New Zealand can secure a spot in the T20I tri-series final with victory against a rampant Australia on Friday (February 16) in Auckland.
With the series shifting across the Tasman, the Black Caps enjoyed the comforts of home in their tight 12-run victory over England in Wellington on Tuesday to move them on the cusp of securing a final’s berth.
After a lacklustre effort in the tri-series opener against Australia in Sydney on February 3, New Zealand ended a three-match T20I slump with a much-needed confidence-boosting victory over winless England.
Aided by the inspired selections of former Hong Kong batsman Mark Chapman and wicketkeeper Tim Seifert, New Zealand’s batting order looked far more potent as they posted a match-winning total of 196 for 5. The debutants added desperately needed firepower at the death and bookended superb performances at the top from veteran opener Martin Guptill and captain Kane Williamson.
With an eclectic bowling attack, headed by No. 1 T20 bowler Mitchell Santner, New Zealand are confident of defending totals and they calmly thwarted England’s determined chase to notch an important victory.
Apart from a surprise series defeat to Pakistan last month, New Zealand have been almost impregnable at home in recent times and will need to muster the support from their parochial crowd to knock off unbeaten Australia.
Reinvigorated through a makeover, the new look Australia booked a spot in the final after sweeping through their home leg with a trio of convincing victories. Even though he is tiring, as evidenced by his continual struggles with the bat, stand-in captain David Warner has led with aplomb and galavanised this new group as Australia enjoys a purple patch not seen in this format for several years.
Australia has found the right combinations with mercurial allrounder Glenn Maxwell stealing the show with a trio of outstanding performances at No. 4. Veteran batsman Aaron Finch returned last start in Melbourne and showcased his flexibility by producing the finishing touches of the run chase with some fireworks at No. 5. His ability to bat in the middle-order – which he has shown over the years in the Indian Premier League – allows newcomer D’Arcy Short to stamp himself at the top of the order. After failing in his first couple of hits, Short showcased his talents with an eye-catching knock at the MCG with the promise of more to come.
Undoubtedly, Australia has been aided by Warner winning the toss in every match and electing to bowl first – which has proved to be a successful formula much like England’s penchant in the 50-over arena. It will be interesting to see how Australia adapt if they bat first and, conversely, how their inexperienced attack defends a total.
In what could be a preview of next Wednesday’s final at the same venue, there is plenty on the line for both teams amid an emotionally charged atmosphere at Eden Park.
New Zealand and Australia played the first ever T20I in February of 2005 at Eden Park. Australia won by 44 runs but has not played a T20I in Auckland ever since.
– New Zealand have lost three straight T20Is – and five of their last seven – at Eden Park.
– Australia has won four straight T20Is in their best streak since a five-match run against England and South Africa in early 2014
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