New Zealand blew a golden opportunity to upset Australia when the home side won their triangular series One-day International (ODI) by two wickets here at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Sunday.
Michael Clarke’s 75, batting at number three, and Mike Hussey’s cool head (65 not out) at the finish, enabled Australia to scramble to victory with eight balls to spare and remain unbeaten in the series, making 8-224 from 48.4 overs in reply to New Zealand’s 218.
New Zealand had a great chance to finally break the shackles of recent Australian domination when they had the home side 3-17 early in their chase.
But three horrible fielding blunders cost them dearly as they squandered their earlier good work with the ball and batting heroics of veteran Craig McMillan.
Opening bowler James Franklin committed the first fielding sin, dropping an absolute sitter at fine leg when Clarke was on just 17. Australia was 59 for three when Clarke skied a pull shot from the bowling of Mark Gillespie, who bowled superbly with 2-34 from 10 overs, but Franklin muffed it.
The normally reliable Daniel Vettori was the next offender, losing control of the ball when he tried to break the stumps to run out Hussey as the Kiwis made a total hash of what should have been a certain wicket.
Hussey, who was 18, was well short of his ground when the stumps were broken, but was given not out by the third umpire.
Clarke then had another life on 42, Franklin the frustrated bowler this time as wicket-keeper Brendon McCullum could not hang onto an inside edge standing up to the stumps.
Those crucial errors enabled Australia to recover from 77 for four, with Clarke and Hussey putting on 90 for the fifth wicket to put their side within reach of victory.
When Clarke and Cameron White went in quick succession, Kiwis hopes were briefly revived.
But once again the unflappable Hussey did the job for Australia in the final overs as the Black Caps paid the price for dropping a specialist bowler to strengthen their batting.
With one run needed to win and two wickets left, Hussey coolly lifted Nathan Astle over square leg for six to seal the victory in the penultimate over.
The victory meant Australia have won 18 of its last 20 limited-overs matches against New Zealand.
The Kiwis were themselves in great trouble after winning the toss and electing to bat, but McMillan rode his luck and came to the rescue.
McMillan’s lusty 89 enabled his side to recover from 136 for seven to post a competitive total despite only lasting 47.4 overs.
The 30-year-old McMillan, who is batting for a place at the upcoming World Cup in the West Indies, was at his feisty best as he frustrated the Australian attack after benefiting from an early umpiring error.
McMillan was just one, and the score 59 for four, when he clearly edged a Glenn McGrath delivery through to wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist, but was given not out.
He made the most of the early life, facing just 87 balls and producing a mixture of quality shots and extravagant swings, hitting three sixes.
His ultimate dismissal, when he top-edged an attempted pull shot, was as unlucky as his early reprieve was fortunate. He was caught and bowled by McGrath from a full-toss that was above waist height and should have been called a no-ball.
The Australians were well on top early, their four-pronged pace attack slicing through the Black Caps’ top order.
Opener Nathan Astle and the recalled Hamish Marshall both fell for ducks as speedster Lee (2-43) produced a quality opening spell that saw him swing the ball at high pace.
Stuart Clark three times claimed a wicket in the first over of a spell and finished with 4-54. The evergreen McGrath chimed in with 3-24 from 10 overs.
New Zealand won toss
*S P Fleming c Hussey b Clark 12
N J Astle c Gilchrist b Lee 0
H J H Marshall c Gilchrist b Lee 0
R L Taylor c Hussey b Clark 26
P G Fulton c Hayden b Clark 19
C D McMillan c & b McGrath 89
†B B McCullum lbw b McGrath 15
D L Vettori c Ponting b Clark 6
J E C Franklin c Hayden b McGrath 18
M R Gillespie not out 6
M J Mason b Bracken 4
Extras (b2, lb12, w5, nb4) 23
Total (all out, 47.4 overs) 218
Fall: 1-5, 2-7, 3-38, 4-53, 5-84, 6-126, 7-136, 8-193, 9-205
Bowling: Lee 10-1-43-2 (2nb, 1w); Bracken 8.4-2-33-1; McGrath 10-1-24-3 (1nb); Clark 10-1-54-4 (1nb); Symonds 8-0-44-0 (4w); White 1-0-6-0
†A C Gilchrist c McCullum b Franklin 3
M L Hayden c Taylor b Mason 0
M J Clarke c Taylor b Vettori 75
*R T Ponting lbw b Mason 5
A Symonds b Vettori 38
M E K Hussey not out 65
C L White c Fulton b Gillespie 5
B Lee c Marshall b Gillespie 2
N W Bracken c Taylor b McMillan 14
S R Clark not out 1
Extras (lb6, w4, nb6) 16
Total (8 wkts, 48.4 overs) 224
Did not bat: G D McGrath
Fall: 1-6, 2-6, 3-17, 4-77, 5-167, 6-175, 7-198, 8-217
Bowling: Mason 10-2-46-2 (2nb, 2w); Franklin 10-1-47-1 (1nb, 1w); Gillespie 10-2-34-2 (3nb, 1w); Vettori 10-0-41-2; Astle 2.4-0-22-0; McMillan 6-0-28-1
Result: Australia won by 2 wickets
Points: Australia 4, New Zealand 0
Man of the Match: Michael Clarke
Umpires: Asad Rauf (Pakistan) and S J A Taufel. TV umpire: R L Parry. Match referee: R S Madugalle (Sri Lanka)
Next match: Tuesday (tomorrow) England v New Zealand, Adelaide (d/n)
Triangular Series Points Table
Teams P W L Pts NRR
Australia 4 4 - 18 +1.014
England 3 1 2 4 -0.505
New Zealand 3 - 3 0 -0.795
Note: Australia’s tally includes 2 bonus points
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