ABU DHABI: Australia captain Aaron Finch believes Powerplays will make or break team fortunes at the Twenty20 World Cup, apart from being a potent antidote to the pesky dew factor.

Australia will launch their bid for the only major global trophy that has eluded them with Saturday’s Super 12 Group 1 match against South Africa at Sheikh Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi.

Finch would worry less about the dew factor as only one of their five group matches is a night game, but his experience in the recent Indian Premier League (IPL) tells him the first six overs still remained crucial.

“Even though its different surfaces to what the IPL used, we saw the impact that had,” Finch told a news conference on Friday. “The teams that won the Powerplay went a long way to winning the game as the wickets deteriorated.”

Australia got a taste of the dew factor in their warm-up match against New Zealand and Finch had no doubt it would be a headache for the teams.

“Four of our five games are day games. The only night game we’ve got is our third game against England. As the conditions cool down slightly in the coming month or so, it will probably become heavier and heavier. Then the toss does become really important,” he said. “The way out is making the first six overs count.

“Regardless of how dewy it does get, if you can control that part of the game, it goes a huge distance in winning the match.”

Australia have the experience in their batting line-up to master the challenge, said the opener.

To make the Powerplays count, Australia will need David Warner to rediscover his form after being dropped by his IPL franchise midway through the UAE leg of the tournament.

Finch was convinced Warner would be back among runs soon.

“I’m backing Davey’s ability, I’m backing his judgement. If you look at the World Cup history, it is bloody good,” Finch said. “Would he have liked more runs? Absolutely, everyone would like more runs all the time. He’s one of the greatest players Australia has ever produced and I’ve got no doubts that come game one, he’ll be up and firing, ready to go.”

Without disclosing the team, Finch said Australia, who have never won the T20 World Cup, had plumped for ‘seven specialist batters, four specialist bowlers plus the all rounders’ against South Africa.

“We’ve got a lot of confidence in the depth of our squad, we’ve got a lot of confidence in [Glenn] Maxwell, [Marcus] Stoinis and [Mitchell] Marsh to bowl four overs as well.

“We think that on these wickets in these conditions they can do a really good job and be an attacking option as much as anything.”

South Africa skipper Temba Bavuma, meanwhile, confirmed that he and spinner Tabraiz Shamsi would play their opener against Australia both having recovered from injuries.

Bavuma is returning from a thumb injury while Shamsi, currently the top-ranked T20 bowler, suffered a groin injury during a warm-up match against Pakistan. “I obviously managed to get through the two [practice] games unscathed,” Bavuma, his thumb still wrapped in bandage, told reporters. “The hand held up nicely, so I’m all good to go. “I understand that he’s [Shamsi] also good to go. He did pass his fitness test today [Friday].”

The Proteas will be without two of the best batters in the world in the shortest format after A.B. de Villiers and Faf du Plessis were not considered for selection despite an apparent eagerness to play, while experienced leg-spinner Imran Tahir has also been deemed surplus to requirements.

“We expect ourselves to do well as a team, and that is where the pressure comes from,” Bavuma added.

Quinton de Kock can be devastating at the top of the batting order and David Miller is a powerful hitter in the middle-order with the joint fastest ever T20 international hundred to his name off 35 balls against Bangladesh.

But there also remain question marks over their death bowling and a perceived frailty in the remainder of the batting lineup that has fired in fits and starts.

That being said, they have won their last seven T20 Internationals in a row against West Indies, Ireland and Sri Lanka, all away from home, and were impressive in their successful pursuit of 186 against Pakistan in their warm-up fixture on Wednesday.

Just as in the 50-over format, but perhaps without the same drama, South Africa have failed to reach the final of the T20 World Cup in the past, with semi-final appearances in 2009 and 2014 their best finishes.

Published in Dawn, October 23rd, 2021

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