The Black Caps have been the second fiddle of the furious All-Blacks in New Zealand for decades. Rugby has been the island’s national sport, but in recent years Kane Williamson’s cricketers have made progress. The All-Blacks are a threat every time they take to the field and have wowed fans around the world by performing the Haka, the Maori war dance, before every match.
It is remarkable that a nation of just five million can produce two world-class teams. Today, a WorldT20 World Cup final victory over Tasmania rival Australia in Dubai will give the nation its first major cricket crown. Australia has been the most dominant country, having lifted the World Cup over 50 on five occasions and has also not lost a knockout match to its neighbors in 40 years.
The only piece of hardware missing from Australia’s ledge is the T20 trophy and now that Aaron Finch’s team is close to ending a long drought, this opportunity is unlikely to slip through their fingers. The Australians flew to the Middle East with little expectations, but surprised all experts with their progress. Who will ever forget that incredible chase in a thrilling semi-final against a thrilling, high-flying Pakistan? In the other semi-final, the Black Caps registered an equally surprising upset over England despite the odds against them.
Australia is expected to name an unchanged lineup, while New Zealand will not feature Devon Conway. That’s a huge blow for the Kiwis when Conway hit 46 and helped Daryl Mitchell (72 not out) cross the line against England. Conway suffered a broken hand after hitting his bat in frustration following his firing. His possible replacement will be Tim Seifert, who will be behind the stumps and his inclusion could mean a tweak in the batting order.
While Seifert may open up hitting, Mitchell and Martin Guptill have been in great shape and unlikely to break. Both teams are packed with superb hitters and fast, penetrating bowlers and spinners, but the pitch could be absolutely crucial, as the winner is sure to decide to pitch first, as was the case in both semi-finals.
During the competition, most of the captains who won the draw opted to chase due to the dew factor. But if spray doesn’t enter the equation today, it will be the hitting force that will decide the fate of the trophy.
Australia has a slight advantage in this department as Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade at No. 6 and No. 7 beat the Pakistanis. The end of the tail can also be moved as has been demonstrated in the past. Goalkeeper Wade will always be remembered for his monstrous three straight six against Shaheen Afridi to secure a spot in the final after starter David Warner landed a 49-year-old patient.
New Zealand’s seasoned new ball aces Trent Boult and Tim Southee will be key to New Zealand’s success, while Australia will fight back with Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazelwood. Bowler Mitchell Marsh has also proven his worth alongside spinners Glenn Maxwell and Adam Zampa. New Zealand has two classy spinners in Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner. The Sodhi and Zampa wristbands have been combined for 21 terrains in this competition and have proven invaluable with their varied line and length. The Kiwis also have a hitting lineup that hasn’t let them down. In addition to Williamson, he has Glenn Phillips and all-rounder Jimmy Neesham. Neesham was persuaded to keep playing after he retired following the final 50-overs World Cup loss to England at Lord’s in 2019 in a controversial limit count.
Australian captain Finch said he is wary of New Zealand’s ability to attack in the power game and that could well upset the Australians. “New Zealand has been the dominant team in the World Cup in the ball power play,” he said. “It should be a great contest, it always is. “We can not wait”. Neither does the world.