Big PictureAfter a poor performance then a better performance, Australia produced an almost-perfect performance to keep themselves alive in the T20I series. A well-constructed innings, lit up by the hitting of Glenn Maxwell, was followed by a strong bowling display led by an impressive debut for Riley Meredith and a record six-wicket haul from Ashton Agar.
Barring the early loss of Matthew Wade, if Australia could plan a T20 batting innings what they put together in Wellington would be close to the ideal template: a run-rate touching nine-an-over at the midway point with Maxwell having enough time to assess conditions and then cut loose as he did with the 28-run over off Jimmy Neesham.
For a little while it looked as though New Zealand could replicate it as they scored freely in the powerplay, but Meredith's brace of wickets were key in keeping Australia ahead of the game. Having got set, Martin Guptill had to bat deep but when he fell to Adam Zampa the task quickly became too much - the contest sealed when Agar took three wickets in an over.
New Zealand's balance was off as they replaced the ill Mitchell Santner with batsman Mark Chapman, relying on just the five bowling options (although Chapman or Kane Williamson could have had a trundle) and the side felt out of kilter. The good news for the home side is that Santner is available for the fourth game having received a negative Covid-19 test and has started to feel better.
Form guide(last five completed matches)
New Zealand LWWLW
In the spotlightMatthew Wade is a senior figure in this side as the vice-captain and first-choice wicketkeeper but he hasn't quite got going yet. He impressed against India late last year but there will be a lot of options to choose from when it comes to nailing down the top three as the likes of David Warner and Steven Smith become available again. There are other keeping options in this squad, not least Josh Philippe at No. 3 in this XI, so while there's unlikely to be a change it remains one of the positions up for grabs.
Wade's opposite number Tim Seifert has had a lean series to date with scores of 1, 3 and 4 although his success against Pakistan earlier in the season - where he made 57, 84 not out and 35 - means there is credit in the bank. Devon Conway and Glenn Phillips are other options in this side who could take the gloves but before the third match New Zealand coach Gary Stead said they are very keen to leave Phillips as an outfielder where he is among the best in the business.
Team newsSantner is back in the mix and barring any change to his condition would seem very likely to make a swift return to the XI at the expense of Chapman
New Zealand (probable) 1 Martin Guptill, 2 Tim Seifert, 3 Kane Williamson (capt), 4 Devon Conway, 5 Glenn Phillips, 6 Jimmy Neesham, 7 Mitchell Santner, 8 Kyle Jamieson, 9 Tim Southee, 10 Ish Sodhi, 11 Trent Boult
Having secured such a convincing win there may be a reluctance to change the side, although the selectors could decide to rotate a quick bowler.
Australia (probable) 1 Aaron Finch, 2 Matthew Wade (wk), 3 Josh Philippe, 4 Glenn Maxwell, 5 Marcus Stoinis, 6 Mitchell Marsh, 7 Ashton Agar, 8 Jhye Richardson, 9 Kane Richardson, 10 Adam Zampa, 11 Riley Meredith
Pitch and conditionsThere is some uncertainty over how the surface will play with the increasing amount of traffic on it. All the matches being played on the same pitch, which will host six games in total with the women's series also taking place. Initially it looked tricky in the first game, but once batsmen got set scoring came freely. The forecast is for a cloudy but dry evening with a brisk Wellington wind around. "It feels as though everywhere you stand the wind is hitting you in the face, but the ball never gets to you at certain times," Aaron Finch said.
Stats and trivia
- Maxwell has the highest strike-rate (158.79) of any batsman with at least a 1000 T20I runs
- This ground is one of Santner's best in T20I: he has 10 wickets at 12.60 - his most for any venue - at an economy rate of just 6.00
Quotes"The start of an innings you are always a little bit nervous, a little bit tentative and when it hit me on the pad it was just one of those things, was a 50-50 call. Once I got into my innings felt I was moving a lot better, my feet were moving, my intent was there and it was nice to get a few out of the middle.
"When you miss Mitchell Santner it shows what an impact he has for us and then also when their left-arm spinner takes six wickets and bowls well it shows what he brings to our team."
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo