New Zealand and Australia battle it out for the right to be crowned T20 world champions for the first time - coverage of Sunday's final in Dubai gets underway from 1pm, live on Sky Sports Cricket & Main Event
Saturday 13 November 2021 09:39, UK
Having suffered World Cup heartbreak in the 50-over format in 2015 and 2019, New Zealand are hoping it's a case of third time lucky when they face Australia in Sunday's T20 World Cup showpiece, and Tim Southee insists the Black Caps having nothing to fear.
New Zealand are a formidable outfit across all three formats, and their World Test Championship triumph in June helped eradicate the unwanted 'bridesmaid' tag, courtesy of a comprehensive victory over India.
They also defeated Virat Kohli's side en route to sealing qualification from the Super 12s, recording four consecutive victories following defeat to Pakistan in their opener.
The Kiwis then denied 50-over champions England an unprecedented limited-overs double in a thrilling semi-final, closing out a five-wicket success with an over to spare, courtesy of a magnificent innings from Daryl Mitchell (72no off 47) and an explosive cameo from Jimmy Neesham (27 off 11).
Despite accounting for the two tournament favourites, New Zealand still go into Sunday's showpiece as slight underdogs, although Tim Southee is unperturbed by that perception.
The 32-year-old has been an instrumental part of New Zealand's success across all formats throughout the last decade, and he's enjoyed a prolific campaign with the ball, surpassing 100 T20I wickets earlier in the tournament.
Southee has taken eight wickets at 17.25 in his six matches, but his economy rate of 5.75 is particularly striking, given that a large proportion of his 24 overs have been bowled in the powerplay.
"You hear all the outside noise but as a group we just try and stay pretty level. We don't beat ourselves up if we lose a game," admitted Southee.
"Look at the first game against Pakistan, we weren't too far off, we didn't try and reinvent the wheel, we just knew we had to make small adjustments and improve in certain areas.
"We've assessed the conditions reasonably well. We've had to chop and change between venues, day games and night games but as a whole, we've been pretty consistent and quick in adapting.
"We've done that throughout the tournament. One of the strengths of the side is just to stay level in everything we do, but we've definitely been a lot more consistent in world events, especially."
New Zealand's consistency is demonstrated by the current ICC rankings - they are at the summit in both Test and ODI cricket, while they sat fourth in the T20 arena prior to the tournament.
The Black Caps claimed a modicum of revenge for their defeat to England in that classic 2019 final by edging out Eoin Morgan's men in the semi-finals on Wednesday, and Sunday's final is an opportunity to claim a maiden T20 crown.
Southee was part of the New Zealand side that were resoundingly beaten by Australia in the 2015 Cricket World Cup final, and they were also whitewashed by their rivals in a three-match Test series just over 18 months ago.
They can take solace from sealing a narrow 3-2 win over a weakened Australia side in a five-match T20I series earlier this year, yet Southee is relishing the prospect of featuring in a third limited-overs final in seven years.
"Australia have been a very strong side for a long time," added Southee. "We haven't played them in a final since 2015 but - I know they weren't at full strength - we beat them in a T20 series not so long ago.
"We know they're a dangerous side but it's a final, anything can happen. I don't think there's any fear, we've played against some quality oppositions throughout the tournament.
"They're very similar to the England line-up where they've got dangerous batters throughout but as a bowler you want to challenge yourself against the best and Australia have got plenty of quality players."
New Zealand have no shortage of quality in their line-up, although they will be without Devon Conway in Dubai, after the left-hander broke his right hand during their semi-final win over England.
The 30-year-old injured himself when he struck his bat immediately after being stumped off Liam Livingstone for 46 in Abu Dhabi on Wednesday, and he will also miss New Zealand's T20I series against India later this month.
"I know Devon's hurting, especially with such a big occasion on Sunday, but it presents an opportunity for someone else," Southee continued.
"You never want this to happen to anyone but when it does, you hope that those guys that haven't been playing are as well prepared as they can be."
Watch the T20 World Cup final as New Zealand take on Australia in Dubai live on Sky Sports Cricket and Sky Sports Main Event from 1pm on Sunday.