Saturday 17 March 2018 / 09:23 PM


Australia have their hands back on the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy after a defiant effort from New Zealand came up 116 runs short in Canberra, giving Australia an insurmountable 2-0 series lead.

After sending Australia in to bat first, Kane Williamson did all he could to repair the damage that a blinding knock by David Warner did to New Zealand’s chances of levelling the series with a game to go.

Warner, one of the best batsmen in the game today, lit up the Canberra crowd with a classy innings where he never looked like losing his wicket.

After giving himself time to get in at the crease, Warner was conservative but powerful with the bat, and he led the charge with 119 from 115 that saw Australia take the game away from New Zealand. Australia finished on 378/5, and it proved to be a total that the tourists couldn’t threaten.

Australia can thank Warner for providing the ultimate launching platform in their innings.

With his wife and child watching, Warner went on to notch his 10th century in one-day cricket, but this was his very first against New Zealand. It was also Warner’s sixth century of 2016, a year that has seen him score 1261 ODI runs.

Meanwhile, Steve Smith’s watchful 72, along with sizzling knocks from Travis Head (57 from 32) and Mitch Marsh (76 from 40) pushed the home side through to their third-highest score ever.

In the reply, Kane Williamson and Jimmy Neesham had revived New Zealand’s run-chase and kept hopes of a miracle victory alive. With the required run-rate remaining at nine-plus per over, the pair couldn’t afford to sit on anything – they had to be aggressive at all times.

The pair put on a 125-run stand, but Neesham was dismissed for 74 trying to hit Josh Hazlewood out of the park. It was Neesham’s best innings so far in a very young international career, and he had taken a big hit to the right forearm a few overs before departing.

As he has done for the Black Caps time and time again, Williamson anchored the run-chase and played an innings typical of his style. Slow and steady, Williamson plugged the gaps that were on offer, choosing to keep the ball on the ground for the majority of his runs.

When he lost Neesham, it was up to Williamson to find a way to keep the momentum rolling. The captain did all he could, but the required run-rate was simply too high, despite having several wickets left in the shed.

When Williamson fell on 81, so did New Zealand’s chances of victory. The last six wickets fell for just 33 runs, the Kiwis all out for 262 in the 48th over.

Pat Cummins was remarkable with the ball for Australia, and he secured the big scalp of Williamson. The youngster went on to get another three wickets, finishing with figures of 4/41 – a fine response to his loose comeback appearance in Sydney.

Earlier in the chase, Martin Guptill (45 off 33) looked like he could spark something special again. The right-handed opener, who performed so well in the first game, was aggressive again out and got his sides’srun chase off to a flyer. But with a dodgy bat, Guptill edged through to Matthew Wade, handing Australia a crucial wicket.

Australia’s victory was set up, as it was at the SCG, by some brilliant shot-play with first use of the pitch.

Warner could have been dismissed cheaply early on in his innings, Neesham couldn’t take what was a difficult chance in the slips. But as was proved in the first match, New Zealand simply couldn’t afford to let such opportunities go by the wayside.

Like in Sydney, New Zealand were punished heavily by the very batsman they had a chance to dismiss early. Had Williamson have opted for a third slip, Warner would have been gone for just one run.

After his heroic and record-breaking knock of 164 on Sunday, captain Smith was in pristine form once again. Short-pitched bowling to Smith cost the bowlers, and together with Warner, he put on a 145-run partnership. Smith made his way to 72 before holing out in the field in the first ball of the second power play.

Warner and Aaron Finch combined for an opening stand of 50 runs, taking Australia to the half-century mark inside the first 10 overs. Spinner Mitchell Santner, who had been the first bowling change for New Zealand, broke the partnership when Finch was dismissed.

For the second innings in a row, Head went past the half-century mark, but it was Marsh who was the man of the moment for Australia late in the day.

After recent struggles against New Zealand, Marsh cleared the rope for seven sixes to ram the mammoth total home.

Williamson will rue his decision at the coin toss earlier in the day.

The Kiwi skipper looked unsure about what to do when he won the toss. His theory behind bowling first would’ve been that the ball would swing early, but neither Matt Henry or Trent Boult could get much movement off the pitch.

In large part, the bowling was poor by New Zealand, with all bowlers going too short after being so heavily dominated by bowling the same lines in the opening game.

Tim Southee returned to the Black Caps line-up for this clash and was their best bowler by far, but even his figures were fairly pedestrian, finishing with 2/63.

The teams head down to Melbourne for Friday’s dead-rubber clash.

[YouTube – Cricket Videos]

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Michael Pulman

Based in Hamilton (NZ), Michael is Commentary Box Sports' rugby union and cricket expert

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