Stats Analysis

Tactics Board: What total to aim for, the importance of Ish Sodhi, and who will target Adam Zampa?

A look at where the final between Australia and New Zealand could be won or lost

Australia haven't lost a knockout game to New Zealand in the last 40 years  •  Getty Images

Australia haven't lost a knockout game to New Zealand in the last 40 years  •  Getty Images

Did you know that the last time New Zealand beat Australia in a knockout game of a tournament was back in 1981? Since then, the two teams have met each other 16 times in knockout games and Australia have won all of them, convincingly more often than not. It is a 40-year-old streak that New Zealand would like to break on Sunday as the two teams meet in the final of the T20 World Cup. So far in the tournament, both teams have used 12 players and lost one match each. ESPNcricinfo takes a look at where the final could be won or lost.
180 is the magic number
Runs on the board in a big final is a cliche in cricket. But in the last four World Cup finals, across both white-ball formats, the chasing teams have emerged victorious. In this World Cup too, the chasing teams won both semi-finals with an over to spare.
This season in Dubai, the numbers are heavily skewed in the favour of chasing teams. In the last 17 night T20s in Dubai, the chasing team has won on 16 occasions. The only time the team batting first won was in the final of IPL 2021 when Chennai Super Kings defended 192 against Kolkata Knight Riders.
So what does the team batting first on Sunday need to do? They need to reach the magic number of 180. Since 2018, there have been 20 instances in Dubai when the teams batting first have posted 180 or more across all T20s - they won 19 of those times, while the other game was a tie. So the team batting first needs to aim for a total of at least 180 if the pitch looks good for batting.
Australia's battle against New Zealand's spinners
Since the start of 2020, Australian batters average 14 at a strike rate of 122.08 against legspinners in T20Is. In the semi-final, Shadab Khan's four-wicket haul almost sent Australia out of the World Cup. Hayden Walsh Jr troubled them when they were in the Caribbean earlier this year. In the final, Australia need to be wary of Ish Sodhi. In nine games against Australia, he has taken 16 wickets at a strike rate of 12.7.
Sodhi has dismissed Aaron Finch and Marcus Stoinis thrice each in 37 and 23 deliveries respectively. David Warner has fared even worse: two dismissals in just eight balls. If Tim Southee and Trent Boult don't find early movement, then using Sodhi could be a temptation.
Mitchell Santner, on the other hand, has been frugal against Australia, conceding only 95 runs off 93 balls and taking five wickets. Only Mitchell Marsh strikes at above 120 against Santner but that's from a small sample size. If Australia bat first, they need to find a way to score more freely against Santner.
Who is going to target Zampa?
Adam Zampa is having a dream tournament. He is the leading wicket-taker since the Super 12s with 12 scalps at an economy of just 5.69. He has varied his line, length and pace cleverly to make it hard for batters to attack him.
Zampa is a good match-up against Kane Williamson, whom he has dismissed twice in 38 balls while conceding only 37 runs. In ODIs too, Zampa has the edge over Williamson, striking twice in 43 balls. However, Martin Guptill has scored 63 runs off 34 balls against him, including five sixes, while Glenn Phillips has hit Zampa for 29 runs off 15 balls.
Interestingly, Zampa has a better average and strike rate against left-hand batters than right-hand batters. This makes it vital for the likes of Guptill and Phillips to take the attack to Zampa and not allow him to settle down.
How do New Zealand cope without Conway?
In an ideal scenario, Devon Conway would have been the perfect match-up to go after Zampa due to his ability to play spin well. However, a bizarre hand injury means he sits out of the final. This means New Zealand's top five are likely to be all right-handed batters. New Zealand, though, can change that by promoting either James Neesham or Santner up the order.
Coach Gary Stead said Tim Seifert is likely to replace Conway in the XI. If that happens, he would be better placed to play the role of the finisher and attack the Australian quicks with his wide range of shots, which includes ramps and scoops. He has been superb against spin too.
In the last two years, Phillips has scored at an average of 48.66 and a strike rate of 140.16 against spinners. Philips could be the batter who is assigned the role of attacking Zampa and the fifth bowler, especially if New Zealand are batting first.

Other match-ups to watch out for

Warner vs Southee and Boult
Warner has contrasting numbers against Boult and Southee. He has dominated Southee by scoring 84 runs off just 44 balls without being dismissed. Meanwhile, Boult has kept Warner quiet by conceding just 37 runs off 38 balls and has dismissed him once. It will be interesting to see how Warner goes against these two if there is some swing on offer. If there is no swing, it would be worth bringing on Santner against Australia's top 3 to prevent them from winning the powerplay.
Guptill vs left-arm seamers
Since the start of 2018, Guptill has struck at 90.27 against left-arm quicks, and has been dismissed once every 24 deliveries. Mitchell Starc and Australia would have this in mind when they take field on Sunday.

Gaurav Sundararaman is a senior stats analyst at ESPNcricinfo