Australia’s stand-in T20 captain David Warner is going to rely on enterprising leadership as an answer to Eden Park’s short boundaries for the tri-series final against New Zealand on Wednesday. Warner, who is filling in for Steven Smith, is eyeing a series win that will thrust Australia from No. 2 to No. 1 in a format they have historically struggled in. After stunning New Zealand with a world-record T20 chase in their last match also played at the same venue, Warner called for the need to be able to think on the fly.
“It’s probably one of those grounds where you should be able to have five [fielders] out straight away, as it doesn’t really matter,” he said. “It’s a challenge. As a captain or as a bowler, we talk about setting fields, and I think you have to have obscure fields. You might have a deep fly slip instead of a third man. They’re bizarre little catching spots, where you might get a catch.
“In Australia, you set fields for certain players where they’re going to hit. Here, [in] those fields, generally they can hit it for six. Where’s a mistimed pull shot going to go? Over the top for six? You might have one just behind the keeper. You might have, for the spinners, everyone on the straight boundary and no one there (square of the wicket), and make them try to hit a reverse sweep and maybe get a wicket. You’ve just got to think on your feet when you’re out there. You’ve just got to find a way to get one or two wickets in the first six [overs]; it’s as simple as that.”
Australia have fared well under Warner’s leadership. They were the first team to book their spot in the final. However, Warner preferred to leave the full-time captaincy question with Smith. “At the end of the day, it’s up to Steve. If he thinks his workloads are too high and he doesn’t feel like he can do that, I’m sure he’ll put his hand up and step aside. We spoke about one of us in the leadership group staying back and leading the [T20] team, and obviously, I put my hand up for that.
“It’s been fantastic. A few of us were mentally cooked after the Test series, and it’s just great for those guys to go over to South Africa and inject a lot of younger guys and guys who are in form [into the T20 side].”
The final is set to be played on a slightly worn surface – the same one that was used for Friday’s slugfest. Providing the weather holds up – Auckland experienced heavy showers on match eve due to Cyclone Gita – that could pave the way for the re-entry of Adam Zampa, with Warner open to the option of playing two spinners. Since playing the tri-series opener, Zampa has been overlooked in favour of the left-arm spinner Ashton Agar.
“The other day, it looked a little bit drier than game day,” Warner said. “There’s obviously a bit of weather around. We’ll probably get a look at it tonight, hopefully, if the weather holds off.”
With New Zealand coach Mike Hesson having said on Monday that left-arm spinner Mitchell Santner was expected to recover from a minor knee injury, captain Kane Williamson, too, didn’t rule out the possibility of a spinner-centric attack. “Hopefully, it starts to take a little bit more turn and offers a little more assistance to the bowlers to create that balance between bat and ball,” he said. “If that’s the case, spin will come into it a little bit more as an attacking option.”
Friday’s run fest raised eyebrows at Eden Park’s notoriously short boundaries. And an overall high-scoring second half of the tri-series led to England coach Trevor Bayliss calling for T20s to be scrapped altogether at the international level after England failed to make the final. However, Williamson leaned more towards his coach, Hesson, who had spoken highly of Eden Park, which he called a “great cricket venue”.
“We’ve had some of the most fantastic games of cricket there,” Williamson said. “This last game’s been the first time really that we’ve seen it exposed as a really small ground, because a lot of the scores have been on the lower side.
“For one reason or another, we’ve seen so many really close games, which has created some of the best atmospheres that I’ve been involved in in any cricket game in the world. It’s provided some amazing moments for New Zealand cricket and the teams that we’ve been involved in, and when you throw that into the mix, it does make it enjoyable.”