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World Cup on the line as aggression and calmness lock horns

Photo: ESPNcricinfo Photo: ESPNcricinfo

The stage is set for the Trans-Tasman counterparts to battle it out for the crown of the shortest format of the game. 

The Grand Finale of the seventh edition of the ICC T20 World Cup is scheduled to take place in Dubai tonight at 8.00 pm Bangladesh time. 

This is the second time that the Aussies are featuring in a T20 World Cup Final – the first one being way back in 2010 where they came short against England. 

However, this is the first-ever appearance for the Kiwis in a T20 WC Final. As the situation stands, the fans are going to get a new champion coming from the Southern Hemisphere regardless of the winner of tonight’s fixture. 

New Zealand captain Kane Williamson recognises this rivalry of these two neighbouring nations and terms this as a great occasion. 

"I suppose the fact that we're neighbours creates a bit of that [rivalry]. And [in] a number of different sports as well. We play each other on a number of occasions. It's always a great competition and great occasion when we play each other," Williamson was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.

This is the first appearance for Australia in any ICC event across formats since 2015. The Aussies will surely not want to let the opportunity go in vain. 

On the other hand, this is New Zealand’s third straight appearance in ICC events across formats since 2019. 

Although they fell short by the barest of margins against England in the ODI World Cup 2019, they managed to clinch victory against India in the World Test Championship Final in 2021. They now look to get down to the middle to make it two out of two in ICC Finals this year. 

Both the teams came into the semi-finals with similar momentum – winning four games and losing against their respective group champions. 

In fact, both of them achieved similar feats in the semi-finals as well –snatching victory from the jaws of defeat in the last four over devastations against the oppositions that were considered to be the teams to beat in this World Cup. 

Chasing formidable targets against top quality bowling units in such fashions without much contribution from the big names with the bat shows the strength of both teams. 

Those strong bunch of players now need to showcase their mental strength and application for one last time to win the glory for their side. 

Considering the results of the group stage, many argue that Australia vs New Zealand is an ‘unexpected’ final – although Australian skipper Aaron Finch was quick to smack such ideas out of the park. 

"It's not unexpected: we came here with a clear plan to try and win this tournament and always felt as though we had the depth and quality in our squad to put ourselves in a position to do that, and New Zealand have been in every final for a long time now in ICC events. They're a great team overall three formats and can never be underestimated, but maybe people on the outside do," he was quoted by ESPNcricinfo. 

Australia are expected to field the same XI tonight. Once again, getting rid of the four-over quota of the fifth bowler without much damage is going to be a challenge for them. 

During the semi-final against Pakistan, the responsibility was shouldered by Maxwell and Marsh as they snuck through those four overs at the expense of only 31 runs by the end of the eleventh over of the innings. 

Australia will hope to get similar support from those two, along with Stoinis if needed, tonight as well. 

New Zealand, however, are forced to make a change as Devon Conway injured himself in the most bizarre fashion one can ever think of – getting a fracture while punching his own bat in disappointment at his dismissal. 

The other wicket-keeper batter in the squad, Tim Seifert is expected to be the replacement.  

The toss is going to be a very crucial factor. New Zealand faced four test playing nations in this tournament so far – of which, they batted second on three occasions and won all three while batted first only once which they lost. 

Similarly, Australia faced six such nations so far – of which, they won every time they chased while lost the only game where they were asked to defend. 

On top of that, the stats of Dubai are too much in favour of the teams chasing. In 12 games played in this venue thus far in this tournament, the teams batting second have won 11 matches. 

These two teams have met each other 14 times in T20 format till now – where Australia claim a massive lead by nine games to five. 

However, the recent numbers are in favour of the Kiwis as they won three of their last five encounters. 

In T20 World Cups, the Blackcaps had the last laugh in the only encounter these two teams had. 

However, an important point to be noted is that the Kiwis have never beaten Australia in any knockout match out of four such meetings at ICC events.  

Tonight’s fixture is going to be a rematch of the Finale of the ODI World Cup 2015 – where Michael Clarke’s team shattered the hearts of Brendon McCullum’s men. Now, all eyes are on Dubai to see whether Aaron Finch can replicate similar results or Kane Williamson can secure revenge. 

The writer is currently studying at the Institute of Business Administration, University of Dhaka (IBA-DU)

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