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Match Analysis

Kane Williamson produces a masterclass but history repeats itself for New Zealand

The captain overcame a slow start to take down Mitchell Starc but the prize eluded him

Deivarayan Muthu
14-Nov-2021
Kane Williamson and Jimmy Neesham sat expressionless in the dugout when Daryl Mitchell struck the winning runs for New Zealand in the semi-final in Abu Dhabi. About 96 hours later, across the highway in Dubai, Williamson and the entire New Zealand side stood still, as Glenn Maxwell hit the winning runs for Australia in the final.
New Zealand are used to being bullied by Australia in tournament knockouts. After all, the last time New Zealand beat Australia in a knockout was way back in 1981. On Sunday, Williamson threatened to flip the narrative with his masterclass, but Australia came out on top once again.
Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins handcuffed Williamson with their heavy lengths and into-the-pitch cutters. Australia packed the off side with five fielders and with the ball also sticking in the pitch, Williamson struggled to force it away. He was on five off ten balls after the powerplay; New Zealand on 37 for 1 from seven overs. They went 32 balls without a boundary.
Williamson was fighting tough conditions. He was fighting a tough attack. He was fighting his own niggly elbow - he has been feeling discomfort while gripping the bat and extending his elbow this tournament. He was fighting all the odds stacked against New Zealand. Yet, he found a way. Like he usually does.
He forayed down the track and Brendon McCullumed Mitchell Marsh over extra-cover for four. Next ball, he muscled another four, to the midwicket boundary. Hazlewood, however, could have cut that short he had he not dropped him at fine leg and let the ball bobble over the rope for four.
With that stroke of luck, Williamson was truly on to something and that something was ruthlessly decimating Mitchell Starc.
Williamson knew Starc's plan was to bowl on-pace yorkers. He set himself deep in the crease and when Starc kept missing his lengths, Williamson made it count. When Starc flung down a 147kph beamer, Williamson defied his pesky elbow again and monstered it over midwicket, Kieron Pollard-style, for six. From being on seven off 13 balls, Williamson rattled off a 32-ball half-century.
Starc vs Williamson: round two. Starc went full and wide from over the wicket, Williamson knew third man was up and unleashed a devil-may-care slash, sending an outside edge flying between the keeper and short third man. Fast, full and wide again, Williamson went for a roundhouse leg-side swipe as the ball plinked over short third man again for four.
Williamson was rewarded for attacking intent and game-awareness, something that was missing from New Zealand in the early exchanges. They had let the first two overs of Maxwell drift by, taking only 14 runs off him.
Starc then shifted his lines straighter and cut down his pace, but Williamson had anticipated it. He jumped across off and shovelled it over midwicket by manufacturing his own pace. Like Starc, Jasprit Bumrah often directs his full balls or yorkers at the stumps and pushes his slower balls wider of off. Williamson had trumped Bumrah in fairly similar fashion at Seddon Park in January 2020.
All up, Williamson hit Starc for 39 off 12 balls and finished with 85 off 48 balls. According to ESPNcricinfo's Smart Stats, which adds context to every performance, his contribution was actually worth 103 runs. Williamson gave New Zealand hope, only for it to be crushed by Marsh and David Warner.
The pair maximised the powerplay and smashed 92 together off 59 balls for the second wicket in Australia's pursuit of 173. Warner short-arm pulled Tim Southee for six. He straight-pulled Ish Sodhi for four. Marsh slammed Adam Milne 6, 4, 4 before he, too, laid into Sodhi. Australia finished it off with eight wickets and seven balls to spare.
"Yeah, look, I thought the efforts that went in were outstanding," Williamson said at the post-match press conference. "The guys worked hard to get to what we thought was a competitive total. Unfortunately, we weren't able to create many opportunities and get those breakthroughs.
"It was a little bit frustrating. We sort of thought on that surface that we had a few opportunities to do that and build some pressure. I think we've seen the conditions throughout be fairly consistent, and the ball did skid on a little bit. But the Aussies were outstanding in their chase and very, very clinical. They have had a fantastic campaign, and they are a brilliant side and they thoroughly deserved it."
The T20 World Cup - and the night - ended in Dubai with Australia celebrating wildly under firework-filled skies and Williamson quietly led New Zealand off the field, perhaps with a teasing thought, about what might have been.

Deivarayan Muthu is a sub-editor at ESPNcricinfo