February 5, 2017 - 7:45pm
This was some sort of day for New Zealand. Ross Taylor equalled Nathan Astle's record for the most ODI hundreds for New Zealand. Trent Boult completed a career-best six-wicket haul. New Zealand regained the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy. They jumped to No.3 on the ODI rankings and wrapped up an eighth consecutive bilateral one-day series win at home. And they did it all in front of a sell-out crowd at Seddon Park.
They also did it in a fashion that would have pleased some of their cheekier fans: getting Australia's hopes up, and then dashing them. Set 282 for victory, Australia looked sunk when Marcus Stoinis holed out to leave the tail-enders needing 84 off 65 balls, but Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins plundered 31 from a pair of Mitchell Santner overs and the required rate fell back towards a run a ball. New Zealand fans became suddenly nervous.
But all Kane Williamson needed to do was call on Boult, whose pace and bounce forced a false shot from Cummins, who was caught at midwicket. In his next over, Boult bowled to a plan set up by Williamson, who had placed a floating third slip, and Adam Zampa's steer found the man perfectly. Five balls later, Boult finished the job by bowling Josh Hazlewood. It left Boult with 6 for 33 from his ten overs, and New Zealand with a 24-run win and the trophy.
The fortunes of the teams had fluctuated all day. New Zealand looked set for a huge total batting first, lost their way, and then smashed 30 off their final two overs to reach a competitive but far from daunting 281 for 9. Australia's chase was looking good while Aaron Finch and Travis Head ticked the score along in the first 20 overs, but a run of wickets put them on the back foot. Yet not until Boult's late wickets could New Zealand feel safe.
By the barest of margins, Australia held on to the No.1 ODI ranking, although they may yet lose it in the coming week if South Africa continue to dominate in their home series against Sri Lanka. Australia sorely missed their captain and vice-captain, Steven Smith and David Warner, in this series; while there were contributions from their top-order replacements, none were sufficient to set up a win. Here, it was a pair of fifties from Finch and Head.
A fine piece of fielding from Santner in the deep led to the run-out of Shaun Marsh early in Australia's chase, and Peter Handscomb chopped on to Boult for a duck to leave Australia at 44 for 2. Finch and Head put on 75 for the third wicket before Finch holed out to deep midwicket off Williamson's spin for 56, and spin continued to trouble Australia when Santner had Glenn Maxwell caught behind in the next over for a duck.
Head was the victim of a fine boundary-line catch from Dean Brownlie off Boult on 53 and, in a fore-runner of Williamson's floating-slip plan that later foiled Zampa, James Faulkner fell to exactly the same ploy for a duck to leave Australia wobbling at 174 for 6. Stoinis struck four fours and a six but it was a mere cameo compared to his starring role in Auckland, and when he was caught at long-on off Santner, it was all left up to Australia's bowlers.
Starc remained unbeaten on 29 as the Australians fell 24 runs short, and he was left to wonder what might have been. In the final over of New Zealand's innings, he rattled the stumps of Tim Southee and Lockie Ferguson with the first two balls, but then let slip a waist-high no-ball that allowed Santner to come on strike and club two fours and a six from the final three deliveries. It was just the late boost New Zealand needed.
Taylor and Brownlie had given them a fine start but from 162 for 2 at the 30-over mark, New Zealand lost a string of wickets and much momentum, and managed only 119 runs from their final 20 overs. As things turned out, that was enough. The key man was Taylor, whose 16th ODI hundred brought him level with Astle as New Zealand's all-time most prolific ODI century-maker.
Taylor walked to the crease in the 15th over with opener Brownlie already on 36; Taylor scored his own runs so freely that he beat Brownlie to the half-century. Taylor was particularly strong on the cut shot and brought up his fifty from 44 deliveries; in the next over, Brownlie raised his half-century - his first in ODI cricket - from his 65th ball.
Brownlie, playing his first international since 2014, had proven a very effective replacement for the injured Martin Guptill, but on 63 he fell when he drove at a fullish, wide ball from Faulkner and was adjudged caught-behind on review. That began a difficult period for New Zealand, who lost Neil Broom to another edge behind off Faulkner for 8, and then Colin Munro, who couldn't find his rhythm, drove a catch to mid-off for 3.
The middle-order problems continued as James Neesham chopped on off the bowling of Hazlewood for 1, and New Zealand by this stage were wobbling at 209 for 6 in the 41st over. But Santner managed to keep his wicket intact and allowed Taylor to move to a 96-ball hundred with a thick edge through third man for four off Mitchell Starc, though he was caught swiping to leg off Faulkner in the next over for 107.
Although the innings had started poorly for New Zealand when Tom Latham, in the third over, flicked a leg-side delivery from Starc straight into the hands of Hazlewood at fine leg for an eight-ball duck, the next two partnerships steadied New Zealand well. Kane Williamson (37) put on 70 with Brownlie before the Taylor-Brownlie stand, which was worth 100.
Against an Australian outfit minus their two best batsmen, New Zealand's efforts were enough. The day, the series, and the trophy were theirs.