In a World Cup where England and India began as the favourites, West Indies were the defending champions, and Pakistan became everyone’s pick after an undefeated Super 12 performance, we will have New Zealand taking on Australia for the title in the summit clash in Dubai.
It’s fair to say that both teams have defied the odds to reach the final. They weren’t looked at as the sides to make it to the semi-finals from the Super 12 stage but here we are. Some consistent cricket, backing their strengths and awe-inspiring performances in clutch situations have got them to the final. And we are not complaining. A new champion is guaranteed for the first time since 2012.
New Zealand and Australia both finished second in their respective Super 12 groups and have had a similar journey to the final. In the semis, both were required to make 60 odd runs in the final five overs and got past the winning line with an over to spare. Identical as their journey may have been, both sides have different strengths that they bank upon.
New Zealand have the most economical bowling unit of the tournament and rely on their five specialist bowlers to do the job for them. Australia are a batting heavy side with depth to encounter loss of quick wickets. Who comes out on the top in this final could very well be a result of the contest between New Zealand’s bowling and Australia’s batting.
This is also the first World Cup final between these two sides since 2015 when Australia defeated New Zealand comprehensively to clinch the ODI world title. The Black Caps have since grown in leaps and bounds and have been the most consistent side recently in ICC events. They lost the 2019 ODI World Cup final on an agonisingly frustrating boundary count rule and defeated India this year to become the first-ever world Test champion.
It’s almost impossible to pick an outright winner for the 2021 T20 World Cup title but if recent form counts for anything, New Zealand may have a slight edge in this upcoming chapter of the Trans-Tasman rivalry, but as the semi-finals showed, reputation and form counts for a little on the big night.
Spin it to win it
Another deciding factor could be the matchup between wrist spinners and the right-hand batters. Both teams are loaded with right-hand operators. Crucially, how both teams handle spin in the middle overs will decide how much they manage to score eventually in the final.
Of all the venues, Dubai has been the most favourable for spinners in the middle overs (7-15) with the tweakers accounting for 43 wickets in that phase of the game since Super 12 began. Sharjah and Abu Dhabi have seen 30 and 23 wickets going to spinners in the middle overs.
New Zealand have Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner in their ranks who can cause a lot of problems to an Australian batting line-up that has been struggling against spinners in the tournament. On the other hand, Adam Zampa will be Australia’s best bet. The leg-spinner’s fifer against Bangladesh and the economical figures of 1/22 against Pakistan in the crucial semi-final played a big role behind Australia reaching the final.
Will toss play spoilsport
11 out of 12 times the team batting second has won in Dubai in this tournament. The final will be played on a new pitch and Pakistan vs Australia semi-final which was also played in Dubai wasn’t impacted by dew a lot but stat weighs heavily in the favour of the team winning the toss/batting second.
The Sunday game however is a final and pressure has the ability to dwarf stats and history. In the IPL 2021 final at the same venue a month back, Chennai Super Kings posted 192/3 batting first and it became too stiff a target for Kolkata Knight Riders who lost the match by 27 runs.
Playing five specialist bowlers have worked for the Kiwis and they are expected to stick with that formula. They started against Pakistan by playing four bowlers and an extra batter in Tim Seifert but that resulted in a loss. Seifert is however set to replace injured Devon Conway in the team for the final.
New Zealand: Martin Guptill, Daryl Mitchell, Kane Williamson, Glenn Phillips, Tim Seifert, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Adam Milne, Trent Boult
Conway was the only left-hander in New Zealand’s top five and his injury means Australia could look to play the left-arm spinner Ashton Agar against a right-hand batters heavy team. But the same move didn’t work for Australia against England and they had to recall Mitchell Marsh back into the team.
Australia: Aaron Finch, David Warner, Mitchell Marsh, Steve Smith, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Matthew Wade, Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc, Adam Zampa, Josh Hazlewood
“Zampa is a world-class bowler, one of the top in the world and complimented nicely by obviously some of the top seamers in the world,” Williamson said ahead of the final.
“As a side they have got a lot of match-winners, and you know, I think that’s a large part of the strength in their team throughout. They have got world-class cricketers.”
“They can’t be underestimated… they have the firepower, experience and class, so I am not surprised one bit,” Finch said. “New Zealand side has got a huge amount of quality, they have shown that over long period of time, they have been best powerplay performing team with the ball, that’s going to be a challenge,” he said.
“They have got Daryl Mitchell, who played a great knock against England, Martin Guptill, who has got class and power and then you got Kane Williamson, who is also world class as the top 3. So they have match winners with both bat and ball.”
Australia have a massive edge here as far as the Trans-Tasman rivalry in T20Is is concerned. The Aussies have won nine T20Is against New Zealand as compared to five victories for the Black Caps. New Zealand, however, won the only match between these two sides at the T20 World Cup by clinching the 2016 game against Australia.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Todd Astle, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Adam Milne, Martin Guptill, Kyle Jamieson, Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (wk), Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee.
Australia: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Pat Cummins, Josh Hazlewood, Josh Inglis, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, Steve Smith, Mitchell Starc, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Swepson, Matthew Wade (wk), David Warner, Adam Zampa.