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Confident New Zealand aim to close out rejigged T20I series

ESPNcricinfo logo ESPNcricinfo 03-03-2021 Andrew McGlashan

Big Picture

The logistics have changed significantly due to the impact of the Auckland lockdown, and there won't be any crowds to witness the rest of the games, but the challenge remains the same for Australia: they need to win three matches in a row in Wellington if they are to take the series.

New Zealand, with a full-strength side, are playing dynamic, confident cricket although did breathe a sigh of relief at the end of a pulsating contest in Dunedin where the game was nearly snatched away from Marcus Stoinis and Daniel Sams.

Australia have identified that it is the post-powerplay, pre-death period with the ball where they have especially struggled to match New Zealand. From overs 7-16 they have conceded 11.35 and taken just three wickets, while the home side have gone for 9.02 runs per over and claimed 10 wickets.

The return to form of Martin Guptill in Dunedin ticked another box for New Zealand with most players having now made a contribution across the first two games. However, Tim Seifert has started with two low scores and Kyle Jamieson has had a tough time going for 56 in Dunedin.

Both squads had some downtime in the unusually long break between matches. The Auckland-based New Zealand players who briefly returned home had to hastily leave the city when lockdown was announced and underwent precautionary Covid-19 tests which all came back negative on Monday. New Zealand were the first international side to play behind closed doors during the pandemic, against Australia at the SCG last March, but this will be their first time since.

Last T20I switched to enable Australia to catch charter flight home

Another change has been made to the schedule for the series with the final match on Sunday switched to an earlier start to allow Australia to get a charter flight home from Wellington that evening.

Australia have been desperate to avoid having to quarantine for two weeks on returning home which they would have had to do if they transited through Auckland as was the original plan which is now a "red zone" due to a Covid-19 outbreak.

It means the men will play the first of the double-header matches starting at 12pm local time followed by the New Zealand Women v England Women T20I.

NZC has said if alert levels are lowered in time for the Sunday matches then crowds will be allowed to attend in Wellington.

"We're thankful NZC have rescheduled so we can avoid those hot zones and we can get back without quarantine," Andrew McDonald, Australia's coach, said. "It's a positive any time you can avoid 14 days of hotel quarantine. I wouldn't wish it upon too many people to be perfectly honest."

Form guide

(last five completed matches)

New Zealand WWLWW

Australia LLWLL

In the spotlight

Glenn Maxwell hasn't got going yet in the series with scores of 1 and 3. In the opening match he edged the swinging new ball to slip and in the second was well caught at short third man when off a top-edged reverse sweep. Where he comes in is dedicated by how many wickets Australia have lost and the ideal scenario is a base to work from but a reasonable number of overs remaining. Depending on the balance of Australia's attack it could be that his offspin is used a bit more having sent down one over in the series so far.

Trent Boult has impressed in two contrasting stages of the innings in the first two games. In Christchurch he found movement with the new ball and claimed early wickets to seal the game, then in Dunedin produced the over that gave New Zealand breathing space at the death when he went for just six in the 18th against the brutal bats of Stoinis and Sams. He has been the standout pace bowler on either side.

a man holding a baseball bat in front of a crowd: New Zealand can secure the series with victory in the first of three Wellington matches © Getty Images © Getty Images New Zealand can secure the series with victory in the first of three Wellington matches © Getty Images

Team news

Mitchell Santner was ruled out on the afternoon of the game after waking with a head cold. He was self-isolating as a precaution while awaiting the result of a Covid test. It means New Zealand will have to rebalance their attack. Pace bowler Adam Milne, who is based in Wellington, was drafted into the squad while seamer Hamish Bennett is the other bowling option available.

New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Tim Seifert, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Devon Conway, 5 Glenn Phillips, 6 Jimmy Neesham, 7 Kyle Jamieson, 8 Tim Southee, 9 Ish Sodhi, 10 Hamish Bennett, 11 Trent Boult

Australia coach Andrew McDonald hinted at a change or two being made although he did that before the second match and it became the same XI. There could be a chance that they strengthen the pace attack, perhaps with Andrew Tye or Jason Behrendorff, at the expense of a spinner, although both Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa were given a vote of confidence, or boost the batting and rely on more overs from the allrounders.

Australia (possible) 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Josh Philippe, 3 Matthew Wade (wk), 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Daniel Sams, 8 Ashton Agar/Andrew Tye/Jason Behrendorff/D'Arcy Short, 9 Jhye Richardson, 10 Kane Richardson, 11 Adam Zampa

Pitch and conditions

The Cake Tin, as it is colloquially known, has the lowest run rate (8.03) of any T20I venue in New Zealand. One of the quirks is that teams don't train at the ground, instead using the Basin Reserve, so visiting sides don't have much change to assess conditions although with three games in a row there is time for Australia to get used to them. The forecast is for a cloudy but dry evening.

Stats and trivia

Quotes

"The one thing we can control is our bowling. We'll look at how we use our bowling in that [middle] phase of the game. Clearly as a batting unit we're trying to be aggressive in that period of time anyway. It's more how we defend the New Zealand batters and what match-ups we use in that period of time I'd say where we get the most improvement out of our performance."

Andrew McDonald

"It's definitely different. At the end of the day think it comes down to individuals' attitudes around that and how they respond. Of course we love playing in front of crowds, but in this Covid era we need to be able to adapt and it's something we pride ourselves and hope you see a really good performance out of us still."

Gary Stead, the New Zealand coach, on going behind closed doors

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