After what was Australia’s best winning streak – of six games – in Twenty20 Internationals so far, they didn’t just clinch the Trans Tasman tri-series title, but also rose to the top of the ICC Rankings for T20Is, joint with Pakistan, following their 19-run win over New Zealand by the DLS Method. That, after starting the series placed a lowly No.7.
Much was expected from the contest given the previous high-scoring encounter between the two sides in the last game where Australia chased down a record total. However, on Wednesday (February 21), the pitch was slow, there were two bouts of rain, and a damp end to a series that Australia finished unbeaten owing to a clinical all-round outing.
New Zealand got off to a blazing start with Martin Guptill and Colin Munro attacking from the onset with deliveries racing away to the boundaries given the size of the Eden Park in Auckland. The openers added 48 in quick time before both fell in successive overs with some smart bowling from Billy Stanlake and Kane Richardson to let Australia into the game. Australian bowlers’ ploy of mixing up the pace worked wonders for them as both Munro (29) and Guptill (21) were undone by the slower deliveries.
Ashton Agar dented the hosts further by picking up three vital wickets in the middle, bowling beautifully with the New Zealand batsmen faltering against his angle as New Zealand were reduced from 48 for 1 to 91 for 5. The pacers picked up another three soon after, and at one stage it seemed like New Zealand would be bowled out without batting out their quota of overs. But a defiant ninth-wicket stand between Ross Taylor and Ish Sodhi took New Zealand to 150 in their 20 overs, with the former finishing unbeaten on 43.
Australia had a sedate start. There were a few chances created, but Trent Boult’s over, the fifth of the innings, which conceded 16 runs, gave them the momentum they required to break the shackles and race away to 55 for 0 when rain interrupted proceedings for the first time after six overs. No overs were lost, but the break interfered with Australia’s momentum as D’Arcy Short fell first after scoring a 30-ball 50 – his second half-century in as many games. Warner followed soon after, falling to Sodhi for the second time in as many innings. And with Chris Lynn suffering a dislocated shoulder during New Zealand’s innings after a dive went wrong, Australia were in a spot of bother.
Ashton Agar was promoted to No.3 but he couldn’t replicate his heroics with the ball where he finished with figures of 3 for 27, falling for 2. Glenn Maxwell (20*) had a few lucky escapes and with Aaron Finch (18*) took Australia well above the par score when the second bout of rain hit. This time, it was heavy and prolonged enough for the umpires to call the game off as Australia ended with 121 for 3 in 14.4 overs.
While Agar was named Man of the Match, Maxwell was named the Player of the Series, thanks to his consistent run of form that saw him score 233 runs through the tournament, including a century. To add to which, he contributed with some brilliant fielding and chipped in with wickets as well.
Brief scores: New Zealand 150/9 in 20 overs (Colin Munro 29, Ross Taylor 43*; Ashton Agar 3-27) lost to Australia 121/3 in 14.4 overs (D’Arcy Short 50) by 19 runs by DLS Method.