A superb match needed a Super Over to split the teams and New Zealand prevailed to repay Brendon McCullum for his amazing century. McCullum became the second-highest scorer in a Twenty20 international with an unbeaten 116, but after Michael Clarke and Cameron White exploded in the reply the scores were tied at 214 after 40 overs.
A six-ball tiebreaker was required and the calm Tim Southee delivered another tight over to allow only six runs for White, David Warner and Brad Haddin. Shaun Tait’s waywardness, including two wides, assisted the locals and Martin Guptill finished the game with a four over point from the third legitimate delivery.
The hosts were upset by a meek performance in Friday’s one-sided defeat, but McCullum showed his might with an unforgettable 56-ball demolition on a small ground that was rocking at the start and the end. Things were much quieter as Clarke organised the chase with 67 from 45 and White provided some much-needed muscle with 64 off 26 in a pursuit that was almost perfectly timed. However, Clarke and White could only scurry two from the final ball when three were required, with Clarke run out well short of his ground.
Needing two off almost every delivery throughout the second innings, the Australians managed to stay on track after Warner departed for a McCullum-style 20 off 10. Haddin (47 off 37) and Clarke, who was travelling much quicker than his usual pace, were able to stay close to the rate so they required 125 from the final 60 balls.
James Franklin slowed things down briefly with the wickets of Haddin and David Hussey (10) before White’s brute force arrived. White warmed up with a six over cover off Daniel Vettori, then caressed an inside-out clearance in the same area and was dropped on the boundary attempting a third.
He then powered two fours and a six off Franklin before flicking Shane Bond into the spectators at square leg. The 13 that came from Bond’s final over left Australia wanting 36 off 18 deliveries, but the first of three magically controlled Southee efforts made it 30 from 12.
White survived a run-out and found two boundaries and a six down the ground off Jacob Oram to cut the margin to 12. In Southee’s final over the bowler showed the maturity of a 30-year-old, not a boy who is 21, by delivering more pin-point yorkers to keep his side in the game.
And he proved it wasn’t a fluke by doing it again in the Super Over. The result levelled the series and delivered Australia their first loss of their summer while setting up an intriguing five-match one-day contest beginning on Wednesday.
Despite the flurry of absorbing action at the end, it was McCullum’s fireworks over the first half of the match that were the highlight. He showered boundaries around the tiny stadium and the change in attitude left the Australians, who had rested Mitchell Johnson and Shane Watson, wondering if there was any way to stop the run avalanche. They were able to slow it a couple of times, but McCullum carried his team through the loss of six wickets and achieved the side’s highest total.
His hundred came up in 50 balls, equalling the record of Chris Gayle, the only other century-maker in this format. It was achieved with a single to deep cover, at which point the batsman ripped off his helmet to take in the applause, but he was not finished and carried his bat. Nathan McCullum joined his brother at the end, getting 14 in a 50-run stand in 3.2 overs on an afternoon that stunned everyone.
The big crowd of 26,148 was sprinkled by McCullum’s eight sixes and he backed up with a dozen fours during the barrage. Four of the boundaries came with “McScoops” past or over the wicketkeeper, but that was nothing compared to the two sixes he managed to shovel behind himself off Tait. It was brave and brutal – one of the clearances off Tait came from a 155kph thunderbolt.
McCullum proved he wouldn’t be intimidated by Australia’s quick bowlers when he charged the third ball of the day from Tait (2 for 40) and bashed him for four through cover. There were 10 runs from the eventful over, which also contained the ugly bowled of the out-classed Peter Ingram for 0 and Tait sending a finger signal to McCullum.
In the second over McCullum planted a six through cover off Dirk Nannes’ opening delivery, was almost caught next ball top edging a pull, and quickly flicked him to fine leg for a boundary. The new-ball bowlers couldn’t match Friday’s performance as they gave up 42 in the first four overs.
McCullum ended up on his back after his first attempt to scoop Nannes over the wicketkeeper, but he managed it the second time, with the ball just missing Haddin on the way to the boundary. He followed up by unleashing a huge six to midwicket to show he could mix the unorthodox and the traditional. Nannes returned for the 16th over and McCullum enjoyed swinging him twice into the stands on the legside as the bowler went for 51 off four.
After losing the strike in the middle stages when some of his team-mates disappeared, McCullum focused by blasting a fierce straight four off Steven Smith and brought up his half-century in the same over when he pulled to midwicket. He dusted off the scoop to surprise Daniel Christian and then pulled him for six behind square – 57 of his runs came in that segment.
Gareth Hopkins (36 off 17) was the perfect ally for McCullum as they put on 68 in five overs to regain their explosive momentum. McCullum kept going till the end and had a chance to seal the game in the Super Over, but he was as happy as every other local when Guptill squared the series.
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