Monday 18 December 2017 / 04:34 AM

BLACK CAPS SOUND ODI WARNING TO EMBATTLED AUSSIES

While the Australian side licks their wounds after a 5-0 ODI drubbing at the hands of South Africa, New Zealand are running into some hot one-day form on the subcontinent just a month out from the Chappell-Hadlee Series.

The Black Caps squared their five-match series against red-hot India at 2-all overnight, defending a modest total of 260 to bowl the star-studded hosts out for a 19-run win in the fourth clash at Ranchi.

Out-of-form Martin Guptill top-scored with a desperately-needed 72 at the top of the order, while the seam attack of Tim Southee (3/40), Trent Boult (2/48) and Jimmy Neesham (2/38) did the job on the vaunted Indian batting line-up.

India, who dominated the three-Test series in favourable home conditions, romped to a six-wicket win in the ODI series opener, but the Kiwis bounced back with a six-run victory in the second encounter on the back of skipper Kane Williamson’s brilliant 118 – defending another underwhelming total of just 242.

Neesham’s blazing 57 off 47 at No.7 wasn’t enough to prevent a seven-wicket loss in game three – Virat Kohli’s masterful 154 not out off 134 put paid to that – but the Black Caps have forced a decider against all odds.

Australia are still trying to work out what went so wrong in the Republic. The Proteas notched two leisurely six-wicket wins, a 142-run thrashing, and completed the whitewash with a 31-run result. The only genuinely close contest was in third game, when South Africa ran down Australia’s mammoth 371 with four balls to spare.

Encouragingly, David Warner was in blistering touch, carving out 386 runs at 77.20, including two hundreds and a fifty. But the vice-captain largely played a lone hand.

Steve Smith’s 108 in the high-scoring game three masked four failures – making just 43 runs in his four other innings – while no other Australian batsman averaged better than 28, and the under-strength bowling attack struggled to make inroads.

Meanwhile, any domestic on-field action in Australian cricket circles has been completely overshadowed by retired stars’ juicy autobiography revelations, with Michael Clarke, Mitchell Johnson, Simon Katich and Shane Watson all sounding off publicly in a string of ugly spats.

On the back of the harrowing coronial inquest into Phillip Hughes’ death, the petty sniping been an unwanted distraction for Darren Lehmann’s rebuilding national side as Australian cricket’s culture from the top down comes under increasing scrutiny.

Before the trans-Tasman ODI series can get underway in December, both nations have Test assignments next month. Australia host South Africa in a three-match series, while New Zealand play Pakistan in two Tests on home soil.

Those five-day contests will give players a chance to work their way back into form, but there’s little question New Zealand boasts greater 50-over momentum, regardless of the result in the decisive game five against India.

The Kiwis need Guptill to produce his swashbuckling best on a more regular basis, but opening partner Tom Latham has been outstanding, scoring 225 runs at 75 so far against India.

Williamson has been a constant thorn in the Australians’ side and his recent century was a reminder of his world-class consistency, while Southee’s seven wickets at 29.14 bodes well for a big summer Down Under – and his big-hitting efforts down the order, which include a recent career high-score of 55 off 45 at Dharamsala, need little introduction.

New Zealand are the current holders of the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy thanks to a 2-1 success at home in February, while the gritty outfit have unfinished business in Australia after their World Cup final capitulation in Melbourne last March.

The ODI summer kicks off on Sunday, December 4 at the Sydney Cricket Ground, before clashes at Canberra’s Manuka Oval on December 6 and the MCG on December 9.

[YouTube – Tiger Style]

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Will Evans

CBS’s Editor-in-Chief and lead rugby league, union and cricket writer, Will is a Christchurch-based freelancer, also writing for Big League and Rugby League Review magazines, and The New Daily website. Will has written four rugby league books.

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