New Zealand and Australia prepare to light up the biggest stage

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Delivering on the biggest stage is where it really matters. And New Zealand and Australia have done just that to set up an ICC Men’s T20 World Cup final that few predicted.

It all started when Oman won the toss and elected to bowl against Papua New Guinea four weeks ago. And forty-four matches, 11153 runs and 485 wickets later, the 16 nations that began this thrilling tournament have been whittled down to just two.

Sunday’s showpiece at the Dubai International Stadium will see the world’s fourth-ranked side New Zealand take on the country ranked sixth, Australia. And it’s a fitting finale to decide who will lift the T20 World Cup trophy after a tournament of twists and turns, highs and lows, upsets and hammerings.

Yet just because few predicted this would be the final line-up, doesn’t mean the players didn’t believe. And Aussie skipper Aaron Finch was in boisterous form on precisely that topic in his media conference on Saturday.

“I'm not surprised one bit,” he said. “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."

A glance down the likely team sheet for Sunday’s final supports the captain’s claim. Mitchell Starc, David Warner, Pat Cummins, Glenn Maxwell, Finch – there’s an abundance of talent and experience in the Australian line-up.

Add to that the qualities of Adam Zampa, who has taken 12 wickets in the tournament so far – more than any other bowler to enter at the Super 12 stage – and it’s little surprise that this is a squad who have been able to beat higher-ranked and higher-fancied outfits.

The term ‘higher-fancied outfit’ has rarely, if ever, been used to describe Kane Williamson’s New Zealand… even if it should be.

The cliches flow thick and fast in conversation about the Black Caps. They’ve “flown under the radar” and come up on the rails as “dark horses”, but naturally you can “never write off” New Zealand. It’s language that almost goes hand-in-hand with this extraordinary era of Kiwi cricket. But it does so for a reason.

2019 World Cup finalists, World Test Champions, and now 2021 T20 World Cup finalists, this group of players have proven time and again that they are among the world’s best across all three formats.

And Sunday’s all-Antipodean clash in Dubai represents a chance for Kane Williamson and his boys to cap off a stunning calendar year by finally adding a white-ball trophy to the cabinet, where it will sit alongside the World Test Championship mace. 

Fixture details

The match: New Zealand v Australia, Match 45

Time: 18:00 local time, Sunday 14 November 2021

Venue: Dubai International Stadium

Key players

Adam Zampa, Australia: The leg-spinner has been a key part of his side’s run to the final and will play a key role against a New Zealand side who aren’t averse to going after slower bowling. If he can continue his terrific record throughout the tournament it will put pressure on the Black Caps to take on the high-quality seamers.

Martin Guptill, New Zealand: The Kiwi opener didn’t fire against England, but his side will be looking for him to get them off to a flier at the top of the order against Australia, particularly given the safety blanket of Conway in the middle-order has been removed. Guptill has the game to take down Australia’s attack, can he do it on the biggest stage?

The Teams

The injury to Conway means New Zealand will be forced into making a change. Tim Seifert is likely to come in as wicketkeeper, with the bowling-heavy balance unchanged, although the loss of the reliable presence of Conway in the middle-order could potentially see an additional batter brought in for stability.

Probable New Zealand XI: Martin Guptill, Daryll Mitchell, Kane Williamson (captain), Tim Seifert, Glenn Phillips, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Adam Milne, Trent Boult, Ish Sodhi

Australia are highly likely to stick with the side that saw off Pakistan in the semi-finals

Probable Australia XI: David Warner, Aaron Finch (captain), Mitchell Marsh, Steven Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood

What they said

Kane Williamson, New Zealand captain: “I think ultimately the side has been operating well as a collective and certainly playing for each other. You know, obviously we saw a pretty exciting semi-final. Both semi-finals actually were somewhat similar, where you do see moments in games that are match-defining, and you see games that can take quite a sharp turn when you have some key performances.”

Aaron Finch: “We came here with a clear plan to try to win this tournament. We always felt as though we've got the depth of the squad and the quality in our squad to put ourselves in a position to do that. And New Zealand, they have been in every final for a long time now in ICC events. They are a great team over all three formats of the game.”

Who holds the edge?

Ahead of the New Zealand v Australia ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021 final, a look at the teams' record against each other in T20I cricket and ICC tournaments and their top players.

New Zealand and Australia knocked out the two top-ranked teams in the semi-finals, in England and Pakistan respectively, to seal their places in the ICC Men's T20 World Cup 2021 final on 14 November in Dubai. 

Neither team has won the men's T20 World Cup so far – Australia came closest in 2010, finishing runners-up – so the tournament will have a first-time winner. 

Looking at their head-to-head record, Australia hold a slight edge in T20Is: Since winning the first T20 international ever played, Australia have won eight more against their neighbours, while New Zealand have won five, including in a Super Over. 

At the men's T20 World Cup however, New Zealand took the honours in the only meeting between the sides. In the 2016 edition in India, New Zealand posted 142/8, before using pace off to keep Australia to 134/9. Mitchell McClenaghan was Player of the Match for his 3/17, while Corey Anderson and Mitchell Santner took two wickets each.

The last time these two teams met at a World Cup final was in 2015, when the trans-Tasman neighbours co-hosted the 50-over World Cup. Although Brendon McCullum's men had edged Michael Clarke's side in the group stage, the final at the MCG went comprehensively in Australia's way.

New Zealand lost their captain early that day, and could make only 183, which Australia chased down with seven wickets to spare for their fifth World Cup title. Mitchell Johnson and James Faulkner took three wickets each, while Mitchell Starc had two to take down the Black Caps explosive line-up.

Among the key performers in this match-up will be Aaron Finch, the Australia captain. Finch has 251 runs against New Zealand in T20Is, the most by any Australian man, at an average of 62.75 and a strike-rate of 144.25. His figures include two fifties, 22 fours and 11 sixes in just seven innings between the sides.

Glenn Maxwell (206 runs in nine innings at 157.25 strike-rate) and David Warner (158 runs in seven innings at a strike-rate of 156.43) are two others in green and gold who have done well against the Kiwis.

Among the Black Caps, Martin Guptill has enjoyed the challenge of Australia, and played in all but two of the 14 matches between the teams. In 12 innings, he has 435 runs at an average of 36.25 and strike-rate of 152.09. He has two fifties and a hundred against them. However, the 105 in 54 balls came in a losing cause, with Australia chasing down a target of 244 with five wickets and seven balls to spare.

They will miss Devon Conway, who has been ruled out of the final with a hand injury. Conway was in great touch in five matches against Australia earlier in the year, making 192 runs at an average of 48, including a top score of 99*.

Among the bowlers, Ashton Agar’s numbers provide a case for his selection, as the leading wicket-taker for Australia in this match-up: 13 wickets at 16, with a best of 6/30.

Interestingly, Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood are yet to play against the Black Caps in T20Is.

For New Zealand, Ish Sodhi has made the most trouble in this contest, taking 16 wickets in nine matches at an average of 15.68 and going at 7.38 runs an over.

Trent Boult has 10 wickets against them (average 22.70, economy 7.87), while Santner and Tim Southee have nine each. Jimmy Neesham has been expensive against Australia, picking up just two wickets at 39.50, with an economy of 13.16.

 

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