Steve Smith leads the way with career best as Aussies trash New Zealand

Steve Smith, the Australian captain, smashed a career-best 164 in the highest individual One-Day International (ODI) score at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) to spearhead Australia to a 68-run victory over New Zealand in the opening match of the Chappell-Hadlee series on Sunday (December 4).

Chasing Australia’s mammoth 324 for 8, Martin Guptill, New Zealand’s opener, played a lone hand with a blistering 102-ball 114 but the visitors were dismissed for 256 in the 45th over. With trademark aggression, Guptill smashed the Australian attack and his brutish knock featured six sixes, including one off Mitchell Marsh to bring up his 11th ODI century.

Guptill looked imperious at the crease until he mishit a half-tracker from leg spinner Adam Zampa (2 for 66 from 10 overs) to mid-wicket and his dismissal meant the contest was essentially over. His virtuoso performance was required after New Zealand’s chances of producing a record run-chase nosedived when Josh Hazelwood (3 for 49 from 10 overs) picked up opener Tom Latham (2) and the prized wicket of captain Kane Williamson (9) to leave New Zealand reeling at 34 for 2 in the eighth over.

However, Guptill and James Neesham (34 from 36 balls) produced a rapid 92-run third-wicket partnership to restore a flicker of hope for New Zealand. Just when momentum was building, Neesham threw away his wicket when he was caught by Hazelwood at long-on, off Mitchell Starc. Moments later, Smith completed an amazing match with an astounding, diving one-handed catch to dismiss wicketkeeper BJ Watling (6).

Lusty late hitting from Colin Munro (49 from 59 balls) and Matt Henry (27 from 15) ensured New Zealand fought hard but the total remained elusive.

Earlier, Smith scored a superb 157-ball 164 to break AB de Villiers’s ground record of 162 as he rescued Australia from an early hole of 92 for 4. His heroics ensured Australia avoided the ignominy of losing a sixth straight ODI after an embarrassing series whitewash in South Africa.

After winning the toss and electing to bat, Smith found himself at the crease in the first over of the innings after Matt Henry bowled Aaron Finch for a golden duck with an in-swinger on third ball of the match.

Henry and Trent Boult were generating swing and building pressure on Smith and David Warner by pitching the ball up. Runs were hard to come by but it was exciting speedster Lockie Ferguson who picked up the breakthrough by forcing Warner (24) to chop on during an explosive spell. Consistently bowling at over 150kmh, Ferguson was rapid early but struggled in subsequent spells and finished with 1 for 73 from nine overs, the worst ever figures by a New Zealand bowler on debut.

Australia were in a rut when George Bailey (17) and Mitchell Marsh (1) were dismissed but Smith combined in a fifth-wicket partnership of 127 with Travis Head (52), who scored his highest ODI score in his 13th match. The South Australia was preferred over all-rounder Glenn Maxwell, who was overlooked in the aftermath of his controversial comments about being demoted in Victoria’s batting line-up during a recent Sheffield Shield match.

After a cautious start, Smith was at his audacious best as he dazzled with unorthodox strokes fused with flowing textbook shots. Smith’s seventh ODI century was highlighted by a savage assault on the pacemen all around the wicket, to pass his previous highest 50-over score of 149 against India earlier this year.

However, Smith had his share of good fortune due to a ragged fielding effort by New Zealand, who fluffed several chances during the innings. In a game-changing moment, Watling dropped a difficult chance down the leg-side when Smith was on 13 and moments later the Australian skipper was given not out after being hit on the pads by Boult. New Zealand didn’t review, which they immediately lamented, as replays confirmed the decision would have been overturned.

A late flurry from Smith and wicketkeeper Matthew Wade (38 from 22 balls) propelled Australia to an almost impregnable position. Wade, who has been dragged into controversy in recent days due to Maxwell’s comments, showcased his explosiveness with three towering sixes off Neesham in the 45th over.

The 37-ball 83-run partnership between Smith and Wade took Australia past 300, which ultimately proved more than enough.

Brief Scores: Australia 324/8 in 50 overs (Steve Smith 164, Travis Head 52; Trent Boult 2-51) beat New Zealand 256 in 44.2 overs (Martin Guptil l14, Colin Munro 49; Josh Hazlewood 3-49) by 68 runs

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