Underconfident New Zealand seek to outdo Australia with series on line

New Zealand players celebrate a wicket. © Getty

When Australia were reduced to 14 for three in the first few overs, New Zealand would have thought that they have a grip on the course of the first T20I. However, it was not the case as Meg Lanning stitched a partnership with Ashleigh Gardner and ensured that the hosts did not get any further in the game.

As the focus moves to the second T20I on Tuesday (March 30), Sophie Devine and Co. have a lot to think about with the series on the line. After the match, she said that they let their foot off the pressure a little bit, and it cost them the game. “That is why they are such a quality side. They can get themselves out of tricky situations. For us, it is about how we can keep the pressure on for longer.”

One of the positives for New Zealand was their preparation in terms of tactics and matchups to counter Australia’s strong batting line-up. They had their field positions and bowling changes on point till Lanning decided to take them on. Despite the result, the Kiwis would want to stick to the process and back their players perform well in the second T20I.

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Amelia Kerr’s form could be a bit of a worry for them as the allrounder, batting at number four, is a crucial part of their plans. Amelia had an off day with the bat, and when she came on to bowl, Lanning and Gardner went after her to unsettle her rhythm. Devine, however, is confident that the allrounder will come good sooner than later.

Another issue for the hosts is their batting-order. Though Hayley Jensen showed promise in the ODIs against England, Maddy Green is their best bet alongside Devine in the shortest format. Coming into bat with just over four overs left, she showed what she could do in the first game. Similarly, Brooke Halliday has to be used as a floater and promoted up the order depending on the match situation.

The bigger problem, though, is the form of the skipper, who has been struggling since the series against England. Devine coming good with the bat at the top sets up the game for New Zealand, something they have missed for a while. One could see glimpses of her yesterday, but Devine needs to do a lot more than for New Zealand to put up a fight against Australia.

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For the tourists, the match was just an example to show everyone their bench-strength and how deep and adjustable they are when they are in a tricky position. Alyssa Healy and Beth Mooney might have had a bad game, but it need not necessarily last long, given their track record. They have very little to worry about going into the second match.

With this game also being a double-header, the pitch might hold-up a bit as it did in the first match. And irrespective of the conditions, they have the arsenal to put an eleven that would beat any team on any given day. An exciting prospect is a possibility of watching Tayla Vlaeminck and Darcie Brown bowl in tandem. Will it happen in the second ODI? One has to wait and see.

Ahead of the series, Gardner had spoken about sticking to their strengths and playing their natural game irrespective of the match situation. When the chips were down, and the odds were in the favour of the hosts, the allrounder took the attack to them and made sure they did not recover from the blow.

As they go into the second T20I, the tourists would want to seal the series and make sure they go 2-0 up. With the slightly different boundary shapes in Napier, it would be interesting to see how what kind of bowling attack they field.

Irrespective of how Australia are going to play, if New Zealand do not address the issues, the result of the second T20I might not be any different.

Squads

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

Australia: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes, 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

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