Marcus Stoinins then scored an unbeaten 146, his maiden One-Day International ton only in his second game, to keep Australia afloat for most parts of the innings but with next to nothing coming from the top order, he was left with a little too much to do.
Stoinis in fact did more than his bit in the clash. After returning a three-wicket haul to restrict New Zealand in the middle overs, he batted with extreme poise under tremendous pressure in his 117-ball knock. The slide started in the fourth over when Trent Boult dismissed Aaron Finch (4) and Travis Head (5) in space of four balls. Tim Southee, Boult’s new ball partner, then joined to rock the visitors by picking up Peter Handscomb for 7.
Shaun Marsh, back in the One-Day International side since making an appearance in August 2016, got a start but his innings was cut short when he was stumped off the bowling of Mitchell Santner in the 12th over. At 48 for 4, the alarm bells were already ringing. Glenn Maxwell started in fine fashion, stroking a boundary off the first ball he faced, to give the fans a glimmer of hope of a counter-attack.
His attempt to guide Lockie Ferguson down to third man didn’t come off the way he wanted and all he could manage was an edge to Tom Latham, the wicketkeeper. As harsh as it sounds, the onus to revive the chase fell upon Sam Heazlett, the debutant, who was hurridely given a go-ahead when Matthew Wade was ruled out at the very last moment minutes before toss. He too was caught behind off Ferguson to leave the team is a precarious situation.
James Faulkner and Stoinis scored 81 for the seventh-wicket in 16.1 overs to start the resurrection act and brought down the equation to 173 off the final 20 overs. Their strategy was pretty simple – keep chipping away at the target and get as close as possible before a late onslaught. However, just when the stand was turning into a threatening one, it was nipped out by Colin Munro bowled Faulkner for 25 in the 25th over.
Pat Cummins blasted 36 off 28, while Stoinis kept the runs flowing from the other end to give themselves 94 in the final ten with three wickets in hand. Stoinis got to his ton with six, off 96 balls, in the 44th over. He hit two consecutive sixes to get the tension mounting. Soon after reaching the three-figure mark, he started crunching maximums, a total of 11 in his innings, to take his team close before Josh Hazlewood was run out in the 47th over to bring the curtains down on the Australian innings.
Earlier, Australia were dealt with an unkind cut just before the toss. Wade, was handed the responsibility of leading Australia in the absence of Steve Smith and David Warner, was ruled out of the contest with a back injury he picked up on the eve of the match. That meant Finch, who was dropped from the squad for the previous series, became Australia’s 24th One-Day International captain.
Put in, Mitchell Starc nipped out Tom Latham early (7) in the third over. Kane Williamson and Martin Guptill (61) settled down to add 74 for the second wicket in quick time. That’s when Stoinis dismissed the New Zealand captain for 25 in the 14th over as the hosts suffered a mid-innings wobble.
From 87 for 1, they slipped to 130 for 4 when the well-set Guptill was bowled by Stoinis. Fresh at the crease, Neil Broom (73) and James Neesham (48) started the resurrection job with a cautious approach. Though they didn’t take unnecessary risks, they ensured the scoring rate didn’t dip as the duo went on the stitch a useful 76-run stand to take the team past 200.
As they grew in confidence, Finch was forced to go back to his main bowlers. In the 38th over, Josh Hazlewood nipped out Neesham after a 45-ball stay just when the left-hander looked set to take New Zealand to a formidable score. With 12 overs to go, and with just four wickets in hand, New Zealand were in danger of not batting out the full quota of overs.
Australia kept chipping away forcing Broom to take the onus upon himself to guide the team forward. Broom fell in the 49th over but Boult made a quick-fire seven-ball 16 to give the team much-needed thrust in the end and a challenging total.
Brief scores: New Zealand 286/9 in 50 overs (Neil Broom 73, Martin Guptill 61; Marcus Stoinis 3-49) beat Australia 280 all out in 47 overs (Stoinis 146*; Mitchell Santner 3-44) by six runs.