Australia and New Zealand both have the chance to make history when they meet in Sunday’s final of the 2021 T20 ICC Men’s World Cup. Neither nation has lifted the trophy before, but each team has blazed a path to the final despite entering this year’s tournament as un-fancied contenders.
New Zealand earned a place at the Dubai International Stadium by upsetting England in the last four. A dynamic bowling attack led by pacers Trent Boult and Tim Southee has defined the Black Caps’ progress. Meanwhile, Australia finally found some mojo with the bat to produce an even bigger shock against Pakistan. David Warner slogged 49 from 30, while Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade combined for an unbeaten 81.
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In the United States, the match (9 a.m. ET start time) isn’t on TV, but anyone in the US can watch New Zealand vs Australia live on ESPN+ right here:
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The Kiwis have come to rely on Southee and Boult to take apart an opposing order. Boult arrived at the competition with plenty of fanfare, but Southee has staked his own claim as New Zealand’s best player. The 32-year-old has taken eight wickets and established an economy rate of just 5.75.
Southee has been particularly effective during the powerplay by relying on a simple strategy, according to ESPNCricinfo’s Matt Roller:
In the powerplay – in which he has conceded only 4.71 runs per over – he has regularly hit the middle of the pitch, only rarely looking to swing the new ball by bowling full. When he has returned in the middle overs and at the death, he has eschewed yorkers – 86.7% of his balls outside of the powerplay have pitched on a good length or shorter – and looked to vary his pace.
There’s room for Southee to vary his game because of Boult’s consistency. The left-hander has claimed 11 wickets, only two bowlers have taken more during the tournament. Black Caps captain Kane Williamson will count on Boult to produce some more decisive dismissals.
Wrecking the Australia innings will be tricky if Warner is able to muster another strong opening effort. His solid knock against Pakistan, which included three fours and as many sixes, offset skipper Aaron Finch being bowled for a duck by Shaheen Afridi. Warner’s averaged 47.20 runs across six innings, good enough for a commendable tally of 236.
Warner has courted controversy for belting a six off a double-bounce no ball chucked by Mohammad Hafeez. Warner’s decision to attack a meaningless delivery drew criticism from some, including ex-India international Gautam Gambhir, per Fraser Watson of the Daily Mirror.
Whether Warner adhered to the spirit of the game is debatable, but what’s certain is Australia need more from the middle order. Unfortunately for Finch, big names like Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell are still failing to deliver. Smith mustered just five runs from six balls in the semi final, while Maxwell went seven from 10. A repeat of numbers like those will give New Zealand chance to keep pace with the bat.
The Black Caps have been excellent to start an innings, with Daryl Mitchell amassing 72 runs from 47 deliveries. Devon Conway supplemented the total with 46, before Jimmy Neesham closed out the middle order with a trio of sixes en route to 27 key runs. Conway won’t be able to impress again in the final, because he broke a bone in his hand punching his bat after being bowled by England’s Liam Livingstone.
Williamson will miss Conway after Martin Guptill struggled in the last four. It was an anomaly for Guptill, who leads his nation with 180 runs and has a history of scoring freely against Australia.
Dissecting the New Zealand order will be the primary task of Adam Zampa. He’s a stylish leg-break spin specialist who has taken 12 wickets. Zampa dismissed Pakistan captain Babar Azam last time out, but Mitchell Starc was the true star of the match. Starc, more of a natural pacer than Zampa, bowled 10 dots and sent Mohammad Rizwan and Shoaib Malik from the crease.
There’s not much to choose between these two neighbours who have trodden near identical paths to the final. New Zealand enter the game in better health, though, and the depth of Williamson’s bowling attack should prove decisive.