A trans-Tasman final may not be the most expected match-up, but you must hand it to New Zealand. In major events, more so in ICC ones, they somehow crawl up the ladder, without being noticed as such, to reach the last four stage, even if they struggle to take the next step.
Now, in this tournament, they have taken a step further and even though the Australians will start as favourites, they would do well to remember that the only time the Kiwis made it to a final of a major ICC event, they won it.
The Aussies have peaked at the right time. The manner in which they bulldozed their way past England wiped out the memories of their struggle against Pakistan.
What helps the Aussies is their consistency in team selection. Look at how Shane Watson, retained despite two failures, which in many countries would sparked serious criticism, came good both with the bat and ball. He was allowed to carry on and he promptly repaid the faith shown in him by the team management.
With Ricky Ponting hitting form, the batting looks commanding. Here is a batsman who plays his game irrespective of the situation. Ponting doesn’t concern himself with external factors, such as the state of the match and the pitch. Even if his side is 20 for 3, he doesn’t hesitate to hit over the top and has the ability to change the game around in quick time.
New Zealand must try and exploit the one obvious weakness in the Australian line-up. No Australian side of the past would have allowed a side to recover from 100 for 6 to post over 250. This happened because, unlike in the past, there is no quality spinner in this Australian side. What New Zealand must do is to ensure that they have enough wickets for the middle overs. Their top-order hasn’t exactly fired, at least the likes of Brendon McCullum, Ross Taylor and Guptill.
Against Pakistan, Vettori timed the batting powerplay to perfection, taking 55 off. So much in contrast to Pakistan’s thinking. I still don’t understand why teams are waiting for the tail to come in before taking the powerplay. It is almost as if batting sides are wary of losing wickets during that period even as the bowling side is doing its best to ensure that the run flow is contained, picking up wickets not being part of the plan.
That is the irony and to me it is only fitting that the two teams who have used the powerplays better, more positively at least, are in the final.