New Zealand aim to break the shackles and start well against full-strength Australia
New Zealand players celebrate. © Getty
Momentum is such a funny thing in cricket. Often when morale is riding high going into a series, teams tend to do better than how they would fare otherwise. For New Zealand this year, it has not been the case.
Going into the England series, they were high on confidence from the domestic performances and looked like they had an edge. Instead, the hosts were thrashed in both formats by Heather Knight & Co. As they take on an even tougher opposition in Australia in the first T20I at Hamilton on Sunday(March 28), New Zealand have a lot more to think about than they had about a month ago.
Fran Jonas, the young left-arm spinner who was impressive during the ODI series against England, has earned her maiden T20I call-up, and it would be interesting to see how she fares against a predominantly attacking Australian batting line-up.
While bowling looks a lot more settled, New Zealand would have to come together as a batting unit to put on a fight against the defending T20 Champions. The last time these two teams faced each other, Maddy Green opened the batting alongside skipper Sophie Devine. Against England, Hayley Jensen was promoted to the top and had scored a fifty in the first ODI, but since then struggled to do anything of note.
While either Jensen or Green might open, a lot more rides of the form of Devine's form with the bat. The White Ferns skipper, who smashed the fastest T20 hundred in Super Smash, had a poor run against England. Her performance is crucial for New Zealand's success in the upcoming series against Australia.
Brooke Halliday, who had an impressive debut series against England, might get a chance to bat a bit more up the order depending on the match situation. With the experienced Devine and Satterthwaite in the top-three, Halliday and Amelia Kerr would strengthen the middle-order. The tricky part, though, is that they have to come together and perform as a unit, which has not happened in the recent past.
The tourists, on the other hand, have come to New Zealand with a full-strength squad. Ellyse Perry and Tayla Valeminck are back in the team after a year along with some exciting pacers in Hannah Darlington and Darcie Brown.
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Australia head coach Matthew Mott said that they want to make a statement with some fast bowlers. "I think over here the conditions of the swing will suit our bowling attack. I think it’s a real point of difference which we’ve now got, which we haven’t really necessarily had that much in the past for a while."
They have a long list of pacers including, Megan Schutt, Brown, Darlington, Perry, Valeminck, Georgia Wareham and Belinda Vakarewa. Skipper Meg Lanning has said that they are keen to add new skills to n the squad going into the World Cup next year.
With the bat, they are likely to go all guns blazing with Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney. Allrounder Ashleigh Gardner has said that the team management has given them the licence to play their attacking game while others can bat around them.
In the last eight matches against New Zealand, Australia have won seven. As far as series wins go, the last time they lost against them was in September 2017.
A full-strength Australia is likely to produce some exciting contest on the field. If New Zealand can shed the scars and play like they have got nothing to lose, we are in for some thrilling exhibition of T20 cricket.
New Zealand: Sophie Devine(C), Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Fran Jonas, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Frankie Mackay, Katey Martin(wk), Thamsyn Newton, Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite(VC)
Australia: Meg Lanning (C), Rachael Haynes (VC), Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Molly Strano, Georgia Wareham, Belinda Vakarewa, Tayla Vlaeminck