Australia’s batting versus New Zealand’s bowling key in contest of evenly matched teams


Dew was not a big factor in the Dubai semi-final, but both captains will still be hoping to chase

Big Picture

If anything, this World Cup is a reminder of the number of chances modern cricket offers.

Only two years ago James Neesham was wishing he had never been a cricketer, such was the heartbreak his side endured in the 50-over World Cup final. Not long before that he had actually contemplated giving up cricket precisely because he was struggling to come to terms with failing, an essential part of the life of any cricketer or a cricketing team.

And yet, one of them could be a world champion on Sunday. Well, actually Monday in their home countries (the final begins at 1am on Australia’s east coast and at 3am in New Zealand).

No matter how crushing a defeat, it is not the end of the world in today’s cricket where World Cups of one format or the other are played practically every year. Hasan Ali, Chris Jordan, we are looking at you. You dust yourselves up, start to play good cricket again and, with some luck, you get that chance again. Especially in T20 cricket, prone to upsets and chance because of the crunched nature of it.

This is New Zealand’s third straight ICC event final, and Australia’s first since they won the World Cup in 2015, but they have made it here in identical fashion. Finishing second in their groups, they got the better of the tournament favourites in the semi-finals through a dash in the final four overs, helped significantly by the toss.

This has been the friendliest of all T20 World Cups to sides winning the toss: if the final is also won by the side winning the toss, two out of every three matches will have been won by the toss-winners.

Restrict it to evenly matched teams and take out Sharjah, and only one total has been defended out of 14 in the Super 12s. They don’t come more evenly matched than these two. If Australia have the extra batting depth, New Zealand have a more rounded bowling attack, the most economical of the tournament. Usually batting depth trumps rounded attacks in T20 contests, but this has been the slowest-scoring T20 World Cup of all, which gives bowling-heavy teams a chance.

Then again, the final will be played on a fresh pitch; if it is anything like the semi-final in Dubai, it gives Australia a slight advantage, but if 150-160 is a par score, New Zealand might just be the favourites.

Form guide

Australia WWWLW (last five completed matches, most recent first)
New Zealand WWWWW

In the spotlight

Scan the teams for a player worthy of a place in an all-time T20 XI, and your eyes might land on David Warner. Like Langer and a few other Australia players, Warner has had a pretty ordinary year though. He made a premature comeback from injury in the series loss against India, and spent large parts of the IPL coming to terms with the ignominy of not even making his IPL team’s XV leave alone an all-time XI. However as a batter at this World Cup, while others might have scored more runs, in terms of impact-batting Warner has been second only to another all-timer, Jos Buttler, scoring 236 runs at a strike rate of 148.42. A winning hand in a World Cup final could be the final seal on his reputation, though he doesn’t really need it.
Tim Southee has taken at least one wicket in each match and has gone at just 5.75 runs an over so far. Fourteen of his 24 overs have been bowled in the powerplay, and five at the death. Here is a bowler who didn’t even get to play in the first XI in his team’s last World Cup. The turnaround has been remarkable, and just like a well-constructed T20 over, he needs to close it out in the final moments.

Team news

Australia don’t have a reason to change their XI with Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis providing them a fifth bowler and Matthew Wade at No. 7 making it a reasonably deep batting line-up.

Australia (probable) 1 David Warner, 2 Aaron Finch (capt.), 3 Mitchell Marsh, 4 Steven Smith, 5 Glenn Maxwell, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Matthew Wade (wk), 8 Pat Cummins, 9 Mitchell Starc, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Josh Hazlewood

New Zealand will have to make at least one change after Devon Conway broke his hand when striking his bat in frustration at his dismissal. They are unlikely to change the balance of the side, though, with five full-time bowlers and Neesham at No. 6. Tim Seifert is the likely replacement for Conway.

New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Daryll Mitchell, 3 Kane Williamson, 4 Tim Seifert (wk), 5 Glenn Phillips, 6 James Neesham, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Adam Milne, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Ish Sodhi

Pitch and conditions

Stats and trivia

  • New Zealand have never beaten Australia in any knockout match. They have played each in 17 quarter-finals, semi-finals and finals, out of which Australia have won 16. The one that New Zealand won wasn’t a knockout but the first of the best-of-three finals in 1981, a series that New Zealand eventually lost. Australia have won all the four knockout matches between them at ICC events.
  • Neither captain is having a great tournament. Kane Williamson has scored 131 runs at under a run a ball, and Aaron Finch has scored at a rate of just 119 despite being an opener and getting to bat in the powerplay. Finch, though, has done much better at the toss, winning five to Williamson’s two.
  • We are guaranteed a first T20 world champion from the southern hemisphere.

Sidharth Monga is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

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