Travis Head has turned his loud, clear message to Test selectors into a maiden first-class double century, while Cameron Bancroft sent a reminder of his own as the runs flowed freely at the WACA.
New Zealand and Australia lock horns at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch tonight for the first of five T20 internationals.
Neither side is at full strength for this series, and both will be hoping their bench strength can pull them through.
The Black Caps have left Ross Taylor out of the squad once again, which could spell curtains for his international T20 career. They’ve also surprisingly left out Colin Munro despite his successful BBL stint.
With speedster Lockie Ferguson out with injury, the New Zealand selectors had the option of choosing either Scott Kuggeleijn or Adam Milne as the out-and-out quick in their bowling stocks, but instead medium pacer Hamish Bennett’s got the nod.
While it’s understandable Kuggeleijn has been dropped due to his subpar T20 record, it certainly raised my eyebrows when Bennett was preferred over Milne. Bennett has an economy of nearly 11 in T20 internationals, while Milne’s T20 numbers are far superior to Bennett.
In New Zealand, Milne averages less than 18 with the ball at an economy of 7.98 in T20 internationals. Granted, he didn’t have a great BBL, but this was the first time Milne played any form of cricket since the 2019 Natwest T20 Blast due to injury. He would’ve complemented Trent Boult and Tim Southee well in this T20 side.
Despite some questionable selections, the Black Caps have an exciting top order comprising veterans Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson alongside Tim Seifert and Devon Conway. Conway has impressed in his short international T20 career and scored 93 not out as Wellington chased down 176 in this year’s Super Smash final.
A man who should’ve already represented New Zealand in all formats by now, Conway will be hoping to nail his T20 spot against a quality opposition in Australia.
Although Christchurch doesn’t spin much, New Zealand will be relying on spin duo Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi to take wickets in the middle overs. Both have had good international T20 careers to date and will look to exploit Australia’s middle order and their vulnerability to spin. If Kyle Jamieson is preferred over Bennett as the Black Caps third seamer, it’ll be a big test for him after all the hype following the IPL auction and the amount of money he’ll bag in a few months.
For Australia, Aaron Finch will be hoping his horror IPL and BBL form doesn’t affect his international T20 form. Who partners him to open will also be interesting. Will it be Matthew Wade or Josh Philippe? Wade, being a left-hander, could possibly give him the edge.
Australia’s past middle-order woes will bring the question of who bats at Nos. 5 and 6 in a three-man battle between Mitch Marsh, Marcus Stoinis and Ashton Turner.
The first T20 international could also possibly see the return of Ashton Agar following a few months away from cricket due to injury. Considering Agar didn’t play in BBL10, there would be eyes on how he might return back into the international fold. The rest of the bowling attack is self-explanatory, with Jhye Richardson, Jason Behrendorff, AJ Tye and Adam Zampa set to round out the bowling attack.
There’s been only one international T20 match at Hagley Oval to date, so it’s hard to get a grip on what’s a par or defendable score. With the match being played as a day-nighter, chasing is possibly the better option. Ultimately, which team bowls better on what should be a flat deck throughout the 40 overs should win.
Tim Seifert (wicketkeeper), Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson (captain), Devon Conway, Glenn Phillips, James Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Trent Boult and Ish Sodhi.
Aaron Finch (captain), Matthew Wade, Josh Phillipe (wicketkeeper), Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Marsh, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Agar, Jhye Richardson, Adam Zampa, Jason Behrendorff and AJ Tye.