New Zealand chase down 337

Australia’s losing streak was extended to four as New Zealand successfully chased a huge total in front of a near-capacity crowd at Eden Park in Auckland today to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series and win the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy. Stand-in Australian captain Michael Hussey tried to lead by example, scoring a wonderful century in Australia’s then ground-record total of 336-4, but the home team paced their chase superbly to win in the 49th over. They were given cause to celebrate not only the match and series win, but also the second one-day international century by Ross Taylor, whose 117 showed that he was on the way to becoming one of the world’s finest batsmen.

Like in their one-sided win in Wellington on Friday, New Zealand won the toss and elected to bowl first. Things looked to be heading a similar way when Phil Jaques again looked woefully out of form and was dismissed for three off the bowling of Bond, who backed up his 5-23 on Friday with an opening spell of 1-7 from six overs. Unfortunately Daryl Tuffey was struggling at the other end, and Matthew Hayden and Brad Haddin managed to lift the run-rate.

When those two players were dismissed by Mark Gillespie and Daniel Vettori respectively, the partnership of Hussey and Brad Hodge came together. The two got the innings on the right track and gradually lifted the run-rate, starting to find gaps in the field and hit regular boundaries in a partnership of 130 from just 17 overs. Hussey, who averages over 300 against the Kiwis, played superbly for his 84-ball 106. His innings included six sixes, almost all of which would have been easily six at any ground, not only the narrow rugby ground that is Eden Park. He was ably supported at the other end by Hodge, who started cautiously and ran well before himself lifting his scoring rate and reaching his third half-century. When Hussey was finally dismissed, falling for the third time this season to the bowling of Craig McMillan, Hodge was joined by Cameron White, and the assault began. 84 runs were scored in the last seven and a half overs, with White blasting 42 not out from just 19 balls, and Hodge looking likely to beat his highest score of 99 not out. Unfortunately he fell agonisingly short again, stranded on 97 as the 50 overs came to an end with the score at 336-4. It was an extraordinary turnaround from Wellington just two days ago, where they collapsed to 148 all out, 188 runs fewer than they scored today.

It is painfully clear how much New Zealand missed the injured Jacob Oram, who conceded just 22 in his ten overs on Friday. He was replaced in the team by specialist batsman Peter Fulton, and Scott Styris, McMillan and Lou Vincent, who bowled in his absence, conceded a combined total of 100 runs from their eleven overs. Shane Bond’s figures of 1-39 from 9 clearly stand out in what was a violent attack on the New Zealand bowlers’ figures. Gillespie and Vettori, who both bowled well in the middle stages, in the end gave up 57 and 54 runs from their 10-over spells.

In search of 337 to win, New Zealand could look back 12 months for inspiration. In the third game of the same series last year they successfully chased 332 in Christchurch, and also went agonisingly close to chasing 345 in Perth just a few weeks ago. But the task looked a lot tougher when Stephen Fleming fell in the third over, caught by Haddin off the bowling of Nathan Bracken. When the in-form Vincent followed six overs later for 26 it looked as though we would be heading to Hamilton on Tuesday with the series level at 1-1. But Ross Taylor had other ideas. Keen to make up for what he considered a disappointing tour of Australia, Taylor started brightly and although he had some early luck with edges particularly off the bowling of Shaun Tait not going to hand, he played a number of stunning shots and got New Zealand going again after their early setbacks.

Taylor was unable to find a partner in Scott Styris, who fell to a less than impressive shot for 17, but Peter Fulton joined him at the crease after the fall of Styris’s wicket and provided the support Taylor needed. The two put on 115 as Taylor continued to score at an impressive rate and an initially defensive Fulton started to accelerate his scoring rate. The two took the team score through to 200 just over the 30-over mark, confirming that the team’s run-rate was not only at the required level but slightly above it. Taylor himself brought up his second ODI century from 102 deliveries, a wonderful and composed innings from such an inexperienced player.

Taylor eventually fell for 117, and received a well-deserved standing ovation from the 35,000-strong crowd. But in a way it was a blessing in disguise when Taylor fell, as although he was scoring at a good rate he was pedestrian compared to Craig McMillan. From just 30 balls McMillan blasted 52, punishing Australia for dropping a catch early in his innings. As the required run rate moved close to the dangerous 8+ area, McMillan brought a refreshing approach to the chase as he sought to blast every ball and get on top of the Australian bowlers. Fulton at the other end brought up his half-century and although he was regularly overshadowed by his partners at the other end he was scoring at better than a run a ball himself.

When McMillan’s cameo came to an end just 24 runs were needed from 25 balls with 5 wickets in hand, and it was becoming clear to the ecstatic crowd that they were going to witness one of New Zealand’s best one-day victories. Brilliant lower-order hitter Brendon McCullum put it well beyond doubt in the 49th over, which started with the score 11 runs short of victory. McCullum only needed half of the 12 balls available though, hitting champion bowler Glenn McGrath on to the terraces for six to send the crowd in to celebration. He then nudged what turned out to be the final ball for a single to win the match, taking his own score to 19 with Fulton unbeaten at the other end on 76, an innings that may have hardly been noticed by some in the crowd but that must not be forgotten.

The win gave New Zealand the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy for the first time, lifted their world ranking to 3 and relegated Australia’s to 2, the first time they have not occupied the number one spot since the rankings were introduced in 2002. Taylor’s innings was easily his best to date, and hopefully for New Zealand supporters there will be many more like it.

The series has so far been strikingly similar to last year but the other way around. Last year Australia easily won the first game before clinching the series with a breathtaking narrow win in the second game, with New Zealand brilliantly winning the third and final match. This year it was New Zealand who took out the first game with the greatest of ease, and won what was a wonderful second game with a thrilling chase. Will Australia do what New Zealand did in Christchurch last year? Find out in Hamilton on Tuesday.

Australia 336-4
Mike Hussey 106, Brad Hodge 97 no
Shane Bond 1-39, Daniel Vettori 1-54

New Zealand 337-5
Ross Taylor 117, Peter Fulton 76 no
Shane Watson 3-58, Nathan Bracken 2-66

New Zealand won by 5 wickets.

Cricket Web Player of the Match: Ross Taylor – 117 (127).

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