM local time Aaron Finch's boys were the first team to reach the ICC Academy and after half an hour of usual warm-ups, the likes of Josh Hazlewood, Pat Cummings and Mitchell Starc headed straight for the nets.
At the other end the top-order batters padded up to face them. With full run-ups and intensity, the fast bowlers started their proceedings. They primarily aimed for the shorter length for the major part of the session. Practicing the short-pitch stuff can be a well-thought-out tactic to counter the dew factor, in case they have to defend a total on Sunday (November 14).
Later Mitchell Marsh joined the bowlers to roll his arms over. Australia played a warm-up game against New Zealand prior to the start of the tournament in which Marsh was hit for 53 in his 4 overs. Marsh is the weak link of this Australian attack and knowing that the coaching staff put extra emphasis on his bowling.
The spinners — Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar — also bowled for 15-20 minutes and batters tried to go after them. The likes of David Warner and Glenn Maxwell were hitting some lusty blows against the slow bowlers whereas someone like Mathew Wade was keener on practicing his scoop shots wherever he got the ball at the right areas.
"We had a really good day off after the semi-final and an optional training session today which most guys turned up to," said Finch in his pre-match presser while summarizing his teams' preparations for the final. "Yeah, it's been really good. The boys have been on a high and can't wait for tomorrow."
Tim Seifert to take gloves off Devon Conway
New Zealand took the evening slot for their practice and arrived at the ICC Academy at 6 PM, following Kane Williamson's press conference. Compared to Australia, the Kiwi cricketers seemed a bit more relaxed during their session. They started things off with a few recreational sports, including Rugby before hitting the nets.
With Devon Conway not available for the game, Tim Seifert is all set to keep in the final. Hence, at the practice session, he spent a lot of time with the 'keeping gloves. The skipper and coach had a chat with the youngster before he went for some close catching practice. Later, in the evening he batted for a while and looked quite aggressive in his stroke play, both against spin and pace.
Amongst the other batsmen, Daryl Mitchell was in a different zone altogether with his power-hitting. Whenever the likes of Tim Southee, Kyle Jamieson, Adam Milne and Trent Boult pitched the ball short, he was quick on his feet to pull it whereas against the full pitched stuff, he hit straight sixes from the central turf of the academy ground.
James Neesham and Mitchell Santner too had a fair bit of success with their stroke-play. Santner got an extended period at the nets whereas skipper Williamson didn't spend much time on his batting. Instead, he preferred to stand behind the nets and keenly follow the other boys sweating it out there.
All the New Zealand bowlers bowled with their usual run-up and tried to provide their batters a decent practice. And even on the nets, batters found it hard to attack Ish Sodhi.
When it comes to ICC events, Australia have a clear upper hand over New Zealand and one can expect them to come out all guns blazing right from the start of this much-anticipated final. In hindsight, the Kiwis will bring their calm and composed approach into play, as confirmed by Williamson in the presser that they want to take things on their "style".
"For us, we want to bring our focus to the cricket that we want to play and make sure that that's the most important thing, and you know, go out there and enjoy the occasion and take it on in our style," Williamson said.
For us, it's looking to go out and make those adjustments and certainly having the courage to do so and play smart cricket and buy into concepts that for us as a team, you know, are kind of what we try and wholeheartedly do," the Blackcaps skipper added.