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Match Analysis

Blazing Allen writes new chapter in Trans-Tasman rivalry at World Cups

Such was the impact of his 16-ball 42 that it felt like the innings of the match even though Conway scored an unbeaten 92 off 58

Andrew McGlashan
Andrew McGlashan
Finn Allen took apart Australia's big three  •  Associated Press

Finn Allen took apart Australia's big three  •  Associated Press

When New Zealand were last in Australia for a World Cup match, the first over became famous for Mitchell Starc uprooting Brendon McCullum to the deafening sounds of a packed MCG.
Seven years on, and it was a little different this time, albeit the trophy itself was not on the line. Still, it has already been loosened considerably from Australia's hold. Second ball, Finn Allen cleared mid-on for four, next ball he goes further with the first six of the Super 12s and two deliveries later he leathers one straight down the ground. At the end of the first over, New Zealand were 14 without loss.
By the end of the second, that tally was more than doubled. Fellow opener Devon Conway had got in on the act, tucking Josh Hazlewood's first ball fine, then charging the No. 1 T20I bowler in the world to send him past mid-off. Allen capped the over by dismissing Hazlewood through the covers.
And it didn't stop there. The third over, Pat Cummins' first, went for 17. Two more fours and a thunderous six over square leg for Allen. Australia's big three were being taken apart. When Allen cleared the ropes for a third time, against Marcus Stoinis, New Zealand's fifty was up in 3.5 overs.
"Talking with [head coach Gary Stead] about how we wanted to approach the game, we sort of wanted to throw the first punch and take it with them whether it was with the ball or bat," Allen said. "For me, looking straight early my innings is really important... It picked up my confidence getting one away early against Starc.
"They are an intimidating attack to come up against, so it was [about] just trying to play the ball rather than the bowler. It's what I try and always do, treat everyone the same in that respect. I guess everyone would agree that when you're trying to whack it, it's a bit more fun than blocking it around."
"As a batsman, once you get ahead of an opposition and you get ahead of the can start dictating a bit. That's what happened today. He [Allen] got off to a flier and put us on the back foot"
Australia captain Aaron Finch
Though Allen's innings ended in the fifth over when Hazlewood burst through him with a full delivery, his 16-ball stay may have been one of the most important for New Zealand in recent times.
"The way we started up front, think Finn was pretty special," Conway said. "He put the bowlers under some serious pressure and we just took that momentum throughout the game. It's a serious effort from him. I've seen him perform a number of times like that playing with him at Wellington."
The New Zealand side is in the early stages of transition, and Allen is one of the newer faces in the white-ball teams. It might seem obvious, given his impact on this game, but New Zealand made an important call leading into this tournament by committing to Allen opening the batting ahead of the experienced Martin Guptill - a player who has taken apart many a white-ball attack during his career and averages 35.61 with a strike rate of 144.23 against Australia in T20Is.
But in recent times Allen has just looked like he should have the role. There had been a hint of it in Cairns last month when, with the ODI series lost, he came into the side for the final game and showed more fluency than any of the top-order batters.
"He was fantastic. He came at us hard and took us on," Australia captain Aaron Finch said of Allen. "We knew that he was going to do that. As a batsman, once you get ahead of an opposition and you get ahead of the can start dictating a bit. That's what happened today. He got off to a flier and put us on the back foot."
He had already made his mark in T20Is with a series of blistering innings - including 101 off 56 balls against Scotland - although opening against Australia in the first game of a World Cup was a new level of pressure. Not that it showed in the slightest. By the end of this innings, he held the highest strike rate in all men's T20 for anyone who has faced at least 500 balls, moving ahead of Andre Russell. It's quite the early marker in a career.
"I certainly have to be okay with failing quite a lot," Allen said. "The consistency sometimes can go up and down which is often tough at times, but there is where our management and Kane [Williamson] are so good at reassuring me that everything is all good and it's not always going to come off...they make sure I know everyone backs me and take the positive option."
When asked if he always carries an air of confidence, he replied: "I try to, it's not the worst mantra for life."
Australia never really recovered from the early onslaught despite managing some control in the middle phase. Such was the impact Allen had, that it still felt like the key innings of the game even though Conway then took over to reach an unbeaten 92 off 58 balls, the second time he had fallen just short of a T20I hundred against Australia. In contrast to the immense power of Allen, Conway uses angles and placement - his work against Adam Zampa was excellent, taking the legspinner for 32 in 17 balls. He now has the extraordinary T20I average of 57.38 but was happy to defer to his team-mate.
"I have to give a lot of credit to Finn and the way he played," he said. "The way he put them under pressure allowed me to get those balls that were slightly looser. In T20 cricket, if you put bowlers under pressure, no matter how good you are, it's a tough gig. Ball two he hit one to the boundary and we were away."
There will be a few quibbles about Kane Williamson's innings - a run-a-ball 23 - but making 200 for 3 and winning by 89 runs, with bowling success shared between pace and spin, against the defending champions on their turf does not leave many holes to pick. "For us, it's close to a perfect game," Conway said. If they put in some repeat performances, another MCG final may be within reach.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo