Not many would have predicted when the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup began, the trans-Tasman rivalry would set the Ring of Fire alight and a new T20 World champion would emerge.
New Zealand has forged such a strong campaign that you would think it is the favourite in the final. However, Australia has earned a reputation, over the years, of knowing how to win the big moments.
At the Dubai International Cricket Stadium, teams chasing have won more than those forced to bat first. In the early part of the tournament, dew played a major role. However, as the weather has changed there is less dew, but the trend has somehow remained the same.
The two semifinals are a case in point. Despite facing stiff targets, both New Zealand and Australia got across the line with an over to spare against quality bowling attacks.
It can be argued that England did not have enough specialist death bowler options and that Shaheen Shah Afridi, while lethal with the swinging white ball, is a bit of a novice at the death, but this ignores the quality of batting that helped the teams win.
Mitchell in good nick
Daryl Mitchell, being used as an opener in this tournament, looked like he could not get the ball away or into the gaps early in his innings, but he backed himself, took the game deep and then secured victory for the Kiwis with a flourish.
For Australia, Matthew Wade emerged the most unlikely hero. Aaron Finch was nailed in front before he could get going and David Warner, who was the powerhouse of the innings, went before he could seal the issue.
Wade, considered a specialist who could make the most of the PowerPlay overs, was now in an unfamiliar role, attempting to be a finisher. And when he was called upon to deliver, he stood tall.
In that sense, both New Zealand and Australia enter the final knowing that they have players with variety and depth to go the distance.
For New Zealand, the strength is the different types of bowlers in its line-up. Trent Boult bowls left-arm seam with early swing; Tim Southee is an expert in cutters; Adam Milne brings pace and fire; Mitchell Santner bowls difficult to get away slow left-arm and Ish Sodhi’s leg-breaks are genuine wicket-taking options.
Neesham can chip in
To top these, James Neesham can bowl a hard line, banging the ball in, giving Kane Williamson the luxury of using his bowlers however he chooses to.
Australia appears to be a top-heavy batting line-up, with Finch and Warner being the building blocks. Glenn Maxwell is yet to play a signature innings that he is known for.
Adam Zampa has given Finch control, but Mitchell Starc has not yet produced one of those bursts that knocks the wind out of the opposition. Despite the two big guns having not really fired, Australia has reached the final.
The Kangaroos are yet to play their best cricket. If the moving parts click into place and come together in the final, it may just be too good for New Zealand.