Australia haven’t won at Eden Park since 2010 © Getty
A rampant Australia’s quest to remain unbeaten in the Twenty20 tri-series will be put to test against New Zealand on Friday (February 16) amid a hostile atmosphere at Eden Park.
Australia dominated their home leg with three outstanding victories over England and New Zealand to book a berth in the final. However, the new look team faces a major challenge to continue their winning ways at a venue where they have not tasted victory since 2010.
Australia’s struggles at the ground have been confined to the 50-over format but they will be pitted in the midst of a cauldron with the Eden Park faithful noted as particularly vocal – especially to nemesis Australians. A victory for New Zealand will secure a final’s berth against Australia.
“They’re just a passionate crowd, aren’t they?” Aaron Finch, the veteran Australian batsman, told reporters in Auckland on Thursday. “Once New Zealand get on top in a game, they become such a huge factor. We saw in that World Cup game here, when New Zealand beat us, the crowd was just unbelievable.
“They get stuck into you, which is pretty good banter at times – a lot of non-imaginative stuff as well. It is a great place to play, the crowd feel right on top of you as well,” he added. “To be able to expose guys to that, I think is a huge factor and something that (can give you) a real read on how they cope with pressure.”
Australia’s remarkable turnaround in a format they have long struggled in has been largely due to a slew of in-form players coming out of the Big Bash League (BBL). With Australia’s Test players resting bar stand-in captain David Warner, BBL stars such as Billy Stanlake, Andrew Tye and D’Arcy Short have performed solidly in the tri-series.
With the next World T20 held in Australia for the first time, selectors are already planning for the tournament in a bid to end the powerhouse team’s title drought. With the BBL proving to be a successful breeding ground for national T20 selection, Australia’s brains trust could be thrust into a tricky dilemma over whether to pick in-form players or stick with frontline Test stars who don’t get the opportunity to play in the domestic T20 competition.
Finch said it would be a complicated issue for selectors. “That is hard because you have guys who are playing Test cricket who are some of the best T20 players in the world (but) don’t get an opportunity to play Big Bash,” he said. “So again, it is about assessing everyone’s performances in tournaments they play around the world when they do get an opportunity to play for Australia.
“For example, Mitchell Starc. He hasn’t had a chance to play Big Bash for a long time consistently, just the odd game here or there. I think he would be a walk-up start for any T20 side in the world,” he added. “So there has to be a bit of mixing and matching with that and also a little bit of common sense when you are looking at guys who haven’t played much T20 in recent times.”