Various match-ups in focus as Australia, New Zealand eye first T20 crown

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13 Nov 2021 | 06:14 PM
authorShubh Aggarwal

Various match-ups in focus as Australia, New Zealand eye first T20 crown

None of these two teams were deemed favorites but here they are contesting in the final for their maiden T20 World Cup trophy

“The Kiwis, no thank you,” said Shane Warne when the world asked the Aussies to change their culture in the aftermath of the sandpaper gate in 2018. Warne admitted there is a need to mellow down but did not like the idea of the Aussies to emulate New Zealand. 

Australia, be it the players or the fans, are known to play cricket the hard way. “A cricket tour to Australia would be the most delightful period in one’s life. If one was deaf,” exclaimed the former England pacer Harold Larwood once. On the contrary, the Kiwis are just “too nice” as remarked by the India skipper Virat Kohli in the early 2020. 

The point is that two neighbouring countries have never played their cricket with such contrasting values. Now they are up against each other eyeing their maiden T20 glory. 

Contrary to their beliefs, Australia and New Zealand have had a similar pathway to this final. None of the two teams were deemed favorites for the title. They lost a five-match T20I series in Bangladesh a few months ago, albeit with nearly a second string unit. Up against two in-form teams in the semi-final, both sides chased the eight ball successfully with an over to spare. 

The Trans-Tasman rivalry is now set for their second World Cup final. When they last contested in the 2015 ODI World Cup final at the MCG, the Kiwis appeared overwhelmed by the situation. Their skipper, Brendon McCullum stated that he “forgot to watch the ball” that led to his dismissal in the first over.

Since then, New Zealand have only grown in stature, now making it to the finals of championships across all three formats, and winning the Test mace. They are a different and more confident bunch. Australia, on the other hand, are staying true to their renowned World Cup form. 

Can NZ rise above cricketing logic one more time? 

The Kiwis broke a few stereotypes in their exhilarating win over England. In a squad of many top-order players, their strange choice to open with Daryl Mitchell has paid rich dividends. He is their highest run-scorer in this competition with 197 runs. James Neesham, not a renowned finisher in world cricket as yet, has batted at a strike-rate of 173.8. The duo helped New Zealand pull off 57 runs with an over to spare in an exquisite run chase, shrugging the beliefs that they lack in the power-hitting domain. All this while going with a batsman short, trading it for an extra bowler. 

However, they need to repeat the same once more for the T20 glory. In Australia, the Kiwis face another side blessed with both muscle power and depth. If the conditions are similar to that of the semi-final where 177 didn’t prove to be enough, Australia’s strike-rate of 138.5 as compared to New Zealand’s 130.2 gives the Men in Yellow the upper hand. Australia have Pat Cummins at number eight who has a strike-rate of 148 in T20s since 2020. 

New Zealand’s designated finisher, Neesham, has scored all his sixes in the on-side. The Australian pace trio will aim at keeping the ball away from his arc - wide outside the off stump. 

Finch’s barren run in ICC knockouts 

The Australian skipper is carrying a rotten luck in ICC knockouts which he would like to end. His scores in the last three ICC knockout games read 0, 0, 0 dating back to the final of the 2015 ODI World Cup. The dismissals in all these games have one common factor - in-swingers which has been Finch’s long-lasting frailty. 

This year, Finch averages only 17.9 against in-swingers with eight dismissals. Shaheen Shah Afridi pinned him for a first ball duck in the semi-final. Trent Boult has all the ingredients to emulate him, so does Tim Southee from his right-arm seam angle. It is an exciting match-up battle right at the start of Australia’s innings. 

Will Australia make the tactical change?

Devon Conway’s injury has taken out the only left-hander in New Zealand’s top five. This presents Australia the lovely opportunity to play their left-arm spinner Ashton Agar. He has been a prominent part of Australia’s T20 side in recent years and has an economy of only 6.5 against right-handers since 2020. The question is whom does he replace? Steve Smith, who averages 24.5 at an underpar strike-rate of 107.3 this year in T20s seems to be the only option. But it would be a big call.  

Performers to watch out for

David Warner is back to his blistering best. He is hitting the gaps and is yielding the optimum value out of the merit of each delivery. Warner averages 30 against pace with a boundary approximately every fourth delivery. Against spin, he averages 116. One can expect New Zealand to hide Mitchell Santner in the attack as long as Warner is in. If he gets his DRS form right, Warner can be a real pain for the Kiwis. And think about the turnaround if he steers Australia to a win. From being left out of the IPL side to winning the T20 World Cup, all within a couple of months. 

With 16 wickets in nine T20s, Ish Sodhi is the third-highest wicket-taker against Australia in the format. He has dominated most of the batsmen in their current setup. 

An in-form bowler already - nine wickets in six matches - Sodhi would relish his chances against one of his favorite oppositions to cap off this World Cup. 

Probable XIs

Australia: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith/Ashton Agar*, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade (wk), Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood

New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Kane Williamson (c), Glenn Phillips, Tim Seifert (wk), James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Adam Milne, Trent Boult

*Agar expected to bat at nine if picked

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New Zealand vs AustraliaICC World Twenty20, 2021AustraliaNew ZealandAaron FinchKane WilliamsonIsh SodhiDavid WarnerSteven SmithAshton AgarDaryl MitchellJames Neesham

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