Sunday 18 February 2018 / 09:44 PM

NZ edge Australia in World T20 thriller

New Zealand have continued their giant-killing run at the World T20 tournament by defeating Australia by eight runs at the heartbreakingly picturesque Dharamsala on Friday.

The Kiwis, brimming off an upset of India in the tournament opener, scratched their way to 8/142, struggling after a rollicking start – but Australia’s innings suffered an uncannily similar collapse in their first outing of the tournament.

The Black Caps got off to a flyer courtesy of white-ball specialist Martin Guptill, whose golden run of form in the T20 format continued when he carted Ashton Agar for three sixes in the third over to take the underdogs to 0/32.

Guptill and Williamson brought up the 50 with ease in the sixth over, but spinner Adam Zampa put the brakes on in the seventh and a frustrated Guptill holed out for 39 (27 balls) off James Faulkner’s first ball in the eighth over, caught by Glenn Maxwell in the deep.

Williamson (24 off 20) departed in similar fashion seven balls later, caught by Agar off Maxwell’s bowling. An almost seven-over boundary drought dragged the Black Caps down, with Corey Anderson (3) out cheaply and Colin Munro (23 off 26) picking up just two fours before becoming Mitch Marsh’s first victim.

New Zealand were 4/97 after 14 – disappointing after going along at almost 10 an over for the first six – and Grant Elliott’s fighting 27 off 20 was the only bright spot of the innings’ latter stages. Australia pulled off two run-outs in the last three balls, while the other six wickets fell to catches near the boundary.

Usman Khawaja looked to take the game away from the Kiwis early in Australia’s innings, smashing 19 off his first 11 balls. He plundered six boundaries off the first five overs, before Shane Watson’s spluttering knock of 13 off 12 came to an end courtesy of pace-man Mitchell McClenaghan.

Mitchell Santner, man-of-the-match in the Kiwis’ boilover against India, had Steve Smith (6) out stumped in the seventh over off his third delivery, changing the momentum of the contest.

The dangerous Khawaja (38 off 27) was gone two overs later, run out after slick work by Ish Sodhi and Elliott. The sudden pressure told on David Warner, who found Guptill’s safe hands on the boundary off Santner’s bowling – and all of a sudden Australia were 4/66 early in the 11th.

Maxwell and Marsh put on a cautious 34 off 30 balls until an anxious Maxwell skied one to Williamson off Sodhi, leaving the favourites in the unenviable position of needing 43 off 29 balls with five wickets in hand – and spin bowling calling the tune.

Marsh and Agar smashed sixes during the 17th over, bowled by Santner, to switch the momentum yet again, netting an equation of 27 off 18 balls.

But Marsh (24 off 23) succumbed to McClenaghan on the first ball of the 19th over – leaving his side needing 22 off 11 – to turn the worm for the umpteenth time in a fascinating showdown. Three balls later, Ross Taylor took a superb catch on the boundary to send Agar (9 off 8) on his way.

Nineteen needed off the final over.

James Faulkner took Anderson on first ball of the 20th, but Guptill grabbed an excellent catch off the slower ball near the rope to leave Australia’s prospects on the rocks…until Peter Nevill clubbed an unexpected six to peg back the equation to 12 off three balls.

But Nevill’s single off the next ball, followed by Coulter-Nile (1) playing on next ball, sealed the upset result.

Incredibly, it was the neighbouring nations’ first T20I clash in more than six years – and the Black Caps’ first-ever victory over their overbearing archrivals in the format.

[YouTube – ICC]

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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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