Charge down the wicket with cricket tips as the in-form New Zealanders host Australia in the third of five T20I encounters.
17:00 (AEDT), Wed 3rd Mar @ Sky Stadium, Wellington
History: Played 11: Australia 7 V New Zealand 3 (1 Tie)
Last meeting: February 25, 2021: New Zealand d Australia by 4 runs at University Oval
Final Thoughts: It’s do-or-die for Australia in the third T20I against New Zealand, a five-game series that has been turned on its head by COVID-19.
New Zealand’s change in alert levels means the remaining three games will be played in Wellington. At least the next two will be played in an empty ‘Cake Tin’.
The Blackcaps have surged to a 2-0 lead. Devon Conway (99* off 59) rescued a floundering NZ innings in the series opener, guiding the hosts to 5/184. Australia crashed to a 53-run loss with Mitch Marsh (45 off 33) their only batsman to fire. Ish Sodhi’s career-best 4/28 helped skittle the tourists for 131.
An out-of-sorts Martin Guptill roared back into form for the Kiwis in the second T20I, smashing 97 off 50 balls in an imposing total of 7/219. Kane Williamson (53 off 35) and Jimmy Neesham (45* off 16) were also superb as every Aussie bowler went for 9.75 an over or more.
But after an impressive knock from second-gamer Josh Philippe (45 off 32), a brilliant partnership from Marcus Stoinis (78 off 37) and Daniel Sams (41 off 15) saw Australia finish just four runs short of the target. Mitchell Santner (4/31) and a clutch last-over showing from Neesham (2/10) helped the Blackcaps hold on.
Australia’s skipper under the pump
The major talking point is the form of captain and opener Aaron Finch, scoring 1 and 12 on the back of a dismal BBL campaign. Glenn Maxwell (1 and 3) has also failed twice with the bat. The selectors are standing firm behind Finch as their skipper for the upcoming T20 World Cup.
New Zealand have won eight of their 12 T20Is in Wellington. A six-match winning streak in the format ended last summer via a tie against India, who won the one-over eliminator.
Guptill’s rollicking resurgence is an ominous sign for Australia. Particularly when paired with their batch of confident tyros – though Tim Seifert could do with some runs – and the perpetual threat of Williamson and Neesham’s all-round heroics. They deserve their $1.80 favourites tag.
It has to start at the top for Australia if they are to keep the series alive. Finch is a champion with 10 scores of 35-plus in his previous 14 T20Is leading into this series. I think we’ll see a Guptill-esque response from the under-pressure skipper.