Passion at the Park
There’s something special about New Zealand and Australia at Eden Park.
The two nations meet there once again tonight, as part of the Twenty20 cricket tri-series that also involves England.
It could be a prelude to next Wednesday’s final, at the same venue, with Australia already sure of their place, and the Black Caps needing one win from their final two games – the other is against England in Hamilton on Sunday – to get there.
A fortnight ago, Australia thumped the Black Caps in Sydney, winning the rain-hit series opener by seven wickets with plenty of room to spare, and looked to be on another level. Tonight, we will see if home advantage can help close the gap.
It’s been almost eight years since an Australian side tasted victory at Eden Park, though that figure is slightly misleading, as they have only played three matches since their last win, in a one-day international in March 2010.
Those three losses were all in ODIs, one in each of last three years, but whatever significance they carry will have to compete with the fact the Black Caps have lost their last three T20s at the ground, and five of the last seven.
Opener Martin Guptill probably had it right when he said yesterday: ‘‘I don’t know if records count for much any more. Any team who plays well on the day is going to win, so we just have to come out there and play our best tomorrow night.’’
A bumper crowd is expected tonight, and they will probably quickly get a sense of where things are headed. If the Black Caps’ top order of Guptill, Colin Munro and Kane Williamson fail again, as they did in Sydney, or if Australia’s top order get off to a flyer, the home fans will probably be in for a painful night.
But the reverse is also true. If Guptill and Williamson carry their form through from the win over England in Wellington on Tuesday, where they made 65 and 72, it would help set up a real contest, and if the Black Caps’ seamers make early inroads, it would help keep the target reasonable – anything over 160 would be a real challenge.
It’s a truism, but good starts lead to good results, especially in the game’s shortest format, and the team that wins the power plays will probably be the one that wins the match.
An ace up the Black Caps’ sleeve might be the home crowd, who the visitors seem to regard with a bit of apprehension, having heard their coach, Darren Lehmann, tell a yarn about a big salmon they once produced.
‘‘They’re just a passionate crowd, aren’t they?’’ said Australian batsman Aaron Finch yesterday.
‘‘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.’’
Finch nearly found himself saying it was always good to win at Eden Park, before remembering he was yet to have one.
If he does get one tonight, Australia will feel like they have a hand on the trophy. If he doesn’t, it will set up an even bigger transTasman clash in the final.
Fans flock to Eden Park for last year’s one-day international between New Zealand and Australia. A big crowd is expected again tonight for the T20 match between the two teams.
New Zealand players celebrate as prone Australian batsman Josh Hazlewood is run out short of his ground to hand victory to the Black Caps in Auckland a year ago.