When one thinks of the strength of Australia’s bowling attack, the usual suspects are the first names to come to mind: Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood.
However, as New Zealand prepares to face its big brother in Monday morning’s T20 World Cup final, Black Caps coach Gary Stead will no doubt focus on the one unheralded man in Aaron Finch’s attack: Adam Zampa.
In a stark contrast to the strapping, tall frames of Australia’s vaunted pace trio, the diminutive Zampa is about as unimposing as it gets on a cricket field.
But don’t let Zampa’s physique and 90s boy band-esque looks fool you: the man is a stone-cold killer in the T20 format.
Zampa has been Australia’s best bowler throughout their surprising run to the World Cup final, leading all bowlers with 12 wickets in the Super 12 stage of the tournament at a remarkable economy rate of 5.69.
Finch has called on his leg-spinner to put the halt on a number of sides throughout the tournament, with Zampa’s value never more evident than in the semi-final against Pakistan.
The 29-year-old bowled three overs immediately after the batting powerplay, grabbing the wicket of Pakistan skipper and the world’s top-ranked T20 batsman Babar Azam in the process as he ground Pakistan’s progress to a halt.
While pace is usually the preferred option in the death overs, Finch deployed Zampa once again in the 16th over of Pakistan’s innings. The over prior to Zampa’s went for 11 runs, the over after his went for 21. His over? Just five runs were scored.
Since Shane Warne’s retirement in 2007, Australian cricket has been crying out of its next great leg-spinner. The likes of Cameron White and Steve Smith have been touted as the next coming, but Zampa received no such hype.
However, since making his international debut in both the ODI and T20 formats, Zampa has become an indispensable part of Australia’s limited overs sides.
The Sydney native is used to flying under the radar, and warned opponents who continue to overlook him to do so at their own peril ahead of the final.
“I’ve always been underestimated,” Zampa told reporters.
“Even as a 15 or 16-year-old growing up in the country, there was always a city guy that was better than me or there’s always been someone that turns their leg-spinner more than I do.
“Even after this tournament, there’ll be another series that comes up and I’ll be underestimated again. I kind of do thrive off that.”
Despite playing in the subcontinent, Australia has used Zampa as its sole frontline spinner, with Glenn Maxwell occasionally chipping in as the fifth bowler. Carrying Australia’s spin department has allowed Zampa to thrive.
“If anything, it has made my role a little bit clearer,” Zampa says. “I know I’m in the team to get wickets through the middle overs and in some cases, depending on the match-ups, I’ll bowl quite late in the innings as well.
“I know my role and I thrive off those challenges. Spin bowling in the middle overs of T20s can be tough work but it’s something I really enjoy.
“In this tournament in particular, I’ve tried not to be something that I’m not. I know what my strengths are and I do them to the best of my ability. I feel confident with my role in this team… wickets through the middle is what I’m trying to achieve and luckily, so far, I’ve been able to do it.”
Time and time again during this tournament, Zampa has answered his skipper’s call. No doubt Aaron Finch will come calling once again in what is sure to be a ripping final.