Qantas Tour of NZ 2018

Force of nature threatens title charge

Australia can reach the world No.1 ranking with victory in the T20 tri-series final but they'll need to do more than beat their opposition

Louis Cameron, in Auckland

17 February 2018, 04:04 PM

Australia's elusive hunt for the International Cricket Council's No.1 T20 ranking could be nixed by a tropical storm that's ravaged the South Pacific and headed for New Zealand.

Cyclone Gita, which lashed low-lying islands in Tonga and Fiji earlier this week, is on track to make landfall in New Zealand early next week with the final of the trans-Tasman T20I tri-series to be held in Auckland on Wednesday evening.

New Zealand's Met Service says the weather pattern, which was on Saturday still a severe category three tropical storm but was expected to be downgraded to a category two, will bring harsh gales and heavy rain to the central and northern parts of the country on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Undefeated through four games in their T20 campaign, Australia have clinched the No.2 T20I ranking and will rise above top-placed Pakistan by a fraction of a point if they win the final.

An abandoned match would leave the Aussies, ranked third in Tests and third in one-day internationals, second on the T20 charts.

Australia break world record to run down NZ

It's a remarkable turnaround in their fortunes in the shortest format, as well as a reflection of the volatility of the ICC's T20I rankings, that David Warner’s outfit could seal Australia’s place at the summit having been a lowly seventh on the ICC rankings just a fortnight ago.

Australia could face the Black Caps again in the tri-series decider although winless England remain an outside chance of qualifying if they convincingly win their final group game against the Kiwis in Hamilton on Sunday.

Eden Park's only meteorological concern on Friday evening was a heavy downpour of sixes as Australia reeled in the highest run-chase in T20 history against New Zealand.

A staggering 32 sixes were struck in total, the equal highest mark in T20Is, as the tourists collectively outdid Martin Guptill (105 off 54) and Colin Munro (76 off 33) to chase down New Zealand's 6-243, the highest score Australia had ever conceded in the format.

Watch all 32 sixes from epic clash at Eden Park

Quick Kane Richardson, who conceded 40 off his four overs and was among the game's more economical bowlers, believes it's the batters rather than the bowlers who will be under the pump to deliver in the final.

"All the expectation's going to be on the batsmen to replicate that and that's going to be quite hard," said Richardson.

"I don't know what the wash-up will be in the bowler's meeting and what we can do better.

"Guptill and Munro played two unbelievable innings (but) they were 67 after the Power Play and we were 91, so we won that Power Play by 20-odd runs. Us bowlers were pretty chuffed with that – we got around each other and said 'well done'.

Warner, Short give Aussies flying start

"The expectation will be that it will be the same but hopefully the expectation will be too much (for batters)."

Eden Park's miniscule dimensions – coach Darren Lehmann briefed Australia's squad that its short boundaries were the same length as the MCG's and the square boundaries akin to Adelaide Oval's – present T20 bowlers with an unforgiving task.

The rugby ground’s "corners", Richardson suggested optimistically, do give bowlers "a little bit of room to work with".

Guptill, Munro flay Aussies in massive opening stand

And although the right-armer revealed Australia may approach Wednesday's final with some refined tactics, he admits even the best-laid plans quickly go out the window when the heat's on.

"I had a quick chat to (bowling coach) Troy Cooley just to see what he thought. There's a few little things about angles on the crease, just little things like that you can try," said the South Australian.

"We've got a few training sessions to talk about what we're going to do.

"But you can have all the plans in the world, they're probably not going to come into practice in the game."

Trans-Tasman T20 Tri-Series

First T20I Australia beat New Zealand by seven wickets. Scorecard

Second T20I Australia beat England by five wickets. Scorecard

Third T20I Australia beat England by seven wickets. Scorecard

Fourth T20I New Zealand beat England by 12 runs. Scorecard

Fifth T20I Australia beat New Zealand by five wickets. Scorecard

Sixth T20I NZ v England, Seddon Park, February 18. Scorecard

Final Australia v TBC, Eden Park, February 21. Scorecard

Australia squad: David Warner (c), Aaron Finch (vc), Ashton Agar, Alex Carey, Ben Dwarshuis, Travis Head, Chris Lynn, Glenn Maxwell, Kane Richardson, D'Arcy Short, Billy Stanlake, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Adam Zampa.

England squad: Eoin Morgan (c), Sam Billings, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Tom Curran, Liam Dawson, Alex Hales, Chris Jordan, Dawid Malan, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, James Vince, David Willey, Mark Wood.

New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Tom Bruce, Colin de Grandhomme, Martin Guptill, Anaru Kitchen, Colin Munro, Seth Rance, Mitchell Santner, Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Ben Wheeler.