Monday 18 December 2017 / 02:52 AM

KIWIS HOLD ON DESPITE MAGIC MARCUS’ HEROICS

Michael Pulman reporting LIVE from Eden Park

New Zealand beat Australia by six runs at Eden Park to take a 1-0 lead in the Chappell-Hadlee series, but even the narrow margin of victory doesn’t begin to explain the extraordinary twists and turns the match took in the latter stages.

In front of a big 28,000-plus Auckland crowd, it was the Black Caps bowlers who once again gave Australia nightmares at a familiar venue of struggle. But that was until Marcus Stoinis played one of the great innings.

Kane Williamson ran out No.11 Josh Hazlewood to seal the deal and get his side home by six runs.

Stoinis’ blistering maiden ODI century – in just his second match – wasn’t enough to bring Australia home, but it certainly brought his side a lot closer than they would’ve been. In a day of firsts for Stoinis, an aggressive and defiant knock drew the ovation of a rampant, New Zealand-biased crowd. For if nothing else, Stoinis played one of the most aggressive and brilliant innings in the history of the Chappell-Hadlee series.

A total of 11 sixes came off Stoinis’ bat as he took the game on his back and played one of the most exciting innings you’ll see anywhere in any format. He racked the highest ever score by an Australian batsman batting at No.7, and he would finish not out on 146 off just 117 balls – after coming in with the visitors in dire straits at 5/54.

Chasing 287 to win, Australia were in deep trouble early as Trent Boult and Tim Southee took three early scalps. In the process, Southee became the seventh New Zealander to take 150 wickets in ODI cricket.

Fellow speedster Lockie Ferguson got a pair of wickets, and part-timer Colin Munro also took full advantage of his opportunities to snatch a wicket of his own. Mitch Santner took three wickets – but a fine collective bowling performance unravelled late as Stoinis went berserk.

With their win, New Zealand remain undefeated at Eden Park in a streak that dates back to 2013.

Martin Guptill looked like he was going to continue his fine form on his home ground, but when he was dismissed for 61 – with Ross Taylor (16) and Munro (2) falling an over either side to leave them preciously placed at 5/134 in the 26th over – the Kiwis looked on the verge of being bowled out.

A strong and at-times difficult knock of 73 by No.5 Neil Broom had helped New Zealand to a respectable total after looking like imploding. Continuing a strong return to International cricket, Broom received rapturous applause from the Eden Park faithful when he departed.

Australia simply never got off the mark in their chase. With plenty of time to bat themselves out of trouble, the No.1-ranked ODI side made a hash of their efforts. As has been the case at Eden Park in their last three visits, Australian batsman fell at regular intervals. Glenn Maxwell (20) was particularly disappointed with his dismissal and vented his anger in the players’ tunnel.

Stoinis was Australia’s bright light by far, playing good cameos with both the bat and ball. A solid contributor with 3/49 from 10 overs in the first innings, he played a heroic role in a
seemingly hopeless run chase with the ship sinking around him.

Stoinis hung around, scoring some crucial runs for his team and impressing selectors in the process. Together with James Faulkner (25), the pair batted for over an hour for their 71-run partnership that had helped steady the ship after Australia had languished at 6/67.

He brought up his maiden ODI half century in what was just his third appearance for Australia in all formats. The 27-year-old batted Australia into a position where a victory wasn’t out of the question, but when the tail was exposed and over 100 runs were still required, it remained an unlikely task.

Pat Cummins played a cameo of 36 off 30 as Australia desperately tried to stay in the match, dominating a 48-run stand with Stoinis, who then seized the impetus. Southee, Boult, Santner and the hapless Jimmy Neesham (0/49 off five overs) were all despatched over the short Eden Park boundaries for multiple sixes as Stoinis’ second 50 came off just 32 balls.

Incredibly, he shared in a 54-run last-wicket stand with Hazlewood…who didn’t even face one delivery.
The pair refused to run singles apart from the last ball of each over, but it was that over-anxiety to keep Stoinis on strike that led to Williamson’s match-winning run-out when the Aussies were on course to pull off one of ODI cricket’s greatest Houdini acts.

New Zealand Escape After Setting Mediocre Total

Whether it was because of inconstant pace in the pitch or just mediocre batting, New Zealand weren’t the flashiest with the bat in what can best be described as perfect conditions. Apart from the occasional four or six, the Australian bowlers would’ve been happy to restrict New Zealand with such short boundaries.

Aaron Finch was promoted to captain after Matthew Wade missed the opening clash due to injury. Replacing Wade with the gloves was Peter Handscomb, and it also meant a debut for Sam Heazlett.
Martin Guptill is the third highest run-scorer of all time at Eden Park, and the right-handed opener looked good early on. Guptill took full advantage of the width on offer by the Australian bowlers, pounding several balls to the fence in quick time at the start of his innings.

The Australian bowlers were leaking far too many extras as balls continued to fly over the keepers’ head, giving away needless runs. After just 23 overs, Australia had given away 20 runs extras, that’s nearly an extra per over.

But suddenly, everything turned around for the visitors.

Notching his half-century, the 32nd of his career, Guptill was building toward a big score. Stoinis broke through to dismiss New Zealand’s big gun, sparking a collapse. Two of New Zealand’s other best batsmen, Kane Williamson (24) and Ross Taylor also failed to fire. Williamson was dismissed when he edged a Stoinis delivery onto his body, which rebounded and fell into the hands of Glenn Maxwell. Taylor chopped onto his stumps, giving Travis Head a wicket.

With the Kiwis at 5/134, Australia had recovered from a disappointing start. Stonis had nabbed three wickets, including the big one of Guptill. A relative newbie to New Zealand and Australian audiences, Stoinis had career-best figures at Eden Park in a period where New Zealand had lost three wickets for just six runs.

Neesham (48) and Broom dug in to steady the ship, hitting a crucial 50-run partnership just as the innings was looking to get away on New Zealand. Remarkably, a total of over 300 was still on the cards, but Neesham fell just prior to reaching a half century.

Broom batted on, taking the boundaries when they were on offer, but he looked more intent on keeping his wicket. He went past 50 for the third time in his ODI career. New Zealand would go on to set a relatively modest total of 286 – and only got that far after some late blows by No.11 Trent Boult (16* off 7) but took pride in the fact they’d battled out of a difficult position to see out their overs.

The Black Caps head to Hamilton one up in the series, but the moral victory arguably belonged to the under-strength Australians – or at the very least, unanimous man-of-the-match Stoinis – after their courageous fight-back came up agonisingly short.

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Michael Pulman

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

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