A clash that looked exciting on paper certainly did not disappoint as New Zealand stole an 8 run victory over rivals Australia in Group 2 of the Twenty20 World Cup.
Aussie bowlers stifle an early Kiwi onslaught
New Zealand got off to a flier as Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson smashed 58 off the opening six Power Play overs to give Nathan Coulter-Nile, Ashton Agar and James Faulkner a kind welcome to the World Cup. Eventually Australia found a much needed breakthrough at the beginning of the eighth over, as the dangerous Guptill was caught out attempting another big stroke off James Faulkner. The opener departed for 39 off just 27 deliveries.
That wicket seemed to spur the Australians on as they began to slow the Kiwis down and pick up further crucial wickets. Kane Williamson departed an over later for 24 as a mistimed stoke off Glenn Maxwell went straight to Agar. Colin Munro and Corey Anderson attempted to continue the good opening work by their team, but the latter did not hang around for long as another Maxwell delivery was spurned to Agar, as Anderson departed for just 3.
61-0 had collapsed to 76-3 and the wickets certainly aided Australia in finding their way back into the game as the run rate dropped from around 9 to 6 in a matter of overs. Colin Munro had battled his way to 23, without ever looking too comfortable, before dragging Mitchell Marsh straight to James Faulkner as another wicket fell.
Stump to stump bowling was proving effective for Australia as Grant Elliott and Ross Taylor continued the New Zealand struggle to hit the boundary rope. Taylor eventually did blast one for a maximum off Shane Watson, but only before he found Marsh with the next delivery to depart for 11.
Whilst Elliott toiled away at one end, gradually adding to the score, New Zealand continued to lose wickets at the other end as the innings reached its dying embers. Clever bowling from Faulkner, proving his finishing qualities oncemore, saw off Luke Ronchi for six, before some excellent fielding from first Maxwell and then Peter Nevill, ran out Mitchell Santner and Grant Elliott in the final over. An innings that looked as if it could reach 200 in the opening overs had filtered out, with the Kiwis ending on 142-8 and Glenn Maxwell involved in four wickets.
New Zealand deal Australia a taste of their own medicine
Australia set about their run chase in a similar fashion to New Zealand as they looked to take advantage of the Power Play overs. Usman Khawaja and Shane Watson went after Adam Milne, Grant Elliott, Mitchell McClenaghan and Corey Anderson, hitting 37 off the first four overs. The Kiwis knew they had to pick up a wicket fast and did just that through McClenaghan as Watson mishit a shot straight to Kane Williamson, falling for 13 in the sixth over.
As was the case in the New Zealand innings, the opening wicket seemed to spur on the bowling side as the Australian batters struggled to take advantage of the opening foundation set for them. Captain Steve Smith went for just six as he was stumped off the bowling of Mitchell Santner. The dangerous Khawaja was then run out by Milne for 38 off 27 balls, before David Warner holed out for just six off Santner. The Aussies had dropped from 44-0 to 66-4, with 77 still needed from their final 60 deliveries.
Australia did begin to rebuild through Mitchell Marsh and Glenn Maxwell as they started to find the boundary. Yet with 43 required off the last 30 balls, Maxwell got underneath an Ish Sodhi delivery and was caught by Williamson after looking set for a big total.
If Australia were going to win the match, it looked as if Marsh would have to bat out the remaining overs. With 22 needed off the last two overs, disaster struck for Australia as Marsh found Milne at long-on off the bowling of McClenaghan. The spinner then wrapped up a tight over as Ross Taylor caught out Ashton Agar. The two wickets were important but the loss of just three runs almost sealed the deal for New Zealand.
With Australia requiring 19 runs off the last over, they tried in vain as first James Faulkner and then Nathan Coulter-Nile fell to Corey Anderson as New Zealand beat their great rivals by 8 runs. A fantastic start to the tournament sees the Kiwis now in two wins from two, whilst Australia still have it all to do.