The ground-staff and the goodly audience at this hilly town deserved the penultimate-ball suspense that made the Australia-New Zealand T20 contest a spectacle — one for having worked tirelessly to set up the game and the other for the belief in backing New Zealand to win it. Australia was stranded after twice looking to run away with it but succumbed to the splendid spirit that embodies this New Zealand outfit which recorded its second win in as many matches of the ICC World Twenty20.
Dark clouds that hung over this place for the last two days gradually gave way to sunshine and the stadium basked in resplendence to the delight of those who thronged the venue with plenty of hope.
The teams obliged by producing a thriller. Amidst loud cheers from the stands, New Zealand closed out the contest with a well-earned eight-run victory.
New Zealand played to a plan on electing to bat — swing the bat at everything. It worked well since Martin Guptill, who later held his nerve to take two skiers in the deep, connected true and hard to hit three sixes in one Ashton Agar over.
But Australia did not wilt. A tactical fight ensued with New Zealand digging in firmly and Australia exploring every possible method, combining caution and aggression. “I just thought today was the day that our quicker bowlers were going to do the job, bowling into the wicket and I think it worked,” said Aussie skipper Steve Smith.
Seventy five runs from the first 10 overs gave the New Zealand innings the desired thrust but the momentum slackened over the last 10 as the Aussie bowlers bowled good lines.
The tempo that Guptill set at the top was matched by Grant Elliott to some extent as New Zealand finished at 142 for eight — a good 25 runs short of its targeted score.
The Australian response did scare the Kiwis initially.
“I don’t think in T20 you can ever think you have got the game. It can come back to bite you,” Mitchell McClenaghan said later.
At the half-way stage, Australia looked in control at 66 for three with Glenn Maxwell and David Warner promising to play the finishers. Their past record suggested so.
However, left-armer Mitchell Santner lured Warner and New Zealand sensed a grateful opening. But, Marsh and a belligerent Maxwell ensured a good flow of runs. New Zealand grappled and eventually succeeded in snaring the over-confident Maxwell.
This was a significant dent after which the Kiwis concentrated on drying up easy runs. A tight over from the parsimonious Ish Sodhi gave Mitchell McClenaghan the stage to showcase his guile and he stifled the Aussies with two strikes.
Nineteen required from the last over, bowled by Corey Anderson, proved beyond Australia’s grasp despite a six by Peter Nevill. New Zealand was safe and home, looking every inch the team to back all the way.
The spectators departed pleased with the result but the ground-staff returned to work to cover the field. With the weather in the hills, you never know!
AUS:- 134/9 (20.0 Ovs)
NZ:- 142/8 (20.0 Ovs)