T20 World Cup: Spin the real test in New Zealand’s hunt for maiden T20 World Cup title

Arslan SheikhSports Editor

21st Oct, 2021. 01:38 pm
Spin the real test in New Zealand’s hunt for maiden T20 World Cup title

New Zealand have a reputation of being phenomenal performers in the major International Cricket Council (ICC) tournaments.

They have been consistently impressive in 50-over World Cups, having featured in five semi-finals and two finals, including the last two—2015 and 2019 editions.

However, they have failed to show the same consistency in ICC T20 World Cups as they have managed to qualify for only two semi-finals, in 2007 and 2016, in the six events that have taken place so far.

Though the Kiwis have not been able to exhibit their true potential in the shortest format of the game, winning 73 games out of 150 and losing 66, they are still a force to reckon.

Compared to the last T20 World Cup, they look like a more balanced squad, with a more competent bowling line and flamboyant batting.

The addition of players like Devon Conway, Tim Seifert, Lockie Ferguson and Kyle Jamieson have notched up the batting and bowling strength of the Blackcaps.

The Kiwis will face Pakistan, India and Afghanistan at the group stage, who are known for their quality spin bowling.

The wickets in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will likely be slow and spin-friendly. Many believe that New Zealanders are not the best players of spin. Moreover, they will be playing without their experienced campaigner and inarguably one of their best players of spin Ross Taylor.

Having said that, the new lot of the New Zealand batters seem to be quite effective against the spinners.

Star performers like Glenn Phillips, Tim Seifert and Devon Conway maintain a healthy scoring average of 36.25, 41.66 and 57.50 vs spin as compared to their average of 24.08, 21.19 and 59.66, respectively, against pacers.

However, facing spinners anywhere in the world and batting against them in Asian conditions is a totally different ball game.

New Zealand Cricket will be hoping that their players’ Indian Premier League (IPL) experience will come in handy in the upcoming mega-event as well.

On the other hand, the Blackcaps will have the services of two specialist spinners, Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi.

Santer, the left-arm slow bowler, is a clever campaigner. He is not a big turner of the ball but is effective with the change of pace and length. He has hunted 60 batsmen in 52 games with an economy rate of 7.38.

Meanwhile, Sodhi is a more attacking option for the Kiwis. The leg-spinner has 73 wickets against his name in 57 matches with an economy rate of 8.07. The fourth-ranked T20I side is expected to have both of their slow bowlers in the playing XI in the tournament.

Apart from these cricketers, there are a few experienced players for New Zealand who will play a major role irrespective of the playing conditions.

The pick of the players will be their skipper, Kane Williamson, who will be the key for New Zealand’s success, at least when it comes to batting.

Their whole batting line will play around the 31-year-old, who will likely keep one end intact and the rest of the Kiwi batters will attack from the other end. Williamson is the kind of player who attacks in the silkiest and most subtle manner.

Then comes the Tim Southee-Trent Boult duo. It doesn’t matter where they are playing, the right and left-arm combo of the fast-bowlers is experienced and skilful enough to rattle any batting line-up in any sort of playing condition.

Players to watch out for

Lockie Ferguson: He is all about pace. The 30-year-old right-arm quick will be a threat for all the teams in the competition. He is fast, accurate and aggressive. Even on slow tracks like the ones in the UAE, facing these kinds of genuine fast bowlers can get tricky even for the best batters in the world.

Devon Conway: Ever since Conway has made his international debut for the Blackcaps, he has become an integral part of their unit. The 30-year-old left-handed batter has been just phenomenal for his team. He maintains an unreal average of 59.12 with an impressive strike rate of 151 in the 14 T20Is he has featured in. Along with the skipper, he holds the key for the Blackcaps in the batting line.

Kane Williamson: Without a doubt, Williamson is the backbone of the Kiwis, both as a captain and as a batter. Williamson’s calmness and his ability of scoring runs effortlessly makes him special, a threat for any opponent. He is an excellent player of spin, knows how to build his inning and can accelerate the scoring rate when needed. He is one player that every opponent side will look to get rid of early in the inning.

Recent form

New Zealand have been in prime form in 2021 as they have won eight out of 13 T20Is. However, recently, their second-tier side were beaten by Bangladesh in the five-match series by 3-2. They had played on tricky spinning tracks, but the series defeat might have shaken their confidence a bit.

What to expect?

Seeing the Blackcaps’ recent performances, they are rated as one of the favourites to reach the semi-finals. If the wickets are suitable for batting, the Kiwis will most likely make it big in the competition. Nevertheless, if the tracks get tricky, they might fade out and fail against the Asian teams who will make the most out of these conditions.

 

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