A trans-Tasman scrap will determine 20-overs cricket’s new world champions on Sunday and there is little to choose between Australia and New Zealand after their near-identical progress to the summit clash in Dubai.
Both made the semi-finals of the Twenty20 World Cup as the second team from their respective groups and then came into their own to knock out the tournament’s two most dominating teams.
The last four deliveries of Australia’s five-wicket victory against Pakistan on Thursday contained more drama than the tournament’s entire Super 12 stage.
Matthew Wade was first dropped in the deep before he smacked three consecutive sixes to successfully complete Australia’s nervy chase against the tournament’s only hitherto unbeaten team.
Jimmy Neesham and Daryl Mitchell had pulled off something similar when New Zealand humbled Group I leaders England in the first semi-final in Abu Dhabi.
Sunday’s clash will be a rematch of the 2015 final of the 50-overs World Cup and Australia, the most successful ODI team, will hope to win the only major limited-overs global trophy that has eluded them so far.
“We’ve got such a rich history and it would be nice to add this piece to the puzzle that’s for sure,” Australia coach Justin Langer said on Friday.
The task would not be easy against a New Zealand side recognised as the best cross-format team in international cricket.
“I think that the way New Zealand cricket have gone about their business for the last few years has been outstanding,” said Langer.
“So we’re going to have to be at our best, like we have been throughout this tournament, to beat New Zealand.”
Australia will need their top order to fire against New Zealand’s disciplined attack and persist with four specialist bowlers.
For reigning world test champions New Zealand, the incentive will be to triumph in another format, especially after their heart-breaking loss to England on boundary countback in the tied 2019 50-over World Cup final.
They will bring back Tim Seifert to replace Devon Conway, who has been thrown out of action with a hand injury.
Unlike most other teams who rely on a handful of match-winners, New Zealand’s ability to hunt as a pack has been their strength.
Coach Gary Stead they would have to be on their toes against Australia.
“They’ve got a bunch of guys who are real match-winners,” Stead said.
“We’re going to have to make sure our planning and scouting is right on point and that we’ve got really clear plans for all of our players because they can rip a game open pretty quickly as well.”