T20 World Cup: Expect thrills and spills in New Zealand vs Australia final hardly anyone saw coming

·3-min read
Matthew Wade powered Australia into the final with a late six blitz against Pakistan (Getty Images)
Matthew Wade powered Australia into the final with a late six blitz against Pakistan (Getty Images)

The T20 World Cup sparked into life this week with two sensational semi-finals that have set up a final few predicted and one which will provide a first-time winner.

An all-Antipodean final for a tournament in Asia is unexpected, not least because India and England have an embarrassment of white-ball riches and Pakistan appeared to be coming together as only they can.

The Australian audience, by contrast, greet T20 with little more than a shrug, and if you do not underestimate “dark horses” New Zealand, are you even a follower of cricket?

This is all in keeping with the short, volatile history of this tournament. The obvious pre-tournament favourite has still not won the men’s version of the T20 World Cup, unlike its 50-over equivalent, where pedigree prevails.

When England eviscerated Australia two weeks ago, the idea of them having to wait around in Dubai before travelling Down Under on a charter flight for the Ashes as the Australians finished their tournament seemed fanciful. And New Zealand were well beaten by the other losing semi-finalists, Pakistan, early in the tournament, too. It has been a classic week of knockout cricket.

On the basis of their stunning semi-final chases against massive favourites, it is hard to argue that either side do not deserve their place in the final. Both teams needed 12 runs per over with five overs remaining, and had their last two recognised batters at the crease. Both got home with an over to spare and by five wickets.

The individuals involved made it more special still. Jimmy Neesham, after the heartbreak of 2019, deserved his moment, while Daryl Mitchell is a late developer who had never opened the batting a few weeks ago.

Marcus Stoinis is among the game’s most entertaining talkers, and Matthew Wade admitted that it had occurred to him that this could be his final game for Australia after a stop-start, decade-long career. None of these guys are global megastars whose fans would have expected them to pull off heists like this.

After their exploits this week, both teams will believe that anything is chaseable, and the toss feels vital in another night game.

New Zealand are the most consistent team across all formats right now and are looking to win their second global title of the year after taking the World Test Championship in June. The Black Caps are the neutral’s choice, but this is a disconcertingly likeable Australian side, starting with Stoinis’s bromance with Adam Zampa, who was brilliant again last night.

Settled Australia should be favourites, especially now New Zealand have been majorly inconvenienced by the loss of their wicketkeeper-batsman Devon Conway, who broke his hand punching his bat after being dismissed against England. Tim Seifert is the obvious replacement, but Mark Chapman is a candidate, too.

This is the not final we expected, but based on this week’s entertainment, there should be thrills and spills.

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