With series on the line, Australia seek middle-overs improvement
Australia have lost both the matches so far.
In the two games of the five-match series so far, New Zealand have brought in a lot more dynamism and ability in the myriad phases of the shortest format compared to their opposition. Australia have suffered two contrasting, but equally sapping defeats, leaving them on the cusp of surrendering the series at the earliest juncture.
In the first T20I, the Australian bowlers were guilty of letting New Zealand bounce back from an early top-order collapse, and in the second game they just failed to put a lid on the run-making in the unforgiving venue of Dunedin, making its T20I debut. In both these games though, worrying patterns have emerged for Australia - their lacklustre middle-overs bowling.
A lot of New Zealand's success in the past week has been down to acing the middle-overs with the bat - they smashed 80 off 8 overs between overs 7 and 15 in the first game, and managed 104 in the same period in the second game. While Australia too have had some success in this phase with the bat, it's the lack of control with the ball that has hurt them the most.
Besides getting his bowlers to tighten up in this important period of play, Aaron Finch will also look to shrug off his prolonged rut with the bat. The Aussie skipper's poor form from BBL 2020-21 [179 runs in 13 innings at an average of 13.77] has spilled over to the T20I series, scoring 1 and 12 in the series so far.
Though Australia find themselves backed into a corner, there is still a silver lining if they opt to look at it that way. The remaining three T20Is will all be played at the same venue (Westpac stadium in Wellington) owing to Covid-19-related restrictions. If Australia can find a winning combination and perform once, they could perhaps back themselves to do it a couple of more times and stage a dramatic comeback in the series.
As for New Zealand, the worries are negligible. Martin Guptill struck form in the second fixture, Devon Conway's streak of five successive half-centuries got broken but he now has the added motivation of playing in his home venue (albeit behind closed doors), Tim Seifert has happy memories at the Cake Tin (colloquial name for Wellington stadium) and Jimmy Neesham is on a quest to add multiple dimensions to his finishing game.
If there's a worry, it is in the form of Kyle Jamieson's bowling returns so far (1 for 32 and 0 for 56), but considering New Zealand's series lead, he should be afforded another chance to revert to translating his impressive potential into performances, like he's done in the last 12-odd months across formats.
When: New Zealand vs Australia, 3rd T20I, March 3, 2021, 07:00 PM Local time
Where: Westpac Stadium, Wellington
What to expect: Of the 13 T20Is played in the stadium, there's a balance between matches won by teams batting and fielding first (6 and 7 respectively). In comparison to University Oval in Dunedin, where the second T20I was played, the average scores in both the white-ball formats at the Westpac stadium dips considerably, and should bring the bowlers into play a lot more. Weather-wise, a partly sunny, mostly clear evening is in the offing.
There's no need for the home side to ring in changes yet. Expect the same, winning XI to feature in the third game.
Probable XI: Martin Guptil, Tim Seifert (wk), Kane Williamson (c), Devon Conway, Glenn Phillips, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult
Head coach Andrew McDonald has stated, in no uncertain terms, about the likelihood of the visitors making changes to save the series. Ashton Agar, who has gone wicketless in the two games, received words of comfort from McDonald, but could make way for the likes of D'Arcy Short or Ashton Turner - whose inclusion will further strengthen the batting. Should Aaron Finch seek to refresh his pace bowling line-up, he has Jason Behrendorff, Andrew Tye and the uncapped Riley Meredith on his bench to choose from.
Probable XI: Matthew Wade (wk), Aaron Finch (c), Josh Philippe, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Agar/Ashton Turner, Daniel Sams, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson/Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa
What They Said:
"We haven't got those middle overs right. That may be a reason for us to reinforce that area or make some changes that potentially strengthen that area with both bat and ball." - Australia head coach Andrew McDonald said ahead of the crucial third T20I.
"It was a pretty strong performance from us. We know the power they have in their line up. It was about executing our plans. Outstanding knock from Martin. It's not an easy thing to defend here, lot of things to take and build on for the next game. It's a bunch that's really enthusiastic about improving." - New Zealand captain Kane Williamson on his team's performance in the second T20I
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