Less than a year ago, New Zealand felt yet another global trophy slip from their grasp as Australia mowed down a decent chase of 173 without breaking a sweat in the 2021 final. To start this year’s T20 World Cup, the Kiwis laid into Australia with an extra level of ferocity, racking up 200 for the cost of only three wickets before defending it with aplomb. Holding the chase to just 111 closed out the first upset of the Super 12 stage, and put a severe dent in the home team’s tournament plans.
It was the young opener Finn Allen who introduced the cat to Australian pigeons. Facing up to Patrick Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood would be an intimidating option for any Test opener, but Allen took on all of them within the first three overs. He took Starc down the ground, Hazlewood through cover, and Cummins over square leg. After facing 13 of the 18 balls bowled, he had 35 runs and New Zealand had 46. Another monster straight hit off Marcus Stoinis took Allen to 42 from 16 balls by the time Hazlewood hit his stumps.
The performance wasn’t entirely surprising, given Allen’s exploits in the shortest format across Australia and England. He currently scores at 166.99 per hundred balls in T20 Internationals, and 171.57 across all T20 cricket. That leaves him fifth-highest in history on both lists with a minimum of 250 balls faced. In all T20s, nobody who has faced 400 balls has scored higher than Allen, who has faced 1189. He is the most consistently fast scorer in the world, and has the chance to carry New Zealand a long way in the tournament.
That gave Devon Conway the perfect start, and he carried it through the innings with a peerless 92 from 58 balls. He produced inventive glides and a series of perfectly placed drives against the fast bowlers, while repeatedly targeting leg-spinner Adam Zampa for big hits down the ground. “It was pretty special,” said Conway after the match. “I’ve seen [Allen] do it time and time again. He’s fearless, and credit has to go to him. The way Finn plays his game complements my game, I knew that I could just play my game and bat around him.”
Zampa foxed the New Zealand captain, Kane Williamson, with a loopy delivery that hit him in front of the stumps for 23, and Hazlewood took a top edge from Glenn Phillips (12 runs) and completed the catch, but that didn’t slow down Conway. James Neesham also played his part to perfection with four overs to play, battering 26 from 13 balls including a six from the final ball of the innings.
Australia generally fancy chasing big totals, but it has to start from the top. David Warner edged Trent Boult for a boundary before deflecting a Tim Southee delivery onto his stumps having scored just five runs. Aaron Finch and Mitchell Marsh threatened for a moment, Finch sending Southee soaring over the leg side and Marsh scoring six of his own over extra cover from Mitchell Santner. But New Zealand’s left-arm spinner had Finch (13) caught at cover in the same over, then Marsh (16) lifted Southee to Neesham at deep midwicket.
That left the job up to Stoinis and Glenn Maxwell, who were tied down by a furiously fast over from Lockie Ferguson and an accurate one from Santner. Another piece of New Zealand brilliance knocked out Stoinis, caught at deep cover by an airborne Phillips who was up and celebrating almost as soon as his flight path had intersected with the ground.
That left Australia needing 150 from 70 balls. Tim David fetched one six off Santner from outside off-stump before perishing trying to replicate it, and while Maxwell set about lashing 28 runs in quick time, including turning himself into a left-hander to lever Ish Sodhi into the second tier of the grandstand, Matthew Wade soon edged Ferguson behind and the game was gone.
Boult and Southee cleaned up the tail, Boult finishing with two for 24 from his full allotment, while Southee claimed an absurd three for six from 13 deliveries. Santner was the most expensive with three for 31, while Ferguson and Sodhi each took a wicket. Of Australia’s bowling, conversely, the most economical was Starc at nine runs per over.
In a group stage where only two teams will progress to the knockout phase, New Zealand now have the upper hand, and Australia finding a way to beat the English favourites is now vital.