Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - New Zealand vs Australia: Unlikely finalists tussle for first T20I crown. Which of these two captains will hold their country's first T20 WC trophy aloft on Sunday?
Which of these two captains will hold their country's first T20 WC trophy aloft on Sunday?
It's almost a little odd to think that the first ever T20I was played between Australia and New Zealand. It was of course, as we know, a hit-and-giggle affair, with a bunch of funky wigs and throwback attire thrown in there. Not to forget a re-enactment of the most unsavoury episode in the cricketing rivalry between both teams – the underarm delivery.
It is however, quite apt when you look back now over the 16 years since and realise how neither team have really been serious contenders to the T20I crown. There have been patches yes where the Trans-Tasman rivals have had their moments, but never enough to sustain any kind of legacy. Even if they have not ever gone back to donning Afros and bell-bottoms while playing a T20I.
They've also continued to linger in the background while we've seen different eras of the T20I world play out, starting with India winning in 2007 to set off the IPL revolution, the West Indian era of power-play and also the recent resurgence of England's kamikaze approach.
But here we are on the cusp of the most unique of T20 WC finals, where for the first time since 2012, a new champion is guaranteed. Neither Australia nor New Zealand, true to form and history, were seriously looked at as potential playoff participants to come through their respective groups, forget qualifying for the ultimate summit contest.
Add to it, the long-standing sporting rivalry between the two neighbours, the dominance that one has had over the other in high-profile matches and the questionable likelihood that a win on Sunday night (November 14) in Dubai will have a marked change in the status of T20I cricket back home.
What is fresh is the rise of New Zealand cricket in recent times under Kane Williamson, in terms of being a team that finds the right path to reach the grand final across formats. And on each occasion over the last two years, there's been a strong narrative to the Black Caps' progress to that final hurdle that separates world beaters from second-bests.
At times though, you don't need to look too deep for context and back stories in World Cup finals.
It was back in March 2015 when Brendon McCullum danced down the track to Mitchell Starc and missed the ball. On the face of it, the moment didn't hold much, except perhaps foreshadowing a famous dismissal next ball that would go on to shape that World Cup final. Four years on, there was no McCullum around to charge at fast bowlers, but his aura lingered. Inspired by his brand of cricket and captaincy, Eoin Morgan lifted the World Cup for England, ironically beating the very team that helped inspire his methods.
Which is why New Zealand's win over India at the World Test Championship earlier this year was well celebrated. A different format alright, but there was relief and recognition at finally crossing the finish line in an ICC final, something they hadn't been able to do for 21 years. The victory, in many ways, was also a confirmation of how well New Zealand add up to become greater than the sum of their parts, banding together under an inspirational captain to take India like they did.
New Zealand are at it again, ready to appear in their third ICC final in 27 months, in a third cricket format, and are ready with the stories we have come to expect from them on these big occasions lately. This time, they are here having beaten the odds in conditions that couldn't be farther from what they are used to back home. Safe to say that them making the finals in this T20 WC wasn't largely expected, but to be honest, it's not been a surprise either. And this very ambiguity sums up just what New Zealand is to cricket in 2021.
Australia on the other hand are past masters at winning world trophies, even if the T20 crown might have eluded them. For years, the two teams have lacked a fixed style or approach in this format. But it won't matter, nor will their lack of impact for a major portion of the T20I epoch, once either of them end up with the T20 WC trophy late on Sunday night.
When: New Zealand vs Australia, T20 WC Final, November 14, Sunday at 06:00 pm Local time, 07:30pm IST
Where: Dubai International Cricket Stadium
What to expect: Perhaps a bit of the Rugby rivalry spilling over into cricket, but Australia will hope that it stays at that. Kane Williamson expects to go out and take on his “neighbours” with some “smart cricket,” and expect him to do so on a good pitch in Dubai, something we have come to trust ICC finals with. All of 25,000 seats have been made available to fans, so expect some cheers for the sixes that come their way.
The toss is also set to play a crucial role in the day-night fixture. 11 out of the 12 games since Super 12 have been won by the chasing sides. Aaron Finch has won five of the six tosses so far, losing the only match he lost the toss in and batted first (against England).
Head to head: New Zealand 5 – 9 Australia. The two teams have faced off only once before in T20 WCs, when New Zealand beat Australia by 8 runs on a slow pitch in Dharamsala, India.
Injured/Unavailable: Devon Conway stands ruled out after a self-inflicted fracture in the right hand, and will be replaced by Tim Seifert who hasn't played a game since the loss to Pakistan. “Whether we bring Glenn Phillips up one and put Seifert in behind him is something that Kane and I have to work through over the next day or so,” head coach Gary Stead said in the lead-up to the final.
Tactics & Matchups: Ish Sodhi, who's having a great tournament, enjoys favourable matchups against Australia openers David Warner (8 balls, 9 runs, 2 dismissals) and Aaron Finch (37 balls, 45 runs, 3 dismissals), and will be an option in the powerplay should the fast bowlers fail to produce a breakthrough.
Sodhi's bowling in the middle overs could have a major impact on the game. Not only have Australia's batters been poor against spin this tournament (all except Warner have scored runs at sub 100 strike-rates) but leg-spin has also accounted for 9 of their 12 wickets to fall to spin. On top of that, Dubai has been the most favourable venue for spinners, especially in the middle overs. Between overs 7 to 15, the spinners pick wickets at an average of 16.28 and strike at 16.5, and concede runs at under 6 an over.
Probable XI: Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Kane Williamson (c), Glenn Phillips, Tim Seifert (wk), James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Adam Milne, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult
Injured/Unavailable: Australia have been lucky unlike some other teams with their fitness concerns or lack thereof throughout the tournament. And there's no reason for them to change their winning ways or make-up of the team.
Tactics & Matchups: Aaron Finch and his team have rewritten the match-ups by attacking spin-friendly conditions with their Test pace-attack. And it's come off quite dramatically well so far. Trent Boult will fancy his chances like most left-armers would against Finch in the first couple of overs. But it's the form of David Warner that the Aussies will want to lean on.
For all the talk around the fast bowlers, Adam Zampa has been the one spinning them back into matches, even if at times the game has looked like slipping away completely. He did it against Sri Lanka in the league phase and did so again in the semifinal against Pakistan.
At the same time, how the likes of Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell score off Santner-Sodhi could well have a big bearing on how well Australia are placed for the death overs with Matthew Wade and Marcus Stoinis, and in turn for their quest for T20 glory.
Probable XI: Aaron Finch (c), David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood
Did you know?
– Neither Australia nor New Zealand have won a day-night game in the tournament after batting first
– The two openers, Martin Guptill and Aaron Finch, are the leading run-getter for their respective sides in the tournament
– Sodhi was Player of the Series for his haul of 13 wickets in the 5-match T20I series earlier in the year in New Zealand.
– This is the first T20I for Starc, Cummins and Hazlewood against New Zealand
What they said:
“Not too many advantages to either side except that we do play each other and have done so recently on a number of occasions, and had some really good contests. It's great that we're playing our neighbor from the other side of the world in a World Cup final, and it's a really exciting prospect for both teams.” – Kane Williamson
“Everyone had written us off but we had a lot of confidence within. We're really confident in the way that we were preparing, the way that our strategy was coming together. I think it hasn't defied expectations. I think we came here with a really clear plan to win the tournament, and we still feel as though we've got the squad to do that.” – Aaron Finch