Ross Taylor rose to the occasion to stroke his 16th One-Day International century before the New Zealand bowlers collaborated to seal a 24-run win in the third and final Chappell-Hadlee series clash at the Seddon Park in Hamilton on Sunday (February 5). With the 2-0 defeat in the series, Australia’s rating points have reduced to 118, still ahead of second-placed South Africa on the basis of decimal points.
Chasing 282, Australia were cruising in their chase at one moment with Aaron Finch (56) and Travis Head (53) leading the charge. However, once the duo was dismissed, their chase ran out of steam as they folded up in the 47th over.
Set a challenging total, Australia made a brisk start with Shaun Marsh (22) and Finch scoring 44 in 7.2 overs before the former was run out. Trent Boult then produced a peach to bowl Peter Handscomb, leaving Australia at 44 for 2.
Finch and Head revived the chase with some authority and added 75 for the third wicket in the next 13.2 overs. At 119 for 2, it looked like Australia were going to build on the stand and take the game close. However, that’s when they entered a game-changing period. Finch slogged Kane Williamson straight to deep midwicket while Glenn Maxwell fell for a three-ball duck to Mitchell Santner.
These turned out to be body blows from which Australia failed to recover. To add to that, Head pulled a short ball to Dean Brownlie at square leg, who pouched a superbly-judged catch to help New Zealand nose ahead. Even though the scorecard read 174 for 6, New Zealand couldn’t relax.
Marcus Stoinis, who had shown his mettle in the first game with an unbeaten 146, was still at the crease with just 106 more needed in a little over 15 overs. However, Santner dismissed the dangerous right-hander in the 40th over for 42. Mitchell Starc, though, provided the late twist in the game, hammering two sixes and two boundaries in his 23-ball 29 to take Australia close, it was Boult who turned the tables in New Zealand’s favour by picking up the last four wickets to help them seal a thrilling win.
Earlier, Taylor made 107, reaching the three-figure mark for the first time in ODIs since August 2015, in what turned out to be a stop-start innings for the hosts. With a placid track laid down for the clash, New Zealand had no hesitation in batting first. However, they were jolted early as Starc dismissed Tom Latham even before he could open his account. While the early break was just what Finch, the captain, needed, Dean Brownlie (63) and Kane Williamson (37) helped he team recover in no time with a 70-run stand.
Brownlie, playing his first ODI since December 2014, looked fluent during his 78-ball stay crunching as many as six boundaries, out of his seven, through the off side. He took the pressure off Williamson as the duo raised the 50-run stand in 37 balls, but they failed to build on the promising stand.
Taylor walked out in the 15th over and looked comfortable right from the onset. It took him 11 deliveries to get his first boundary but he batted with head-masterly approach, refusing to get distracted by whatever ploy the visitors had in store for him. Brownlie and Taylor scored 100 for the fourth wicket, taking the team to 176 before the former fell. Trying to slice a wide one from James Faulkner, the right-hander edged it to the keeper to end a pleasing comeback knock.
With the scorecard reading 176 for 3 in the 32nd over, New Zealand were in a comfortable position but needed to build on keeping the conditions in mind. However, that’s when they wobbled to lose four wickets for 33 to hand back the advantage to Australia. Even when Taylor held firm, the likes of Colin Munro, Neil Broom and James Neesham failed to play around him to give the hosts a cushion to launch an attack towards the end.
At 214 for 6 in 42 overs, they were in a precarious situation. The home fans did get to cheer soon after, with Taylor reaching his century after a disappointing period of play. Mitchell Santner provided the late flourish, stroking an unbeaten 34-ball 38, to prop up the home side.
Brief scores: New Zealand 281/9 in 50 overs (Ross Taylor 107; James Faulkner 3-59) beat Australia 257 in 47 overs (Aaron Finch 56, Travis Head 53; Trent Boult 6-33) by 24 runs.