The first T20 tri-series between Full Members ought to be a significant moment, a possible sign of how to give greater relevance to the international format outside of World T20s. The fact that the first match during the Australia leg has to be shoehorned in between the semi-final and final of the Big Bash League shows just how unforgiving the schedules have become.
David Warner knows that better than most, as he prepares to lead Australia in four T20s against New Zealand and England, with the possibility of a final in Auckland on February 21 – the day before Australia’s tour game begins in Benoni as part of their four-Test tour of South Africa. While Steven Smith has been given time off, Warner is charged with reinvigorating Australian fortunes in T20, where they currently find themselves ranked No. 7 in the world.
To that end, the selectors have channelled the success of the BBL, plucking out some of the competition’s leading performers: D’Arcy Short is the most eye-catching, alongside IPL millionaire Andrew Tye, raw quick Billy Stanlake, up-and-coming wicketkeeper Alex Carey and uncapped Ben Dwarshuis. With experienced hitters such as Glenn Maxwell, Chris Lynn and Marcus Stoinis to pack the middle order, Australia will hope to settle on the nucleus of a side to build for the future, which includes a World T20 on home soil in two years’ time.
Crossing the ditch for a rare visit (their first in T20 since 2009) is a New Zealand team in supreme form, ranked No. 2 in T20I. Until being beaten twice by Pakistan – to whom they lost their No. 1 ranking – New Zealand had gone through their home summer unbeaten, winning every game bar a washed-out T20 against West Indies. In pursuit of a first win on Australian soil since the 2011 Hobart Test, Kane Williamson and his men won’t mind arriving under cover of the BBL before slipping back across the Tasman for the rest of the tournament.
(last five completed matches, most recent first) Australia WLWLL New Zealand LLWWW
In the spotlight
D’Arcy Short lit up the BBL, his tournament-leading 504 runs at a strike rate of 147.80 helping Hobart Hurricanes into the knockout stages (and, perhaps, inspiring them to reach Sunday’s final in his absence). Paradoxically, his expected international debut is likely to be a more low-key event, but the presence of an indigenous player in Australia’s XI carries important symbolism. And he can hit it, too.
January was a pretty good month for Mitchell Santner. Picked up at the IPL auction for the first time, he overtook his team-mate Ish Sodhi as the No. 1-ranked T20 bowler and also successfully unveiled his carrom ball – the “Santner Claw” – during the ODIs against Pakistan. One of the key faces in New Zealand’s young, dynamic side, his left-arm spin should go well at the SCG.
Aaron Finch has been ruled out of the opening match, due to the hamstring strain he suffered in the ODI series against England; Warner suggested either Short or Lynn will open alongside him. An inexperienced pace attack is likely to be led by Andrew Tye.
Australia (probable): 1 David Warner (capt), 2 D’Arcy Short, 3 Travis Head, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Chris Lynn, 6 Marcus Stoinis, 7 Alex Carey (wk), 8 Ashton Agar, 9 Andrew Tye, 10 Kane Richardson, 11 Adam Zampa/Billy Stanlake
New Zealand will hope to have Colin Munro fit, after a hamstring tweak kept him out of their defeat in the third T20 against Pakistan. Sydney’s friendliness to spin could see Anaru Kitchen included ahead of Seth Rance to back up Santner and Ish Sodhi.
New Zealand (possible): 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Colin Munro, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Ross Taylor, 5 Colin de Grandhomme, 6 Anaru Kitchen, 7 Tom Blundell (wk), 8 Mitchell Santner, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Trent Boult, 11 Ish Sodhi
Pitch and conditions
The surface for the ODI last month was slightly two-paced, although that didn’t stop England from scoring 300 thanks to Jos Buttler’s late assault. The last T20 international played at the SCG was also run-filled, as India chased down 198 off the last ball. There is a forecast for rain on Saturday but it could well pass through before the evening start time.
Stats and trivia
New Zealand have only beaten Australia once in six T20 encounters – although that was in their last meeting, during the 2016 World T20.
Australia’s pace-bowling options of Tye, Kane Richardons, Billy Stanlake and Ben Dwarshuis have 11 T20 caps between them.
Colin Munro is three runs short of becoming the fifth New Zealander to 1000 in T20s; last month, he became the only man to score three T20 international hundreds.
“We’ve probably said it for the last 12-24 months about improving our overall assessment of how we play this format, sometimes we either fall in a heap with our batting or we don’t start well with the ball.”
David Warner admits Australia have not been up to standard in T20 recently
“We can’t take anyone lightly because anyone can have their day and rip through a batting line-up.”
Martin Guptill says New Zealand will treat an inexperienced Australia attack with respect