Chasing in T20 cricket, particularly in night games, is considered to be an advantage. The teams have acknowledged it, and more often than not they decide to field first in modern-day T20 cricket. The fact that England haven’t opted to bat first after winning the toss in the last five years gives us a good idea about it.
Chasing has been a big advantage in this T20 World Cup. In 19 matches that didn’t involve either Scotland or Namibia since the group stage in the Super 12 round, just four have been won by the defending side. Toss-result bias has been huge in Dubai, the final venue, as well — 11 out of 12 matches have been by the chasing side in this T20 World Cup, the exception being New Zealand’s 16-run victory against Scotland in a day game.
Even in the second phase of the IPL 2021, Dubai favoured the chasing sides – 9 wins in 13 matches.
Batting first: a big challenge
Toss could obviously be a match-defining factor in the big final as well. Batting first in a pressure T20 game isn’t an easy task because of several reasons. Dew isn’t a massive factor just at the start of the match, so the pacers operate with good control with the new ball in the powerplay and there would be a sense of powerplay threat, especially given the pace attacks of both sides.
The batters try to put on an above-par score while facing these mini threats and assessing the par score and conditions at the same time. Add all these challenges with the pressure of a big game, it’s not easy at all. We have already witnessed sides panicking in the competition as they end up trying a bit too hard, aiming a huge score.
Since the start of the Super 12 round, the batters have averaged 21.24 with a strike rate of 115.54 in this World Cup. These numbers improve significantly for the second innings, over a sample size of 32 games — average: 26.47 and strike rate: 121.73.
NZ v AUS: Let’s talk about Australia and New Zealand
Australia’s success has been built on the foundation of chasing in this tournament so far. The only match they’ve lost (vs England) was the only time they batted first; all of their five victories saw them chasing. They have, of course, played well but the chasing advantage can’t be ignored.
Toss and runs from David Warner would be, again, very crucial for the Aussies. If Australia chase, the Kiwi spin-duo would bowl with the comparatively wetter ball. And, Warner staying long will make the Blackcaps panic.
Regardless of the innings, how Aaron Finch fares against the Boult-Southee duo remains to be seen. Australia would expect better performances from Finch and Smith in an important game. Smith is having a terrible World Cup and he will try (not very hard!) to repay the faith in the moments that matter the most.
Australia would also want Glenn Maxwell to be at his best, which hasn’t been the case so far. Maxwell came in this World Cup after having a terrific IPL season with RCB. Maxwell hit spinners very well in the IPL, and Australia would hope something similar against the Kiwi spinners today. Australia can promote Matthew Wade to maintain the LHB-RHB combination and counter the Santner-Sodhi duo.
As the above chart shows, Kane Williamson is also having a poor time in this World Cup. The Kiwi skipper wasn’t great in the IPL 2021 either as he could manage a strike rate of just 113.19. Kane’s strong gameplay against pace could be useful against the Australian pace trio. However, his biggest challenge would be Adam Zampa, who is bowling quite well and having an excellent tournament.
Williamson v Zampa
Strike rate- 97.36
Adam Zampa has been outstanding in the middle overs in this #T20WorldCup
— Stat Doctor🩺 (@stat_doctor) November 14, 2021
New Zealand’s batting isn’t very strong, and now, the absence of Devon Conway will hurt them further. Conway wasn’t striking at a very high scoring rate, and he isn’t a proper spin-hitter either, but New Zealand would have still liked to continue with him. Now, Tim Seifert is likely to replace him.
So, New Zealand are unlikely to have any southpaw in their top-five. This would help not only Zampa but also the Australian pacers.
If the Australian pacers get it right, they can cause plenty of damage in the powerplay itself.
Thus, the Blackcaps have a tough task ahead of them, particularly if they bat first. Australia won’t have it easy either, but on paper, they do seem the better side to pass the ‘batting first’ challenge.