New Zealand vs Australia 2021 1st T20I Preview: Finch's form, Richardson vs Jamieson duel in focus in series opener
New Zealand and Australia will not have happy memories of the last time they came up against each other.
Australia without several key players
The Kiwis were on a tour of Australia in March 2020 for a 3-match ODI series. After the home team won the first ODI by 71 runs, the following two matches had to be cancelled due to border closures arising because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The bilateral series was then supposed to be held at the beginning of 2021 but was not possible because of the mandatory 14-day quarantine on both sides of the border. With Australia's home summer against India done and dusted and the BBL also having reached its culmination, it's finally time for a bumper 5-match T20I series as both teams look to sharpen their tools in the lead-up to the T20 World Cup towards the end of the year in India.
While New Zealand, with the exception of injured pace bowler Lockie Ferguson, are at full strength, Australia are without many of their key players, especially the pace bowlers who were supposed to tour South Africa for a 3-match test series to be held simultaneously with the T20Is against New Zealand. With that getting cancelled at the last moment and the squad being already announced, the visitors will end up missing some of their leading players.
Australia played their last T20I series against India which they lost by 2-1. With several frontline players like Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Steve Smith missing, they will have to make as many as seven changes to their playing XI from the last time they took the field for a T20 International.
In-form New Zealand have had a handful of games under their belt with recent series victories over Pakistan and West Indies in home conditions.
Guptill, Williamson back in action
Martin Guptill, who was carrying a hamstring niggle, has been cleared to play after passing a fitness test. He is likely to open the batting alongside Tim Seifert. Kane Williamson is back to lead the side and will bat at number 3.
Devon Conway and Glenn Phillips have had some impressive performances after being brought in the fray. Conway, in particular, is in red-hot form. He has already struck 174 runs from 4 T20 Internationals and is coming on the back of sensational form in the Super Smash as well.
New Zealand will go in with all-rounders Mitchell Santner and Jimmy Neesham who provide them with balance in the lower-middle order. Kyle Jamieson, fresh off the massive bid in the IPL auctions, will join Tim Southee and Trent Boult to form a three-prong pace attack.
Finch hopes to bounce back
It has been a struggle for Aaron Finch especially in T20 cricket of late. After an ordinary IPL, Finch could manage just 179 runs for Melbourne Renegades in this year's Big Bash League at an average of 13.76 and would be under pressure to improve upon that, particularly after missing the IPL bandwagon.
After making a few technical adjudgements with this feet movement, Finch is confident of bouncing back.
New-look Aussie attack
Josh Philippe finished as the Player of the Tournament in the Big Bash League. He is expected to play as a pure batsman and partner Finch at the top of the order. Matthew Wade, after being left out of the test squad, will take the gloves and bat in the top order as well.
All-rounders Glenn Maxwell and Marcus Stoinis are likely to form the Australian middle order with the visitors having a choice between another all-rounder Mitchell Marsh and specialist finisher Ashton Turner at number 6.
Despite the presence of under-19 sensation Tanveer Sangha who had a good showing in the BBL as well, Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa are likely to be the leading spinners for Australia with Jhye Richardson, another record-setter in the IPL auctions, Kane Richardson and Jason Behrendorff forming the Aussie pace attack.
Here's the probable playing XI of both teams:
New Zealand - Martin Guptill, Tim Seifert (wk), Kane Williamson (c), Devon Conway, Glenn Phillips, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult
Australia - Aaron Finch (c), Josh Philippe, Matthew Wade (wk), Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Marsh/Ashton Turner, Ashton Agar, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa, Jason Behrendorff
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