If the first match of the ICC Champions Trophy 2017 was a splendid affair, the second one threw a wet blanket on all the enthusiasm as New Zealand and Australia were forced to share points after rain played spoilsport at Edgbaston.
Rain was in the forecast for the game at Birmingham, but it was expected to not wreak havoc as it did on Friday (June 2). There were three rain breaks during the course of play. The first one, early in the game, forced the match to be reduced to 46 overs a side. The second, one that arrived just before Australia’s chase of 291 (46 overs), cut the game by another 13 overs, leaving Steven Smith’s side needing to score 235 in 33 overs. The third one arrived with Australia in all sorts of trouble, and resulted in the game being called off.
Australia would have breathed a sigh of relief at the end result. They were reeling at 53/3 in 9 overs, with openers David Warner and Aaron Finch, and Moises Henriques back in the hut having failed to make much of an impact.
Smith, celebrating his 28th birthday, stood not out at the other end on eight off six balls. The cut off time for a minimum 20 overs of Australia innings was 6:48 local time, but that would have left Australia needing to score a tough 121 off the remaining 11 overs, something that given New Zealand’s performance with the ball would have been a tall order.
Earlier in the day, Kane Williamson hit his ninth ODI hundred to give New Zealand a solid first innings total. The total could have been a much bigger one if not for Josh Hazlewood, who helped Australia fightback into the game towards the end with six wickets for 52 runs. New Zealand lost their last seven wickets for just 37 runs to be bowled out for 291.
Williamson was part of two solid stands after the opening combination of Martin Guptill (26 off 22) and Luke Ronchi (65 off 43) had given New Zealand a pacy start. Alongside Ronchi, who scored his first fifty since the 170 he made against Sri Lanka before the 2015 World Cup, the New Zealand captain added 77 runs at a brisk pace. Ronchi was the aggressor, hitting the ball on the up through the offside to get his side the early momentum. Williamson played second fiddle, constantly dabbing the ball to third man or tapping it wide of mid-on to keep rotating the strike.
Once Ronchi was out, cutting John Hastings to Glenn Maxwell at point, Williamson found another able partner in Ross Taylor. The pair added 99 runs at close to a run-a-ball. Williamson had got his eye in and started to pepper the fence around the ground, while Taylor, too, showed he was setting himself up for the big one. As New Zealand closed in on the 200-run mark, the pair started to push the accelerator and runs started to flow.
But with Taylor’s dismissal, falling to Hastings for 46 off 58, New Zealand lost the plot. Neil Broom struggled to get going, and was guilty of being involved in a mix-up that saw his captain make the walk back to the pavilion. Williamson had just notched up his hundred and looked set to give New Zealand the big finish, but his run out turned out to be catastrophic.
Broom fell for 14 soon after, while James Neesham, Corey Anderson, Adam Milne and Mitchell Santner all fell for a combined 33 runs as New Zealand’s innings came apart. Hazlewood ended with six wickets to his name, ensuring his side snatched back the initiative from New Zealand’s grasp with the wickets of Broom, Neesham, Milne, Santner and Trent Boult to add to the early wicket of Guptill. New Zealand were bowled out with still an over remaining in their innings but later came up with a spirited show with the ball, one that would go in vain.
New Zealand would perhaps feel a tad unlucky, having had Australia under the mat. This could lead to complications in their progression to the semi-finals. Meanwhile, the lucky escape would count as a birthday gift for Steven Smith.
Brief scores: New Zealand 291 in 45 overs (Kane Williamson 100, Luke Ronchi 65, Ross Taylor 46; Josh Hazlewood 6-52, John Hastings 2-69) vs Australia 53/3 in 9 overs (David Warner 18, Moises Henriques 18; Adam Milne 2-9). No result due to rain.