VVS Laxman feels that it is difficult to pick one of New Zealand and Australia as favourites ahead of the T20 World Cup 2021 final to be played in Dubai on Sunday, November 14. He also pointed out that toss might not be a deciding factor, as short passages of play often turn the tide T20 format.
The final of the T20 World Cup 2021 is set to be played between Australia and New Zealand at the Dubai International Cricket Stadium on Friday, November 14. Both teams head into the clash after thrilling semi-final wins over two of tournament favourites. While Daryl Mitchell, Devon Conway and Jimmy Neesham led the charge in New Zealand's five-wicket win with an over to spare against England, Matthew Wade, Marcus Stoinis and David Warner did the same for Australia, as they defeated Pakistan with the exact margin.
As the trans-Tasman rivals face off on Sunday, VVS Laxman felt that there was little to choose between the two sides, given the similarity in the way the two semi-finals were won.
"There is little to choose between the two finalists, with Australia having the slight edge following the freak injury to Devon Conway. But as history will testify, New Zealand is a side that can be taken lightly at one’s own peril," Laxman wrote in his column for The Times of India on Saturday.
"There was a touch of similarity to the way the two last-four clashes played out. First Kane Williamson and then Aaron Finch hit it lucky with the coin. Those were significant off-field developments, for this tournament has favoured teams chasing."
Laxman believes that the short, sharp passages of play are important for victory in the game's shortest format.
"The toss, however, is only one component; it doesn’t guarantee success. In T20 cricket, it's not even the team that plays better on the day that comes up trumps. It often boils down to a short, sharp passage of play,” he remarked.
Laxman explained how Neesham's 11-ball 27, which was beest highlighted in the 17th over bowled by Chris Jordan, proved to be a turning point of the first semi-final. The 23-run over had reduced the equation from 57 off 24 to 34 off 18.
"Nine times out of ten, they would have gone on to win, but on this occasion, they ran into tartar," said Laxman. "The turning point came in the 17th over sent down by Chris Jordan, when Neesham flexed his muscles and smashed a couple of sixes. The momentum had swung the Kiwis’ way, and Mitchell stepped up to deliver the knockout blows."
Similarly, the former India Test great reflected on how the Stoinis-Wade unbeaten 81-run stand snatched the second semi-final away from Pakistan's grasp.
"Despite David Warner’s fluency, they (Pakistan) had moved into the ascendancy after Shadab Khan’s four-wicket haul, leaving Marcus Stoinis and Matthew Wade holding the baby," Laxman said. "The two had joined hands to steer the Aussies to a nervy win over South Africa in the opener, but the stakes were higher this time and the task stiffer. Again, they were equal to the task. There is no gain saying what might have happened had Hasan Ali not dropped Wade with 20 needed off 10.
"That ‘life’ sparked something in the Aussie 'keeper, who finished off the match with sixes off each of the next three deliveries. That they came against Shaheen Shah Afridi, easily the bowler of the tournament, merely reinforced the value of intent and belief in a game of extremely small margins.”