DHARAMSALA: Australia begin their latest quest on Friday to clinch the elusive crown of World Twenty20 champions against a New Zealand side who are on a high after their stunning victory over tournament hosts India.
Steve 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 the older formats, Australia have struggled in 20 over cricket and have only once made the final of the World T20, back in 2010 when they lost to England.
Veteran all-rounder Shane Watson said Australia would not hold back from reminding their trans-Tasman rivals about the outcome of last year’s World Cup when they meet again in Friday’s match in Dharamshala.
But he acknowledged the Black Caps would be no pushovers this time and would be full of confidence after their shock 47-run victory over red-hot favourites India 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 in the Himalayan hill town which is home to the Dalai Lama.
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 all rounder’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 spinners Ish Sodhi, Mitchell Santner and Nathan McCullum shared nine wickets against the Indians, leaving the selectors with a headache over whether to bring back pacemen Trent Boult or Tim Southee.
Coach Mike Hesson has been trying to keep the team’s feet on the ground since the India win, telling New Zealand radio that qualification for the semis in a pool that also includes Pakistan and Bangladesh is a tough ask.
“Great start for us but we know that even just getting out of the pool is going to be incredibly difficult,” he told Newstalk ZB.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (captain), Corey Anderson, Trent Boult, Martin Guptill, Grant Elliott, Colin Munro, Mitchell McClenaghan, Nathan McCullum, Adam Milne, Henry Nicholls, Luke Ronchi, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor.
Australia: Steven Smith (captain), David Warner, Ashton Agar, Nathan Coulter-Nile, James Faulkner, Aaron Finch, John Hastings, Josh Hazlewood, Usman Khawaja, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Peter Nevill, Andrew Tye, Shane Watson, Adam Zampa.