Australia v New Zealand
Friday March 18, 8:30pm
After stunning the tournament hosts and favourites India in their first match, New Zealand travel to Dharamsala to take on their nemesis Australia on Friday night.
Australia go into their tournament opener with plenty of talent at their disposal but still some doubt over the make-up of their final XI. Former captain Aaron Finch is favoured to partner Shane Watson at the top of the order with David Warner set to remain in the middle-order where he excelled in the recent series against South Africa. That leaves Usman Khawaja as the odd man out despite his recent run of sublime form.
Places in the bowling attack are even more open, however all-rounder James Faulkner and leg-spinner Adam Zampa are unlikely to be left out and if the pitch is anywhere near as dry as we saw in Nagpur then Ashton Agar could also be a surprise inclusion.
How far Australia progress in the competition could well depend on how effective their batsmen are against the turning ball and in that regard they will lean on the likes of Watson, Warner, Steve Smith and Glenn Maxwell who all have vast experience playing in the IPL. Consecutive wins over South Africa snapped a losing streak of six matches for the Aussies and they will be hoping that they can continue that winning form and get off to a positive start.
To say New Zealand got off to a perfect start in the tournament is not entirely true as India were still favoured to chase down the Kiwis’ first innings score of 7/126 with relative ease. However the Blacks Caps three spinners – Nathan McCullum, Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi – combined to devastating effect, taking nine of the ten wickets to fall as India were routed for just 79, their second-lowest T20I score.
Captain Kane Williamson was widely praised for bravely omitting quicks Trent Boult, Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan, however whether he chooses to go down the same path in this game will of course depend on the conditions. Williamson was also in debt to all-rounder Corey Anderson who top-scored with a uncharacteristically patient 34 off 42, as well as ‘keeper Luke Ronchi whose quick-fire 21 off 11 at the death elevated the Black Caps to a competitive total. A win against their arch-rivals will all but secure New Zealand a place in the semi-finals for the first time since the inaugural World T20 tournament in 2007.
Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association Stadium
The HPCA Stadium in Dharamsala hosted the Group A qualifiers with the side batting first winning three out of four games. The performance of the slower bowlers in the last round of matches also suggests that conditions may not be all that different to Nagpur with spinners taking a combined 12/148 off 20 overs in the last two games. In the only other T20I played at the ground South Africa chased down India’s monster total of 5/199 with seven wickets in hand back in October.
- Australia have lost five of their past seven T20Is.
- Australia have lost their past four T20Is when batting first.
- Australia have lost six out of their past eight T20Is in Asia.
- New Zealand have won six of their last seven T20Is.
- New Zealand have never beaten Australia in a T20I, losing four and tying one.
Despite their astonishing victory over the hosts on Tuesday the New Zealanders find themselves underdogs again, with the Aussies favourites to kick-start their campaign with a win.
Based on recent form you could argue that the odds should be the other way around. In their past seven T20Is New Zealand have lost two, while Australia have only won two. Moreover the conditions seem far more suited to the Black Caps who have a strong record in Asia and have already illustrated the strength of their slow-bowling trio which powered them to victory against India.
The one nagging concern is that New Zealand have never beaten Australia in a T20I and have a habit of struggling mentally against their fiercest foes, however they haven’t played each other in this format for over six years and the Kiwis did triumph in the recent Chappell-Hadlee ODI series. All things considered it’s impossible not to make New Zealand value here so I’ll be backing them to make it back-to-back wins and consign Australia to an opening defeat.
Another area where New Zealand appear to hold the edge is in their ability to clear the boundary. The Black Caps have hit more sixes than their opponents in five out of their past seven matches, something Australia have managed only three times in their last seven.
While the Kiwis boast plenty of power via the likes of Guptill, Munro and Anderson it is their bowlers who have been particularly proficient at preventing sixes, conceding an average of only 4.43 in their last seven games, while in the same time the Australian bowlers have leaked an average of 6.86. Therefore look to back New Zealand to also hit the most sixes.