NZ Fall Just Short

At 9pm on Saturday you wouldn’t have believed it, in the innings break today you wouldn’t have believed it, but New Zealand tonight fell just two runs short of an astonishing victory over Australia. In a batting effort not at all recognisable as the same players involved in the embarrassing capitulation at the hands of Brett Lee at Eden Park, in fact a performance that produced a score three times the size of that disastrous innings, the New Zealanders set out not only to regain some pride but with the constant intent of reaching the considerable target of 323. And, if it hadn’t been for two run-outs in the last over in which just six were needed, they would have achieved an unbelieveable win and completed one of the largest successful run-chases in ODI history.

The match started off in fairly ordinary fashion, giving no indication of the excitement that was to follow. After Ricky Ponting had won the toss and elected to bat, once again Adam Gilchrist was dismissed early, something which has become a bit of a regular occurrence on New Zealand grounds in recent ODIs. This time he mistimed an aerial cover drive off Kyle Mills while on 8 and was comfortably caught by Chris Cairns. Continuing to follow an identical pattern to the one-sided series opener as Ponting and Simon Katich rebuilt after the early loss and got the run rate heading in an upward direction. Ponting reached 32 before being the second Australian to fall to the superb bowling of Mills, this time edging the ball through to wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum. When Hodge cut the ball to a diving Hamish Marshall at point off Cairns for nought and Katich was run out not long afterwards by a direct hit from the same fielder for 36, Australia were 101-4 and with New Zealand bowling and fielding well, Mills finishing his first spell with magnificent figures of 2-24 from eight overs, Australia looked in danger of scoring below 250 on what turned out to be an incredible batting pitch. But what was to follow was the first of the match’s amazing performances.

Andrew Symonds and Michael Clarke came together and started cautiously against the disciplined bowling of Scott Styris and Daniel Vettori, both of whom were among the few New Zealanders to perform reasonably in Auckland. The partnership gradually grew and the pair became more confident in their strokeplay. The turning point from caution to aggression came when Nathan Astle was hit for consecutive sixes over mid-wicket by Andrew Symonds, but this was only a small hint of what was to follow.

Symonds, after bringing up his fifty in 70 balls, suddenly had a huge change of heart and took just 39 balls from that point to reach his third ODI century, and after that the carnage began. In just sixteen balls he went from 100 to 150, a passage of play that included two fours and six sixes, taking his total to eight, from the bat of the big Queenslander. He reached 156, and the partnership with Clarke 220 (an Australian record against New Zealand and just short of the Australian record against all opposition) before missing a straight one from Vettori to end his phenomenal innings in the final over of the innings. Mike Hussey came in and scored one to take his ODI average to 129, as Clarke took Australia through to 322-5 and himself to 82 not out. 118 runs were scored in the last 10 overs in an incredible display of hitting, and the bowlers’ figures certainly suffered. Mills went from having the very impressive figures of 2-24 from 8 to 2-60 from 10, conceding 36 in his last two overs. The only bowlers to concede fewer than six an over were Vettori (1-51) and Styris (0-46).

Australia would have been rather confident at the break to say the least, while most New Zealand supporters would have found their dinner a lot less enjoyable. But, despite giving the impression that it was, the match was far from over.

Lou Vincent and Nathan Astle came out to open the innings, a sight that wouldn’t have done much to fill the home team’s supporters with much hope after the Auckland disaster. But it was a different Lou Vincent to the one that was clean bowled for 1 on Saturday as he took to Nathan Bracken and Brett Lee with a devastating early assault, with the latter bowler finishing his first spell with figures of 0-37 from five overs, very different from his remarkable 3-5 from six at Eden Park. The innings became all the more laudable after he seemed to do damage to a leg muscle while taking a run early in his innings and battled through visible pain throughout the remainder of his innings. He brought up his fifty from just 33 balls and hit the boundary on a number of occasions in an exciting display of hitting until, with the team score at just 93, he edged a ball from debutant Michael Lewis through to Gilchrist while on 71 from 49 balls.

While Vincent was at the crease New Zealanders started to get the feeling that what seemed impossible was almost possible, but they were sent crashing back to earth by a quick flurry of wickets as first Astle for 22, then the promoted Craig McMillan to a poor shot for 9, then Hamish Marshall to a tight lbw decision for 10 fell and the score went from 93-0 to 134-4. When Scott Styris followed 22 runs later, caught and bowled by Brad Hogg for 25, it was looking very bleak for New Zealand and the 147-run margin from Saturday looked like it may be repeated. But there was more excitement left in this match.

