Cricket News By TODAYLIVESCORE.INFO - What if...?. What if Southee didn't endure his worst night of the tournament in the finale?
What if Southee didn't endure his worst night of the tournament in the finale?
It was hard to miss Jimmy Neesham putting in that dive. Running across from long-off and throwing himself in front to stop what looked like a certain boundary. New Zealand had less than 10 runs to defend at the time – and Australia more than two overs to get them – but what if Neesham had stopped the ball? What if it spurred a run-out? What if New Zealand won?
The compounding impact of small moments can manifest in many ways, and if it had indeed translated into a World Cup for New Zealand, Kane Williamson wouldn't have had to address the media while Australia celebrated in the adjoining room. “Close the door,” Aaron Finch had to request in the middle of his press conference. It could have been Williamson saying that, it could have been his team karaoking and celebrating out loud but instead, it was a familiar tight corner at the end of a gruelling campaign for him and his team.
The what-ifs were many for New Zealand on Sunday night and it all perhaps started with Devon Conway's absence from the starting XI. Had Conway been there, New Zealand would have had a left-hander in their top four to counter the threat from Adam Zampa, clearly Australia's best bowler in the tournament and a key matchup in the middle overs.
Then there was the toss itself, prophesying the winner with such mechanical regularity that a captain's best selection, on some nights, was which side of the coin he called for. Not that it was the case for the final. Williamson called the conditions “fairly consistent,” for there was little to no dew, but it would still have been nice to win the toss and chase. It was a foolproof way to win in Dubai after all, and remained that way.
Batting early on was something New Zealand certainly had more control over. There were 20 dot balls in the first 6 overs, adding up to their lowest PowerPlay score in the tournament. To come up with that in a final is not just unfortunate, it's also a routine stumbling block for teams when they are up against the tide and setting a target in T20 cricket. Clearly that's not the cool thing to do, not even in a World Cup final. Even Australia no longer subscribe to that.
It was also the PowerPlay later in the night when New Zealand lost the plot further. Trent Boult found more swing than Mitchell Starc but hardly bowled a length as full. It may or may not have been influenced by Starc's bowling figures from 20 minutes ago, but it did mean that 5 of the 6 balls that David Warner faced from the left-armer early on were far from perfect. What if Boult had been a bit fuller? What if Tim Southee hadn't given him the width and got him going?
Warner's early dismissal could have also set it up a bit better for Ish Sodhi, who instead had to bowl his legbreaks and googlies to a left-hander. And the same goes for Mitchell Santner, so it wasn't a surprise when Warner danced down the track as soon as the left-arm spinner came on to bowl. For Williamson, it was a huge risk to bowl his two spinners in tandem, only because Australia's best player of spin in this tournament was still out there, but what if it didn't have to be such a difficult choice?
“All these different fine lines and results, they happen you know,” Williamson said. “You sign up to play the game and you win and you lose. And these are things that can happen on any day.
“You want to win these competitions, you want the fruits, but so do a lot of other teams. When you get to a final, anything can happen and we've seen how competitive this competition has been. All right through the group stages as well. And there were so many sides that were more than capable of winning this competition. We're really proud of the efforts that have gone on from our side across the board.
“The picture is always big. You narrow it down and you look at one game here, one game there, and the wins and losses that come as part of what we do, but the bigger picture is the important one… I thought we came here with a mix of experience and younger players, and for a lot of them that's the first time in a World Cup and they've played extremely well. They'll be much better for the experiences that they've had and there's a lot of growth here. But as a cricket team you keep looking forward, as any sports team or any team for that matter.”
The acoustics were better as soon as the doors were shut on Finch's request. The Australia captain was now more audible, not to mention funnier. He even quipped how his dismissal was the “turning point” in the match, because it paved the way for Mitchell Marsh to come in and do whatever Player of the Match in World Cup final does. But what if Daryl Mitchell had dropped his catch? What if Australia cracked to spin in the middle overs? What if Sodhi and Southee didn't endure their worst night of the tournament together? What if New Zealand didn't lose their third World Cup final in a row?
The what-ifs will keep visiting Williamson over the next year or so but at least he can take comfort in the fact that the celebrations next door will be over soon.