High-flying New Zealand will have their tails up and eye another upset when they resume the trans-Tasman rivalry with a strong Australian side in the ICC World Twenty20, in Dharamsala, on Friday.
Both sides are seeking a maiden triumph in this global event. New Zealand are on a high having shocked tournament favourites and hosts India in their campaign opener. Their batsmen may have found the going difficult in the first match but the bowlers brought them right into the game.
The spin-trio of Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and Nathan McCullum shared nine wickets among them to comfortably defend a low total of 126. The Kiwis made a statement of sorts with their 47-run win over the famed Indian outfit. And if the pitch at HPCA offers turn, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, who made a bold decision by dropping pace duo of Tim Southee and Trent Boult against India, will continue with same spin trio.
The turn that the New Zealand spinners extracted from the Wankhede surface during the warm-ups surprised the Australians, according to veteran all-rounder Shane Watson, who had called it 'incredible'. However, Australia have always been an indomitable side, especially in big events like the World Cup, and they too will fancy their chances in the Super 10 Group 2 match at the Himachal Pradesh Cricket Association stadium on Friday.
Australia and New Zealand have only met four times since the inaugural international T20 match between them in 2005 and have never played each other outside Australasia. New Zealand won their last encounter -- back in 2010 -- in a Super Over but Australia have been winners on every other occasion. As they have not tasted T20 success in recent times, Australia will seek to use last year's emphatic World Cup final victory to gain a mental edge. If the Australians are inspired by their 50-over World Cup triumph, New Zealand have recently beaten them 2-1 in an ODI series.
Australia have played just seven T20 internationals since the start of 2015 and they come into the game having done a lot tinkering with their line-up. Australia are still looking to find their best final XI after chopping and changing during the recent T20I series versus India and South Africa. Though they suffered a reverse against New Zealand, the series win against South Africa recently will do their confidence a world of good as they enter the tournament as one of the teams to beat with their star-studded batting line-up.
Given their IPL experience, it would not be surprising to see the Australian batsmen dominating the show. The top four could comprise Shane Watson, Aaron Finch, Steven Smith and David Warner. The big-hitting Glenn Maxwell and Marsh are game changers in their own right. So New Zealand will have their task cut out.
Their bowling seems to be a bit thin on experience and if skipper Smith takes a leaf out of Williamson's book, both Adam Zampa and Ashton Agar could start for the Aussies with John Hastings and James Faulkner rounding up the attack. As far as New Zealand batting is concerned, Corey Anderson, Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson will be the key players and they also have the experience of playing in the sub-continent. Having failed to impress after getting out while playing rash shots in the opening game, Martin Guptill and Colin Munro would also be looking to make amends.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (C), Martin Guptill, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Ross Taylor, Colin Munro, Mitchell Santer, Nathan McCullum, Grant Elliott, Mitchell McClenaghan, Tim Southee, Trent Boult, Adam Milne, Ish Sodhi, Corey Anderson.
Australia: Steven Smith (C), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Nevill, Andrew Tye, Shane Watson, Adam Zampa.
Match starts at 3pm IST