In T20Is, while they have been inconsistent, they did manage to win two series at home against India and South Africa before losing 2-1 to Australia away and the recent 3-0 whitewash against England. Funnily, even in the series triumphs, they didn’t go into the final match with the series at stake. India series was wrapped up 2-0 by the time the final match arrived and the South Africa series was won by 3-1 before the last match was washed out.
Tuesday’s (March 30) confidence-boosting last ball win meant that the hosts will be getting onto the field with a rare chance to grab a series win against their Trans-Tasman rivals. While their head-to-head record against the World Champions reads well having won 21 matches and lost 23, after the series triumph in 2017 in Australia, they have won only two matches and lost eight. One of those victories came in the dead rubber in the last series away.
In the recent form and relative strength of the squads, the hard-fought second T20I win seemed to come against the odds. New Zealand were without their talismanic skipper Sophie Devine, who missed the match falling ill on the morning and their premier pacer Lea Tahuhu and experienced Suzie Bates were already ruled out of the series.
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In this context, if New Zealand were to go on to win the series, that last ball french cut from Maddy Green wouldn’t remain just a match-winning shot, but a series-defining one. The hosts would take all the confidence they gained from the first two matches to the final one when they take on Australia for one last time on Thursday (April 1) before they move on to the ODI series.
Despite the loss in the first match, the series has thrown up a fair bit of positives for the home side, unlike the England series. Jess Kerr has been impressive with the ball, and Frances Mackay’s all-round performance has been instrumental in the second match. Amy Satterthwaite looked good in the first match before leading the side admirably in the second one in Devine’s absence. Amelia Kerr may have had a tough time with the ball, but she looked the part with the bat in the second notching up her highest T20I score.
Although Australia wouldn’t lose much sleep over their loss in the second game, they may have some worries to address going into the decider. Swashbuckling Alyssa Healy failed twice, Meg Lanning got starts in both the matches, but couldn’t convert it to big scores and they may have to think about their batting order if they have to add some firepower in the death overs. While there is no question about the credentials of Ellyse Perry, it’s difficult for her to bat at number six and start hitting from the get-go. Young pacers Tayla Vlaeminck and Darcie Brown took turns to open the bowling with the experienced Megan Schutt, even though they were impressed with their speed, their inexperience may have cost a few runs for the side.
It remains to be seen if Perry is going to be given the new ball in the third match having bowled only one over so far in the tour or will they continue with their theory of experimenting and bring in Hannah Darlington for the decider. With Lanning and Australia wanting to manage Vlaeminck and Perry’s comeback, they may have to think about making more use of their spinners in the power play with the ever-impressive Jess Jonassen having a go against New Zealand’s right-handers heavy top-order.
With the illness of Devine and injury to Mackay, it will be interesting to see who will open the batting for New Zealand in the final game. If both are fit, then in all likelihood out of touch Hayley Jensen will have to make way for them. Otherwise, hosts will be forced to persist with Jensen, even as she looked totally clueless against high-quality pace. Despite her heroics down the order, New Zealand might feel they are not making the best use of Green and we could see her batting ahead of the likes of Katey Martin come Thursday.
If the hosts manage to upstage Australia and win the series, while the win itself will be a huge morale booster, in the larger context of the game, it will send a signal to the world that other teams still can compete against the juggernaut that Australia are.
New Zealand: Sophie Devine(c), Maddy Green, Brooke Halliday, Hayley Jensen, Fran Jonas, Amelia Kerr, Jess Kerr, Rosemary Mair, Frankie Mackay, Katey Martin(wk), Thamsyn Newton, Hannah Rowe, Amy Satterthwaite
Australia: Meg Lanning (c), Rachael Haynes, Darcie Brown, Nicola Carey, Hannah Darlington, Ashleigh Gardner, Alyssa Healy, Jess Jonassen, Tahlia McGrath, Sophie Molineux, Beth Mooney, Ellyse Perry, Megan Schutt, Molly Strano, Georgia Wareham, Belinda Vakarewa, Tayla Vlaeminck