Dharamsala: An upbeat Australia will look to maintain their winning momentum and extend their dominant record against New Zealand in the World Cup, when the Trans-Tasman rivals face each other in a block-buster clash here on Saturday.
Australia bounced back from a poor start — defeats against hosts India and South Africa — with three wins on the trot, including a record 309-run thumping of the Netherlands in their last outing to sound warning bells to their opponents.
Entering a crucial phase in the tournament, the five-time champions are currently placed at fourth position, one spot behind New Zealand after five games each. And the Pat Cummins-led side would look to carry forward the momentum and strengthen their position in the top four.
Even though New Zealand have been one of the top teams in the competition, their ordinary bilateral ODI and World Cup against Australia makes Cummins and Co the favourites. With eight wins and three losses in 11 matches in World Cups so far and overall 95 wins and 39 losses in 141 ODIs, Australia have historically been the better team in the Trans-Tasman rivalry.
The fact that New Zealand’s last ODI win over Australia came six years ago in 2017 would also have a great bearing on the contest here, to be played at the picturesque HPCA Stadium.
For Australia, apart from brushing aside the Dutch mercilessly, the biggest takeaway was that they produced a collective effort without an blips.
Australia’s 399 for 8 against the Netherlands is now the third-highest total in this World Cup for any side, but they could have had another record had the batters not squandered a perfect platform against Pakistan.
Australia were cruising at 259 for no loss in the 34th over against Pakistan but added only 108 runs in the remaining 16 overs for the loss of nine wickets.
David Warner’s (332 runs) two consecutive tons have taken him into top three among run-getters in this World Cup, but Australia would look for more consistency from middle order stars like Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne, whose brisk fifties against the Dutch have raised hopes of a complete revival.
Glenn Maxwell’s fastest century in the tournament’s history will do a world of good to the all-rounder who is coming back from a long lay-off. However, there will be some concerns over the form of Cameron Green, who is yet to fire.
Mitchell Starc (7 wickets) has been a little wayward with his lines in the last two games, while Josh Hazlewood (6 wickets) too will look to tidy up things and so would captain Cummins (6 wickets).
Adam Zampa has been Australia’s go-to man in the bowling department. His four-wicket haul against the Netherlands will give a massive boost to the leg-spinner’s confidence.
Travis Head is back from an injury lay-off and after missing the contest against the Netherlands, the swashbuckling opener would be expected to return to the playing eleven. However, it remains to be seen how Australia manage juggling between players while ensuring the right balance.
On the other hand, New Zealand’s winning run ended when India handed them a four-wicket defeat here on last Sunday, but the Kiwis will still be confident about their style of play as they have better understanding of the conditions having spent a considerable time here.
Adapting to the varied Indian conditions has been spoken about extensively in this World Cup and New Zealand and South Africa, of course apart from India, are perhaps the only two teams who have not only managed to do that but also have learned to get their best out on the park in terms of team combinations.
New Zealand will hope for better returns from Devon Conway (249 runs), who has gone quiet since his 152 not out against England in the tournament opener.
With Kane Williamson still recovering from a fractured thumb, Daryl Mitchell (268 runs) and Rachin Ravindra (290 runs) will have to share the responsibility in the middle-order.
In Williamson absence, wicket-keeper Tom Latham will continue to lead the side but he too would be concerned about his form.
It will be a match-up of its own when the tournament’s two leading wicket-takers Zampa (13) and Mitchell Santner (12) face off on Saturday, on what is expected to be a batting-friendly surface in the fourth morning start game of this World Cup. Pacers Matt Henry (10 wickets) and Lockie Ferguson (8 wickets) so far have been impressive but veteran Trent Boult (6) will have to raise his game.
Australia: Pat Cummins (c), Steve Smith, Alex Carey, Josh Inglis, Sean Abbott, Ashton Agar, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Mitch Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, David Warner, Adam Zampa, Mitchell Starc.
New Zealand: Kane Williamson (c), Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway (wk), Lockie Ferguson, Matt Henry, Tom Latham (vc & wk), Daryl Mitchell, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips (wk), Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee and Will Young.
(Published 27 October 2023, 10:11 IST)