The Australian Twenty 20 side has travelled to New Zealand to play a five-match series against the Kiwis starting on the 22nd of February.
The series looms potentially be the last international cricket the Australians play for several months, with the only scheduled (but yet to be confirmed) winter tour in the near future is to Bangladesh for some Twenty20 matches before the T20 World Cup before the tournament takes place in India later in the year.
With the test players being unavailable due to what should have been a tour of South Africa before, the squad is made up of Australia’s best limited-overs cricketers following some standout performances over the Australian summer and in the Big Bash League.
In contrast, New Zealand goes into the series with a full-strength side, looking to finish off a highly successful home summer.
On the small grounds of New Zealand, big sixes and high scores will no doubt be on the menu.
Big sixes are commonplace as are big scores, with 200 or more now having been scored 14 times in New Zealand T20 internationals. The last match between Australia and New Zealand at Eden Park in 2018 finished at 243 v 245, with Australia getting the win that night in Aukland.
The Australian New Zealand rivalry is well-known. Not just in cricket but every sport. However, Australia has the wood over New Zealand when it comes to cricket, winning 64% of matches in all formats.
This grows even further in T20 cricket, with Australia winning 78% of matches 7 of the nine played to date.
The two nations launched the Twenty20 format on the world stage with the first international match back in 2005. A pioneering match that showed the fun and family-friendly atmosphere that T20 cricket can offer to the game.
In that match, New Zealand wore retro kits reminiscent of the world series cricket days. New Zealand is going back to the retro beige kit for this upcoming series, although they will be playing in a much more serious way than that first game in 2005.
Adam Zampa has come a long way since the small leg-spin bowler who turned out for New South Wales. Zampa has come into his own in recent years to secure the mantle as the number one limited-overs spinner for Australia.
The leg-spin battle between Adam Zampa and Ish Sodhi will be enthralling. Both are similar bowlers in that they bowl fast and their wrong un’s are their weapon of choice.
With potentially five right-handers in the New Zealand top 6, Zampa will back himself with his ability to spin the ball away from the bat.
Zampa has now taken 39 wickets in his 36 T20 international matches at an average of 21. Perhaps the most remarkable statistic though, and what makes Zampa good is his low economy rate of only 6.6.
By applying run-scoring pressure, Zampa forces the batsman to play big shots against him, leading to wickets caused by frustration.
Zampa had a remarkable 2020 with the ball in T20 international cricket, taking 11 wickets from his nine matches.
Williamson is perhaps the finest player New Zealand cricket has ever produced.
No New Zealand player has ever averaged higher with the bat across all formats. While it’s been Test cricket that Williamson seems to get most of his admirers, it is his T20 game that is underrated.
In the IPL, Williamson is a most wanted man. Over his six seasons, Williamson has scored 1619 runs at an incredible average of 39.5.
Williamson has now appeared 62 times for New Zealand in international T20’s, averaging 33 with the bat. In the year 2020, Williamson averaged 54.5 with the bat. New Zealand will be hoping that his T20 form will continue, heading into a World Cup year.
Williamson will have something to prove against the Australians, as he only averages 10.50 against them from four matches.
Williamson is the key to the New Zealand team. They are reliant on his consistency it is essential that he bats well and scores heavily in the upcoming series.
Aaron Finch v Trent Boult
Australia will be missing two of their best batsmen in Smith and Warner this series. In their absence, Captian Aaron Finch will have to step up and lead from the front in a relatively inexperienced side.
Finch is coming off a lean patch of form, averaging only 13 in the recent Big Bash and Trent Boult is one of the most formidable opening bowlers in the world to face.
Finch recently said in a Cricket Australia interview, “At times I can get a little bit flat-footed, and my feet get planted then I struggle to move again – I have my initial movement then I get a little bit stuck”.
With a left-arm bowler like Boult swinging the ball in, this opens up Finch to being dismissed LBW or bowled.
Boult has taken 23 of his 39 wickets in T20 international cricket against right-handers, using his swing bowling in the opening overs as his primary weapon.
He averages under 20 against the opening batsman. Finch will be aware of Boult’s skill and ability to land the ball on a dime, however, if the Australian captain can get on top in the early overs, he can take the game away in a matter of minutes.
Despite his lean run of form, Finch is still one of the most destructive batsmen in the world. He has two international T20 centuries to his name, both scores above 150. He is the only man to do this.
Whichever one of these two players can get on top of the other will go a long way in determining each match and the series.
Players to watch
It seems that Josh Philippe will not only make his International debut and will accompany captain Finch at the top of the order in David Warner’s absence.
What Philippe has achieved in recent times in domestic T20 cricket is unparalleled for a young man making his way in the game.
Following a breakout BBL 09, he was picked up by the Kohli-led Royal Challengers Bangalore in the 2020 edition of the IPL. While his appearances on the field were sporadic, the experience no doubt has improved his batting.
Philippe continued on his upward trajectory in BBL 10, hammering 508 runs in the tournament at a strike rate of just under 150at the top of the order, securing the title player of the tournament award. His 95 agaisnt the Renegades was one of the most fluent and destructive ever in the BBL.
It is said that a good wicketkeeper is never noticed. This is the case for Philippe. He never seems to make a mistake with the gloves on.
For now, we need to admire that at only 23 years of age, he has a whole career ahead of him, which will start with his debut in New Zealand. This series definitely will not be the last we see of the big-hitting wicketkeeper.
Kyle Jamieson has taken the cricketing world by storm in recent months.
At over 200 centimeters, the tall blonde all-rounder cannot help but gain attention when he plays. While relatively new to international cricket, Jamieson has had the dream start, averaging 56 with the bat and 13 with the ball in test cricket.
Having only played four international T20 matches the results are not spectacular, only having taken three wickets at 35, however, Jamieson has the skillset to dominate.
In domestic T20s, he averages 27 with the bat and 20 with the ball, with the best bowling figures of 6/7.
Jamieson’s bowling is most exciting though. With his size and raw pace means he is a tricky customer for most batsmen and will trouble many of the Australian side.
Aaron Finch, Josh Philippe (Wk), Matthew Wade, Ben McDermott, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Daniel Sams, Ashton Agar, Jhye Richardson, Adam Zampa, Riley Meredith
Martin Guptill/ Finn Allen, Tim Seifert (wk), Kane Williamson, Devon Conway, Glenn Phillips, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Trent Boult, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi
1st T20: the 22nd of February, Hagley Oval, Christchurch, 5.10 pm AEDT
2nd T20: the 25th of February, University of Otago Oval, Dunedin, 12noon AEDT
3rd T20: the 3rd of March, Sky Stadium, Wellington, 5 pm AEDT
4th T20: the 5th of March, Eden Park, Auckland, 5 pm AEDT
5th T20: the 7th of March, Bay Oval, Tauranga, 12noon AEDT
Aaron Finch, Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Phillippe, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams, Tanveer Sangha, Darcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa
Kane Williamson, Hamish Bennett, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Martin Guptill (if fit), Kyle Jamison, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Finn Allen (Guptill replacement if required)