England head coach Brendon McCullum must have been doubly satisfied after a near-perfect performance from his native New Zealand launched the Super 12 stage of the T20 World Cup and culminated in the defeat of host Australia by the awkward margin of 89 points.
McCullum had some unfinished business against Australia as a player. In the 2015 50 over World Cup final between Australia and New Zealand in Melbourne, his raw aggression in Mitchell Starc’s opening ended with a three-ball duck, and his chance for a medal for the World Cup. World went with it.
Finn Allen went to the other extreme giving New Zealand – and the serious leg of this World Cup – an unprecedented start: he hit Starc for 14, the most points Australia has ever conceded in the opening of an international T20. Allen predicted that Starc would throw a full length to swing the ball – and Starc swung it, but the 23-year-old right-hand continued to swing it backwards over his head.
Allen, in his astonishing assault, scored 42 points with just 16 balls, after New Zealand were sent out on a surprisingly dry field after the recent rains. Coming out often, Allen was primarily responsible for hitting Josh Hazlewood for 15 from second and Pat Cummins for 17 from third, earning his next IPL contract.
Australia’s top three bowlers were hit by 46 from the top three overs, mostly for over-pitch, instead of realizing that one-length backstroke cutters were the best option. McCullum would take his mental notes, and a message could soon follow to new English Test opening hitter Ben Duckett – who replaced Alex Lees for the series in Pakistan in December: Aussie quicks are shocked when loaded.
“We wanted to throw the first punch and not let them settle down anytime soon,” Allen said. “It was just engaging in this and being a little fearless.” This could serve as McCullum’s message for the Ashes next summer.
Allen’s keynote speech led New Zealand to reach 200 out of three, the second highest total allowed by Australia in T20 internationals, and some wasted brains. Hosts captain Aaron Finch radiates more and more, not typical Australian belligerence, but insecurity; their fielding faltered, with Adam Zampa missing a short-leg direct grip; and New Zealand exploited this indecision by running between wickets, allowing only 28 out of 120 pellets.
In the midst of this Allen-induced chaos, Devon Conway treated every ball shoddy in its merits and beat the New Zealand inning to an unbeaten 92 out of 58, making up for injury from the last T20 World Cup. Conway created partnerships with each hitter in turn, which belied the field’s tight-holding nature and culminated with Jimmy Neesham hitting the last ball – again, not a cutter – for six to bring in 200. .
Allen’s father emigrated to New Zealand from England and his son grew up observing both countries and especially Kevin Pietersen. Allen says he tried to copy Pietersen’s intent, but he also represented Yorkshire in white ball cricket and there were echoes of Jonny Bairstow in his powerful shots.
Australia, in desperation, quickly tried the big shots and lost big wickets to big catches, nothing more than Glenn Phillips’ flying leap. While New Zealand scored 65 for one in the six-over powerplay, Australia dropped to 37 for three when visiting seamers threw their cutters share and Mitchell Santner teased with his left arm rotation. .
The eleven Australians were the same as in the last T20 World Cup final, which they won, with the exception of Steve Smith who was replaced by Tim David. You may need to freshen up – starting with all-rounder Cam Green – if the hosts and starters are to qualify for the semi-finals.