The tri-series began with something of a whimper, though Australia certainly roared to victory in between the Sydney showers. A team packed with Big Bash talent pinned New Zealand to the ropes, keeping them to just 117 for 9 from their 20 overs, before Chris Lynn and Glenn Maxwell applied the finishing blows with the bat.
Standout among a clutch of impressive performances was that of the skyscraping Billy Stanlake, whose speeds pushed above 90mph during an opening three-wicket burst that effectively scuppered New Zealand’s chances of a more competitive total. Australia’s T20 form has been indifferent – arguably since their World T20 final appearance in 2010 – but with Stanlake, AJ Tye and Ashton Agar impressing alongside contributions from the more experienced Lynn and Maxwell, this was an exciting glimpse into a possible future.
David Warner, the stand-in captain, does remain in a rut with the bat against the white ball, but he marshalled Australia well in the field, bringing his IPL experience to bear and energetically celebrating his team’s success. A chance to exact some revenge after their drubbing by England in the ODI series should add to Australia’s motivation.
For England, this extended spell of T20 is an opportunity to rediscover some focus, two years after they came within the width of Carlos Brathwaite’s bat of lifting the trophy in Kolkata. Their record reads P9 W4 L5 since then, as they have taken the opportunity to experiment with the line-up and blood new players. To an extent, without Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, that will again be the case – but the tri-series provides a window to further embed England’s aggressive white-ball approach, with Sam Curran (brother of Tom) the newest potential inductee.
(last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
David Warner spoke passionately about turning around Australia’s T20 fortunes before the start of the series and his captaincy was central to orchestrating their impressive victory at the SCG. His limited-overs form continues to be a concern, however, with a tentative 6 off 11 balls following five ODI innings against England in which he tallied 73 runs. It is almost two years since Warner made so much as 30 in a T20I (although he has only batted nine times in that period) and a reminder of his abilities in this format seems long overdue.
His ODI role has become more one of providing squad support but David Willey remains a key asset for England in T20. His ability to swing the new ball for a couple of overs while the opposition are looking to go hard and then return to deliver his variations later in the innings gives his bowling a sharper focus, while the knock of 79 off 36 at opener that saw him hit Nathan Lyon for 6-6-6-6-6-4 in the warm-up match in Canberra suggested England could do worse than throw him up the order as a pinch-slogger.
Australia got off to a flying start against New Zealand on Saturday and there may be a temptation to stick with the same XI. Travis Head, fresh from leading Adelaide Strikers to the BBL title, is an option to bolster the batting.
Australia (possible): 1 David Warner (capt), 2 D’Arcy Short, 3 Chris Lynn, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Alex Carey (wk), 7 Ashton Agar, 8 Andrew Tye, 9 Kane Richardson, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Billy Stanlake
Alex Hales, Jason Roy and Chris Jordan are all expected to be fit after injury but Liam Plunkett is still working his way back from a hamstring strain suffered during the ODIs. England’s main dilemma is how to best deploy their resources: Sam Billings would strengthen the batting (and fielding), Tom Curran the bowling, while the uncapped Sam Curran offers a bit of both.
England (possible): 1 Jason Roy, 2 Alex Hales, 3 Dawid Malan, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Jos Buttler (wk), 6 Sam Billings/Tom Curran/Sam Curran, 7 Liam Dawson, 8 David Willey, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Chris Jordan, 11 Mark Wood
Pitch and conditions
Hobart traditionally offers something for seam bowlers, though a T20 track is likely to be much flatter; Morgan said the pitch “looked completely different” on Tuesday to Monday and would likely change again come the start of the match, with a warm forecast for the day. The long straight boundaries may also encourage spin bowling.
Stats and trivia
Morgan is set to captain England for the 28th time in T20s, taking him past Stuart Broad into second behind Paul Collingwood (30).
Chris Lynn’s 44 against New Zealand was his best score in six international innings for Australia.
Australia beat England by 13 runs in their most recent T20I at Bellerive Oval, in 2014, a match in which Lynn made his debut.
England have only won one of their six T20s in Australia, at Adelaide Oval in 2011.
“I’m still trying to adjust to international cricket but I definitely have confidence in what I’ve done out here throughout the last couple of weeks.”
Hobart Hurricane D’Arcy Short is looking forward to appearing on his home ground after a stellar BBL
“In a tournament basis you have the carrot of a final at the end, so I’m all for them. If we could play more, we would but I don’t think it’s viable with travel schedules around the world.”
Eoin Morgan is cautious about whether T20 tri-series will take off elsewhere