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Australia begin quest for elusive World T20 crown

Wisden India logo Wisden India 17-03-2016

Australia begin their latest quest to clinch that elusive World Twenty20 crown on Friday (March 18) against a New Zealand who are on a high after their stunning victory over India.

Steven Smith’s side top the Test rankings and won their fifth 50-over World Cup last year by crushing New Zealand in the final in the Melbourne Cricket Ground, but for all their dominance in those formats, Australia have struggled in World T20s. They have only once made the final of the tournament, back in 2010 when they lost to England.

Shane Watson, however, said Australia would not hold back from reminding New Zealand about the outcome of last year’s World Cup when they meet again in Dharamsala. But he acknowledged New Zealand would be no pushovers this time and would be full of confidence after their 47-run victory over India, who were considered favourites, on Tuesday.

“We are going to have to play very well because they are going to be very confident leading into this game,” Watson told reporters on the eve of the match.

A 3-0 home defeat to India in January underlined Australia’s frailties in T20 cricket although there were encouraging signs earlier last month when they beat South Africa 2-1 away.

In Johannesburg, Glenn Maxwell spanked a career-best 75 off 43 balls in a world-record fourth-wicket stand of 161 with David Warner, highlighting the allrounder’s growing importance to the team.

“Glenn Maxwell is a huge player in our team,” said Watson. “The way he bats, whether the ball is turning or whether it’s not turning, his array of shots when he gets into his innings is incredible. He hits the ball around the ground.”

Maxwell is also expected to be busy bowling his offbreaks against a side who struggled against India’s spinners.

New Zealand, on the other hand, came into the tournament as underdogs and will look to continue their momentum after their stunning win in Nagpur. Their batsmen managed only 126 but their spinners – Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and Nathan McCullum – shared nine wickets among them to skittle out the hosts for just 79.

The pitch in Dharamsala is also expected to assist spinners and could leave New Zealand with a headache over whether to bring back pacemen Trent Boult and Tim Southee. Kane Williamson took some brave decisions by leaving out his frontline pacers against India for a spin-heavy attack and it would be interesting to see if they continue the strategy against Australia.

But for all this, the rain gods have to stay away from Dharamsala. Rain played a big part in the Group A matches there last week, and the theme continued on Thursday, with the ground under covers once again.

“We haven’t picked a team yet. We are waiting. We don’t know what’s going to happen with the weather,” said Smith. “There are a few variables there so we are going to wait and see. We are not set on the team for each game. We could chop and change a bit. The guys have to be flexible throughout the tournament and I think it will take all 15 of us if we have to win it.”

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