Chris Cairns and Jacob Oram both started slightly cautiously by their standards, but as the required run rate grew they soon turned to their more traditional batting styles. Oram hit the boundary five times and Cairns hit it on four occasions and cleared it on three as the two tall all-rounders put on 81 for the sixth wicket in quick time and the latter brought up an impressive half century. But then a tidy over from Lewis put pressure on, leading Cairns to attempt unnecessarily to clear the boundary and be caught just inside it by Lee. But this just brought Brendon McCullum to the crease.

What followed, although a setback was suffered in the form of Oram’s dismissal on the third man boundary for 41, was a wonderful display by the New Zealanders as hope gradually grew of achieving a victory that was unexpected to say the least. McCullum in particular was outstanding, hitting the boundary regularly and putting his amazing speed between the wickets to good use between times, as the home team got closer and closer to their target. He was supported well by supersub James Marshall until they attempted a second run that was just too tight and Marshall was run out. Vettori came in next and started promisingly, and the chase seemed well on track, especially when Lee produced an expensive 49th over, one that went for eighteen runs including a full toss that was no-balled and went to the boundary off the glove of McCullum.

The over also included a ball that was declared a no-ball by umpire Bowden as the Australians were found by the third umpire to have only three men inside the circle, a call that didn’t go down too well with Ponting, who disputed it in a lengthy discussion with Bowden. But eventually the over ended and Lee finished with figures of 1-85 from ten, a huge change from his seemingly unplayable spell just four days earlier.

The final over had now arrived and the equation seemed fairly straight-forward, six runs from six balls, especially with the way McCullum was playing. The ball was handed to Lewis, a large amount of pressure to be put on a bowler playing his first game. But he handled the situation amazingly well.

He ran in for the first ball of the last over, 317-8, six from six. It was a good ball, yorker length, but McCullum, who on 47 had his eye well and truly in, drove the ball to long-off and they took a single, all that was needed. Second ball, five from five needed. Another yorker, this time to Vettori who hit the ball very gently to a vacant spot close to the pitch and took a quick single. Four from four. But then disaster struck for New Zealand with the third ball of what was turning out to be a great over by the debutant. McCullum hit it firmly to point where it was fielded by Clarke, but the batsmen had to take the risk and run the single…but a wonderful throw by Clarke crashed into the middle stump and McCullum’s heroic 48 from 33 balls was ended, and some doubt started to appear in the minds of the New Zealanders as Kyle Mills came out to join Vettori with four needed from three balls with just one wicket in hand. The fourth ball was another great fullish delivery from Lewis, and Vettori played it to short mid-wicket and had to take the single that was available, leaving Mills on strike with three needed from two. The fifth ball was devastating for New Zealand supporters. Again it was full, hit firmly back to the bowler and Mills ran. It was fumbled a bit by Lewis but the ball eventually found its way to the stumps, and after a painful wait it appeared on the stadium’s big screen for all to see, ‘OUT’.

They had been given no chance of winning today by almost everyone after their display in the first game, a view held even more strongly by most after the Australians reached their massive first innings score. But throughout the chase it seemed that the Black Caps firmly believed they could win, and they went so close in what must be one of, if not the greatest one-day international to be played on New Zealand soil. 642 runs were scored in total, and the disappointing crowd of 16,000 were treated to a match with almost as many twists as runs New Zealand scored in Auckland, and saw some magnificent hitting particularly by Symonds, some great fielding by Marshall and Clarke, fantastic death bowling by Lewis and one of the most dramatic sporting spectacles you will see in New Zealand.

The final match will be played in Christchurch on Saturday, and New Zealand will be hoping to repeat today’s batting effort and aim for a confidence-boosting win, as the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy will be regardless of the result heading across the Tasman.

Australia 322-5
Andrew Symonds 156, Michael Clarke 82*
Kyle Mills 2-60, Daniel Vettori 1-51

New Zealand 320 all out (49.5 overs)
Lou Vincent 71, Chris Cairns 60
Michael Lewis 3-56, Brad Hogg 2-34

Australia won by 2 runs.

Cricket Web Player of the Match
Andrew Symonds (156)

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