New Zealand has exacted its revenge on Australia from last year’s final to leave Australia’s early hopes of defending their title in early jeopardy.
A sold-out Sydney Cricket Ground was the setting for the opening match of the Super 12s stage of the tournament, which turned into a boilover and ambush of epic proportions as the BlackCaps demolished Australia by 89 runs. Winning their first match on Australian soil in any format in 11 years.
After losing the toss and being sent into bat by Australian captain Aaron Finch, The Kiwis waited no time to signal their intent with young gun Finn Allen taking control of the over from the beginning and subsequently, setting the tone for the match.
He found the boundary with ease as New Zealand raced out of the blocks in the powerplay. Allen’s 42 off 16 balls was the catalyst that put the defending champions under serious heat and sent Finch scrambling for answers to stem the flow of runs.
Speaking after the win, Allen’s opening partner Devon Conway spoke glowingly of his early intent and role in the side having edged out experienced opener Martin Guptill for a start in the opening match.
“I think the way Finn Allen batted was pretty special. It put the bowlers under some serious pressure and we just took that momentum throughout the game,” he said.
“It’s a serious effort from him today. The way he was out in the middle, was just so calm, and relaxed, and focused at the same time. It’s a special knock from him, he hit the ball really cleanly.
“We talked about throwing the first punch and not letting them settle early. It was just committing to that and being fearless.”
Conway took his time settling into the innings, playing the anchor role to perfection. Staying in for the full 20 overs he made sure to keep the run rate ticking over. His shot-making started to flow and played a variety of conventional and unconventional shots all over the ground.
Conway’s efforts were also integral to New Zealand’s success with the bat. batting through the innings en route to a man-of-the-match performance of 92 runs off 58 deliveries which included nine boundaries, maintaining his temp when Allen was going early, and upping his tempo as he progressed further through the innings.
Captain Kane Williamson’s run-a-ball 23 helped tick the score over before big hitters Glenn Phillips and Jimmy Neesham helped get the kiwis up to a formidable 200/3.
Josh Hazlewood was again the pick of the Australian bowlers, taking 2/41 with all five bowlers used by Finch on the night going around the park at nine runs an over or more.
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Facing a big chase, Australia never looked like winning after losing four early wickets in the power-play. After David Warner played the ball onto his stumps, both Aaron Finch and Mitchell Marsh would join him before the completion of the opening six overs to leave Australia reeling courtesy of the experienced Kiwi bowling attack.
Finch lamented post-game at the top order’s inability to make meaningful inroads to the big target and take control of the innings much like the BlackCaps did to the Australian opening bowlers. It has been a concerning trend for the Australian in the recent warm-up games against England and the West Indies which Finch concedes is a worry heading into the remaining games.
“The big thing is, as the top order, we’ve got to do our job to be able to provide a foundation for them [the middle order] to be able to play in a way that expresses why it best suits them. And then they can express themselves in that way,” Finch said
“If we go into the second power-play one down, then I think that makes it easier because the field is out (and) they can settle into the game.
“Lately, we have probably been leaving a bit too much to the middle and later order.”
Glenn Maxwell scored a team-high 28 runs which included a trademark switch hit for six, which was a much-needed return to the runs for the Aussie star after a lean trot of single-figure scores. No other Australian batter could muster a score greater than 25, falling to some classy bowling and some fantastic fielding and catching by the New Zealanders with Glenn Phillips reeling in a contender for catch of the tournament to send Marcus Stoinis on his way.
The heavy defeat means that Australia is now staring down the barrel of a swift exit at their home World Cup and will need to channel the legends of Steve Waugh’s 1999 winning all the remaining games, some by big margins too if they are to be the first nation to win back-to-back T20 titles.
“It hurts,” Finch said summarising the loss.
“That’s a big loss in the context of the tournament. We were just totally outplayed in all three facets. New Zealand came at us hard with the bat and their bowling was so disciplined, (and) their fielding is always fantastic.”
“To be able to not look that far ahead – because you can’t win the tournament if you don’t win the next game – (is important),” Finch said.
“There’s a lot of little things – well they’re big things actually – that can distract you if you allow them, so the fact that we’ve lost one game, yes, it’s a heavy loss and it hurts our chances no doubt, but we can’t dwell on that.
“We’ve taken the fate out of our own hands to a point – we need to be ultra-positive and ultra-aggressive.”
Australia now travels to Perth to face recent Asian Cup winners and Group A qualifiers, Sri Lanka, in its next Super 12s clash on Wednesday evening.
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