T20 World Cup – New Zealand fall at final hurdle again as Australia upset odds in Dubai
Aaron Finch revelled in the “awesome” feeling of leading Australia to their first men’s T20 World Cup crown but confessed the outcome of the coin toss was a major factor throughout their campaign.
Finch called correctly for the sixth time in seven matches ahead of the final against New Zealand and, with teams batting second under lights winning every tournament game in Dubai, there was little doubting what he would do.
New Zealand amassed 172-4, largely thanks to Kane Williamson’s 85 off 48 balls, but twin fifties from David Warner and Mitchell Marsh helped Australia win by a thumping eight-wicket margin and with seven balls to spare.
While the commanding nature of their victory means the toss might have been irrelevant, Finch admitted it has had an impact throughout the last few weeks as sides fielding first have had the more favourable batting conditions.
“It did play a big factor, to be honest,” said Finch, whose side’s only defeat came after they lost the toss against England. “I don’t know how I did it, maybe it was just fate.
“I tried to play it down as much as I could because I thought at some point I’m going to lose a toss and we’ll have to bat first. But it did play a big part. The dew factor, the slower balls weren’t holding in the wicket as much.
“In T20 cricket, you need a bit of luck, don’t get me wrong. We won six out of seven tosses, which goes a long way. But we’ve played some really good cricket, putting teams on the back foot because we were aggressive.
“There’s been so much talk about this being the one that’s been elusive to us. This team’s pretty special. The camaraderie, the way everyone really cares and looks after each other is pretty special. It’s awesome.”
New Zealand, beaten finalists in the 2015 and 2019 50-over World Cups, were at a disadvantage from the off after being put in.
If they were unfazed by losing the toss then it was not apparent as they crawled to their tournament-low 32-1 off the powerplay on a sluggish pitch, with Daryl Mitchell prodding and under-edging Josh Hazelwood’s leg-cutter through to Matthew Wade diving forward.
The first 28 balls in Williamson’s union with Martin Guptill were boundary-free and even though the New Zealand captain shook off the inertia by driving then pulling Marsh for successive fours there was still the sense the Black Caps needed something special in the second half of their innings after reaching 57-1 at halfway.
Williamson provided it but only after he was shelled in the deep by Hazlewood off Mitchell Starc, an error compounded by the ball dribbling for four. It was a costly drop in a profitable match-up for New Zealand as Williamson took 39 from the 12 deliveries he faced from Starc.
Back-to-back leg-side sixes came off Glenn Maxwell as Williamson reached a 32-ball fifty but he was particularly disdainful towards Starc, plundering 22 in an over courtesy of two streaky edges then two authoritative strokes, either side of a sweetly-timed pull over midwicket for six.
Guptill holed out for a subdued 28 to the impressive Adam Zampa, as did Glenn Phillips for 18 following a knuckle ball from Hazlewood, who had the dangerman later in his last over when Williamson shovelled to long-on from another slower delivery.
Williamson’s efforts in a showpiece few expected – with New Zealand overcoming world No 1 England in Wednesday’s semi-final and Australia defeating tournament favourites Pakistan 24 hours later – made sure there was at least some pressure on Finch’s side.
Finch, who has bristled at Australia being “written off” recently, succumbed for five when a top-edge off Trent Boult led to a fantastic sliding catch from Mitchell, but Marsh ignited Australia’s charge by heaving his first ball for six off Adam Milne then immediately taking the fast bowler for back-to-back fours.
Warner took time to settle but he upped the tempo as he clubbed leg-spinner Ish Sodhi out of the attack with two fours and a towering straight six, while the opener went to a 34-ball half-century by taking Jimmy Neesham the distance in his only over.
Boult had his second wicket when Warner had his stumps lit up after missing a slog sweep, ending a 92-run stand with Marsh, who was undeterred as he brought up a 31-ball half-century with a straight six as Sodhi was brought back, conceding three wides in a nine-ball over to help Australia’s cause.
From there Marsh was largely content to defer the big-hitting to Maxwell (28 not out from 18 balls), whose reverse sweep took the bottom edge before running away for four to see Australia to victory.
New Zealand captain Williamson, who diligently conducted his media duties amid raucous celebrations from their conquerors in the next room, was left to reflect on another white-ball final defeat for his side.
They won the World Test Championship earlier this year but were beaten at the last at the 2015 and 2019 50-over World Cups, but Williamson was as magnanimous as ever afterwards.
“It was a little bit frustrating,” he said. “But the Aussies were outstanding in their chase and very, very clinical. They have had a fantastic campaign, they are a brilliant side and they thoroughly deserved it.
“You sign up to play the game, and you win and you lose, these are things that can happen on any day. It wasn’t quite good enough. That’s just the way it goes.”