Both Australia and New Zealand are looking to lift the T20 trophy for the first time
Australia captain Aaron Finch is relishing another one his side’s “great battles” against New Zealand in Dubai on Sunday as both nations attempt to lift the T20 World Cup for the first time.
While both sides are accustomed to making the knockout stages of global events, few expected the final to be played between Antipodean rivals Australia and New Zealand, sixth and fourth respectively in the format’s world rankings.
This is a rematch of the 2015 50-over World Cup final, which Australia won at a canter, although New Zealand had the upper hand when they met in five T20s earlier this year, with the Black Caps prevailing 3-2 in the series.
“It’s bloody exciting to be playing against New Zealand,” Finch said. “We play quite a bit against New Zealand now and we always have great battles regardless of the format. They are a great team and are led super by Kane Williamson.
“It’s not unexpected. We came here with a clear plan to try to win this tournament. We always felt as though we’ve got the depth of the squad and the quality in our squad to put ourselves in a position to do that.
“And New Zealand, they have been in every final for a long time now in ICC events. They are a team that can never be underestimated. Maybe people on the outside do. Certainly inside, we don’t. They have got class.”
Australia overcame heavily fancied Pakistan on Thursday although captain Finch got a golden duck after being trapped in front by talismanic left-arm quick Shaheen Shah Afridi’s nip-backer.
Shaheen Shah Afridi dismissed Aaron Finch for a golden duck in the semi-final
And while Australia got over the line in their last showpiece meeting against New Zealand six years ago, Finch was undone by the left-arm swing of Trent Boult early on, while fellow seamer Tim Southee has impressed in recent weeks.
“Any time it nips back a little bit, I think if you look back at my career, that’s no secret that’s where I’m most vulnerable,” Finch said. “Obviously that will be a challenge with Trent bowling left-arm swing.
“With Tim Southee, you can swing the ball away, but he also bowls one where he knocks the ball off the seam and it slides off a little bit. But I’ve had a really good hit at training, so I’m feeling good going into the game.”
While there were concerns over Finch’s opening partner David Warner’s run of low scores in the weeks and months leading up to the tournament, the veteran left-hander has made a mockery of suggestions he is on the slide.
New Zealand’s David Conway will miss the final through injury
Warner has amassed 236 runs at a 47.2 average and 148.42 strike-rate, having been backed to the hilt by Finch, who is similarly unfazed with Steve Smith’s form heading into the final.
“No, not concerned one bit,” Finch said of a batter who has made just 69 runs in four innings in the United Arab Emirates. “He’s a world-class player and he’s someone who in big games has showed how valuable he is.
“He’s been hitting the ball as well as I’ve seen for a long time, so no concerns there whatsoever.”
While Finch was tight-lipped about team selection, opposite number Kane Williamson intimated Tim Seifert would come in for the injured Devon Conway, who has been ruled out with a broken hand, which he sustained when he punched his bat in frustration after being dismissed in New Zealand’s semi-final victory over England on Wednesday.
“The loss of Devon is a big one,” Williamson said. “It’s a disappointing and freak thing to happen. He still wants to give as much as he can to the team. He’s certainly right behind Tim and Tim is excited at getting involved.
“For us, it’s keeping our focus on the task. We know how strong the Australian side is and we are looking forward to that opportunity.”
Even though this is the third World Cup final New Zealand have reached in the last six years, the perception exists that they are still underdogs, but Williamson is not concerning himself with any labels.
“It doesn’t have a lot to do with us, really,” he said. “We focus on our cricket. The different tags and what not, that’s not really something that we control.”
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