AUS vs NZ: Australia ready to click

An underdone Australia gelled superbly during last year’s triumph in the United Arab Emirates and 14 of that 15-man squad will bid for back-to-back titles on home pitches over the next few weeks.
Australia captain Aaron Finch
Australia captain Aaron Finch

SYDNEY: Defending champion Australia has had a patchy build-up to its T20 World Cup defence but a few would dare underestimate Aaron Finch’s men when they flick the switch to tournament mode.

An underdone Australia gelled superbly during last year’s triumph in the United Arab Emirates and 14 of that 15-man squad will bid for back-to-back titles on home pitches over the next few weeks.

Since blanking twice champion West Indies at the start of the month, Australia has lost two warm-up matches to England and India.

Finch made a welcome return to form with a half-century against India, though, and Australia had another burden lifted on Tuesday when Pat Cummins was confirmed as captain of the one-day side, an issue that threatened to become a distraction through the tournament.

Despite mild concerns over the fitness of Mitchell Marsh and the form of Glenn Maxwell, Australia bring a balanced line-up with no discernible weak links. Tim David, the sole new face in the squad, adds a different dimension to a powerful batting line-up and tactical flexibility as a hard-hitting finisher in the lower middle order.

Selectors’ faith in the fast bowling trio of Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood was rewarded at the UAE, and they will be reluctant to break them up in Australia.

Spinner Adam Zampa, joint second-highest wicket-taker in last year’s showpiece with 13 victims, will be backed to deliver again.

Kiwis looks to go one better

New Zealand looked destined to fly into every tournament a little under the radar but having reached the T20 World Cup final last year, a golden generation of Black Caps can only improve by lifting the title in Melbourne.

Coach Gary Stead has a largely settled squad with a strong, if not super-powerful, batting line-up highlighted by captain Kane Williamson, and an experienced bowling unit that can destroy any side on its day.

The Blacks Caps will have a chance to make an early statement when its takes on host and reigning champion Australia in the opening Super 12 match at Sydney Cricket Ground here on Saturday.

It will be without Daryl Mitchell, who misses New Zealand’s opener with a fractured finger but should be available later in the tournament. The team is otherwise in reasonable shape in terms of form and fitness.

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