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Unfinished business: T20 World Cup final reignites Australia-New Zealand rivalry | Cricket News



The Super 12 stage began with a fierce geopolitical rivalry transplanted to the cricket field: an India-Pakistan game. The World Cup will end on a completely different but equally feral note, by a rivalry spawned as much by earnest patriotism as sporting aspiration.
Bragging rights on the field of play define the modern trans-Tasman tug-of-war. Once upon a time, Australia and New Zealand were mismatched competitors on the cricket field, with Australia always favourites in any clash across formats.
Their contests seldom evoked the passionate nationalistic outcries of an India-Pakistan game or the nuanced, steeped-in-history symbolism of the Ashes. Often the shades of a big brother-little brother sibling rivalry negated any notions of genuine animosity. How times change.

The ceaseless quest for improvement, the churn of sporting cycles and the advent of the T20 format will all contribute to making Sunday’s final potentially the most ruthless brand of cricket you can witness.
New Zealand’s long-held image of perennial underdogs, forever doomed to punching above their weight, doesn’t quite ring true in ICC events. And Australia in this tournament appear to have shed, perhaps forever, their squeamish approach to the shortest format. Both are prepared to go the bloodthirsty extra mile to lay their hands on a first T20 World Cup title.
“Both teams have got a great history in cricket and as neighbours. We always have great battles regardless of the format,” said Aussie captain Aaron Finch, adding that “New Zealand have been in every final for a long time now”.
The truth, however, is that the Kiwis haven’t beaten Australia in a knockout game. Australia have won 16 out of 17 matches from the quarterfinals stage onwards, and four ICC knockout matches. That New Zealand have made the knockout stages four times in the last five ICC events, are in their third consecutive ICC tournament final and have already won one ICC title this year, the World Test Championship against India, isn’t enough satisfaction.

Jimmy Neesham made this perfectly clear the other day. His impassive demeanour after turning the game against England on its head and subsequent comment that “you don’t come halfway around the world just to win a semifinal” indicates that New Zealand are hungry. Their 7-wicket defeat to the Aussies in the 2015 WC final still rankles.
Further back in time was the 2009 Champions Trophy final, also against the Aussies, also lost, this time by 6 wickets as a rampaging Shane Watson crushed Kiwi dreams. Let’s just keep aside the monumental hurt of the 2019 WC final loss to England.
A break in the jinx won’t follow automatically, not unless New Zealand bring all their smarts into play. As Finch said, “This is a game between two sides that are similarly matched.” Like the Aussies, the Kiwis are a settled T20 side with a fixed approach and predictable patterns. Also like the Aussies, they are so good at this approach that opponents haven’t been able to dislodge that strategy.
Both sides were not considered favourites in the lead-up to the tournament but their efficiency has seen them through. From David Warner’s bludgeoning bat to Neesham’s desperate lunge for sixes, from Ish Sodhi’s solid impact to Adam Zampa’s chart-topping variations, this will be a battle of two cold, clinical, well-organised teams who have added just the right blend of aggression and fearlessness.

As Kiwi coach Gary Stead said, “We’re going to have to make sure we’ve got really clear plans for their players. They can rip a game open quickly.”
The Kiwi mindset is simple: they will be aggressive in their quest for early wickets and matchups will play a major role in their ploy.
The magic will probably come from Kane Williamson’s instinctive captaincy, especially with the toss playing such a crucial role in Dubai.

Australia also have it all worked out in their quest for new silverware. As coach Justin Langer said, “We’ve got such rich history, it’ll be nice to add this piece to the puzzle.”
Like the Kiwis against England, Finch’s mentally resilient bunch unleashed an allor-nothing approach that took Pakistan by surprise. That Matthew Wade’s three successive sixes off Afridi finds a parallel in Neesham’s onslaught on Chris Jordan and Adil Rashid is a testimony to the success of two similar selection policies: trust in tested, experienced players, since T20 requires you to think on your feet under tremendous pressure.
This is what will make the likes of Warner and Trent Boult such X-factors in the final.

As always, Australia will go batting-heavy, as Finch said, “with seven specialist batters”. Naturally, a bowling-heavy New Zealand will look to forge a whole bigger than the sum of its parts and somehow attempt to stop them.
“The title is going to mean a bloody lot to us,” said Aussie Marcus Stoinis. Not just to your team, mate.