Bond bowls NZ to record win

Less than a week after the embarrassment of being defeated in the finals of their own tournament for the first time in 14 years, Australia extended their losing streak to an alarming 3 losses in a row as New Zealand blew them away in scoring a 10-wicket win in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy series opener at WestPac Stadium in Wellington, the first time a team has beaten the Australians by such a margin.

New Zealand had a point to prove after their early exit from the Commonwealth Bank Series, and they set about doing so as soon as they first set foot on the field after winning the toss and deciding to bowl first. Shane Bond struck in the first over with just 3 runs on the board to remove Phil Jaques to what he will admit was a fairly poor delivery, but from then on he was absolutely brilliant. He took four further wickets, three of them clean bowled, to finish with 5-23 in a dominant display, the best performance he has produced in New Zealand colours all season. The best of the wickets was that of Cameron White, caught and bowled with a stunning diving catch in the opposite direction to the one in which he was moving in his follow-through.

Bond was well supported by every other bowler in the attack as New Zealand put in their most complete fielding performance for quite some time and restricted Australia to 148 all out. Daryl Tuffey was tidy in his comeback after two years away from international cricket, Jacob Oram was superb in putting unpleasant memories of his bowling on the Australian tour in taking 0-22 from ten, Mark Gillespie took two well-deserved wickets and showed how much he is continuing to improve at this level, and Daniel Vettori once again showed his class by troubling all batsmen he bowled to on an unresponsive pitch for spinners and finishing with 2-26 from nine.

Mike Hussey, captaining Australia for just the second time, fought bravely and denied all of the frontline bowlers in making 42 before being caught out by a brilliant bowling change by his opposite number in introducing Craig McMillan into the attack. Hussey looked to attack the part-timer and was well caught at mid-off by a diving Ross Taylor. Fleming, who has been harshly criticised by many since the Australian tour, showed that he is still an extremely effective international captain, arguably one of the world’s finest, and almost every single thing he tried today worked perfectly.

It all seemed too good to be true for New Zealand, and it was seemingly inevitable considering their fortunes in recent seasons that something was going to go wrong. That something came when Mitchell Johnson was dismissed, hitting a ball straight up in the air off Gillespie to provide what looked a simple catch for Oram. Unfortunately his left ring finger got in the way of that and, although he completed the catch, he soon left the field and news later came that he had suffered a fracture, meaning he will certainly miss the group stages of the World Cup next month.

Although credit was rightly given to New Zealand, most suggested that the fact that Australia managed such a small total was primarily down to the bowler-friendly condition of the pitch. New Zealand were able to prove that the difficulty of batting on the pitch was exaggerated however as they backed up their near-perfect display in the field with a comfortable yet attacking start to their chase. Stephen Fleming and Lou Vincent showed from the first over that they had no intention of simply nudging the ball around and sticking to the required rate of 2.98 runs per over, instead targeting the boundaries regularly and pushing the run-rate closer to 5 without ever looking in much danger of losing wickets.

The two openers were helped by some uncharacteristically sloppy fielding by the visitors, but both played brilliantly in reaching the target of 149 without losing a wicket. In doing so they brought up a record first-wicket partnership for New Zealand against Australia. Vincent, who has been in wonderful form since being recalled to the team, ended the match with a six to finish on 73 not out while Fleming was unbeaten at the other end on a confidence-boosting 70.

The win, just New Zealand’s third in the last 23 matches against their trans-Tasman rivals, went a long way to silence the critics after they performed below expectations in the Commonwealth Bank Series, and perhaps moved the attention to their opponents and their decision to rest captain Ricky Ponting and wicketkeeper Adam Gilchrist. The Australians will be desperately hoping things can only get better after tonight’s disaster and that they can somehow bounce back and take the series, otherwise they will find themselves dropping from number 1 in the ICC rankings for ODIs for the first time since the rankings’ inception in 2002. They have some work to do before Game 2 in Auckland on Sunday, and a second defence of their World Cup title at the moment looks a long way away.

Australia 148 all out
Mike Hussey 42, Brad Hodge 22
Shane Bond 5-23, Daniel Vettori 2-26

New Zealand won by 10 wickets.

New Zealand 149-0
Lou Vincent 73 no, Stephen Fleming 70 no

Cricket Web Player of the Match: Shane Bond – 5-23

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