This was a series that could’ve flown under the radar being tacked on at the end of summer. Yet the matches were gripping and the competition captivating.
The series ebbed and flowed, with both sides looking like securing the trophy at points. It was an uncharacterizable low-scoring series with only two matches passing the 200 mark, yet every ball was enthralling. Going into the final, it seemed Australia had the momentum and would continue their winning ways. Yet, the New Zealand side and its big-hitting opener Martin Guptill made sure of a Kiwi victory. New Zealand winning the series 3-2 to take bragging rights from their Trans Tasman neighbours.
The Inner Sanctum looks at the Top 6 talking points to emerge from the 5 T20 matches in New Zealand.
New Zealand holds on:
New Zealand got off to an excellent start to the series, winning the first two matches. Devon Conway dominating the first match with 99 not out before the bowlers kept Australia quiet. The second match was more difficult, but Guptill stood up for the Kiwis, hitting 97 and hit 8 big sixes. Despite a remarkable partnership from Marcus Stoinis and Daniel Sams, it wasn’t enough to pull Australia out with New Zealand holding on to win by 4 runs.
Australia got on top for the next two matches with Aaron Finch finding some much-needed form. It was the New Zealand batting that failed to let Australia back into the series. Ashton Agar managed 6 wickets for the Australians in the 3rd match to see Australia romp home by 64 runs.
The fourth match was similarly a big win for Australia. On a spinning track, Maxwell, Agar, and Zampa combined for 6 wickets to keep New Zealand to only 106. A loss by 50 runs for New Zealand, setting up a series-deciding 5th match.
New Zealand tinkered with their lineup, moving IPL millionaire Kyle Jamieson out of the side and shifting Tim Seifert moved down the order. Devon Conway was promoted to open the batting. Wickets often fell for Australia as they could only manage 142. Conway and Guptill got off to a great start for the Kiwis, continuing their excellent series. 106 was put on for the first wicket. By the time Conway was out, the game was virtually gone for Australia. The Kiwis arrested momentum from the Australians to win the final match of the series.
Australia still has a middle-order problem:
Mitch Marsh is one of the biggest questions for this side.
Having influenced the first match with 45, he was pushed down the order for the rest of the series. Australia’s problem is whether it is worth having an all-rounder that does not bowl a lot at seven batting behind even Ashton Agar.
In the T20 format, if the number 7 has a large impact with the bat, the game is likely already lost.
The question for Australia is whether having someone who can bowl a few overs and be more destructive with the bat would be better for the side.
Daniel Sams smashed the Kiwi bowlers all over the field in Dunedin, finishing with a strike rate over 200. Sams also finished the Big Bash with the highest strike rate in the competition. He is also a front-line bowling option if Australia wants a better all-round option at 7, especially if Agar will continue at 6, then Sams needs to be considered.
Another option for the number 7 role is Daniel Christian. Christian seems to be out of favour with selectors primarily due to age. That being said, his strike rate in the BBL was second only to Sams, and his bowling was more than handy.
Moreover, the T20 globetrotter just knows how to win tournaments. Having won 10 domestic competitions around the world now. If Australia wants to succeed at the World Cup, then Australia must pick specialist players for specialist positions.
Josh Phillippe is a future star:
Josh Phillippe has taken the Big Bash by storm in the last two seasons, hitting 487 and 508 runs respectively. Many fans were excited to see how he would go in Australian colours, and he did not disappoint.
Starting the series batting at 3 before being moved to open for the final game. With scores of 2, 45, 43, 13, and 2, Phillippe didn’t dominate the series, but we did see glimpses of class. The question for Australian selectors going into the World Cup is whether they persist with Matthew Wade or give Phillippe the gloves.
Phillipe does have an advantage over Wade, that being the IPL. He will have 2 months of cricket in India to show what he can do in similar conditions to the World Cup.
Whether Phillippe gets the keeping job before or after the World cup is an unknown but what can be guaranteed is, we will see a lot of him for Australia over the next decade.
Aaron Finch’s place is secure:
Going into this series, Finch had an extreme lean patch, and the pressure was on. The Australian captain only managed 35 runs in his two T20 innings against India late last year before managing 179 runs in the Big Bash at 13.76.
Finch’s spot not just as captain, but his place in the team was in doubt.
Finch then had two very lean games to start the series, unlucky to be out in the first match, middling a ball straight to the fielder at point. Finch then made 12 at less than a run a ball in the second match. The pressure was mounting from all corners of the media.
Peter Lalor, the much respected Australian cricket scribe, said on the ABC program ‘Offsiders’, “I’d give him one more game, actually two because he’s a good bloke.”
Australian selector George Bailey leapt to Finch’s defence, saying that “Finch will continue in the side and will be the captain going into the World Cup”.
Finch managed to turn it around with back-to-back half-centuries in games 3 and 4. combining with his good mate Glenn Maxwell to set New Zealand an imposing total in game 3 before anchoring the innings and batting through in game 4 on his way to 79*. Including taking 28 off one Jamieson over.
If Australia is to compete in the World Cup, Finch will have to fire. There is no doubt now that he will be leading that side to that World Cup now. His place as captain is now secure.
Australia’s has deep fast bowling stocks:
Who would have thought an Australian side missing Cummins, Hazlewood, and Starc would still be competitive. These three players will undoubtedly be a part of Australia’s World Cup plans, yet this side didn’t miss them.
In this series, Jhye Richardson took 4 wickets at 34.75, Riley Meredith, 4 wickets at 20.75 and Kane Richardson, 7 wickets at 19.57. These are outstanding numbers for any attack, let alone what is considered a ‘B’ grade bowling line for Australia. Australia will be served well by any of these bowlers in the World Cup.
Wherever selection lands for the Australian fast bowlers who go to the World Cup, the attack will undoubtedly be strong. The questions around Australia’s side are more towards the batsman and the wicket-keeping position. The fast-bowling depth of Australia makes the squad extremely dangerous.
New Zealand is a World Cup chance:
New Zealand were extremely unlucky runners up in the 50 over World Cup in 2019, losing out to England. The Kiwis will want to be competitive again in the T20 World Cup and there were many promising signs in this series that the Kiwis will be near the top again.
The top three that now includes Guptill, Conway, and Williamson look world-class.
The only question on batting is whether Colin Munro can find a way back into the side.
After a huge BBL with the Scorchers, Munro looked guaranteed to be back with the Blackcaps, yet selection did not come his way. Munro would provide much-needed experience in the middle order.
There is still a question over the bowling of New Zealand. The spinners in Sodhi and Santner are excellent and should succeed in Indian conditions. Southee and Boult are obviously world-class in all formats will lead the attack well; it is the fifth bowler where questions still exist.
Jamieson is full of talent but struggled against Australia. It seemed he looked nervous and couldn’t produce the form he had shown all summer, going for ten an over in each match. The upside for Jamieson is that he has a hefty IPL contract and will have the opportunity to improve before the World Cup.
Overall, New Zealand will be a dangerous opponent for the more prominent countries during the World Cup. New Zealand possesses some very dangerous ball strikers in Guptill, and Conway and its players’ experience its players’ experience should see them be very competitive in India.