The first match of the Trans-Tasman T20 Tri-Series, played at a damp SCG between Australia and New Zealand, saw a facile win for the hosts, based on an exceptional bowling performance.
Their U19 side might have gone down to India in the final of the CWC U19 World Cup at Bay Oval Tauranga just before this game started, but Australia showed their youngsters just how white-ball cricket should be played as they comprehensively outplayed the side at No.2 in the MRF Tyres T20I Rankings and belied their own seventh-placed position.
Billy Stanlake [pictured above] was the star with the ball, taking wickets with his first two balls, both delivered at around 145kph. The first, a short ball, did for the world’s No.4-rated T20I batsman Colin Munro and the second was an absolute beauty, breaking Martin Guptill’s off stump. Munro did, however, score exactly the three runs he needed to become the fifth New Zealander to reach 1,000 T20I runs.
The tone had been well and truly set, with the 204cm-Stanlake just too quick and too accurate for the New Zealand batters. Stand-in captain David Warner, in for the rested Steve Smith, aggressively kept the pressure on, bowling Kane Richardson and Stanlake for three overs each in the Powerplay, and at one stage posting three slips.
Before the match, Cricket Australia had announced that Alex Carey and D’Arcy Short, both making their T20I debuts, along with Travis Head, would be released to travel to Adelaide for the Big Bash League final tomorrow. All three will rejoin the squad before Wednesday's game against England in Hobart. Adelaide Strikers’ pacer Stanlake, however, will not play in the BBL final but instead remain with the national squad.
After Stanlake’s surgical incisions, Australia’s spinners Ashton Agar and Adam Zampa tied down the New Zealand middle order, who were unable to get the innings up and running, Kane Williamson taking a painstaking 21 balls over his 8. Only Colin de Grandhomme, who scores more quickly than any T20 player in the history of the game to have played more than 100 matches, was able to strike the ball cleanly, effortlessly lofting Zampa for two sixes before hitting Andrew Tye for another.
That was as bad as it got for Tye, whose bag of tricks seemed to involve 24 different balls in his four overs, foxing the batsmen with an array of knuckle balls, swingers and slower deliveries. Without de Grandhomme’s 24-ball 38, containing one four and three sixes, the New Zealand innings would have been in an even sorrier state. As it was, their 117/9 was evidently inadequate. Taking de Grandhomme out of the equation, the Kiwis hit only two fours and one six in the entire innings.
After a heavy shower delayed the restart, Australia were left needing 95 from 15 overs. Packed with the Big Bash’s outstanding performers, the home side started with a wobble. Short, in for the injured Aaron Finch and fresh from a Big Bash tournament-leading 504 runs at a strike rate of 147, hit his second ball through mid-wicket with a rifle-crack of the bat. But in trying to repeat the shot, he smashed the ball straight to mid-wicket, where Ross Taylor pocketed the rocket.
Trent Boult then got one to climb on Warner, who flapped it down to square leg where Tom Bruce pouched it, lobbed it up in the air while dancing over the ropes, then hopped back in to complete the catch. Earlier in the day Agar had caught a de Grandhomme howitzer while running over the rope, leapt up in the air and flicked the ball back onto the field of play to turn six into two. Such acrobatic fielding has become part and parcel of modern cricket but it is still astounding when it happens.
After the two early wickets, Chris Lynn and Glenn Maxwell brought their Big Bash form to the international stage, a combination of power, placement and finesse making the target a walk in the park. Both hit sixes, both hit fours, Maxwell even batted helmetless for a bit. It was that kind of evening. Lynn went with just eight needed, trying to get all eight in one shot but only finding deep square leg. Maxwell finished things off in fine style, ending 40 not out from just 24 balls.
So two points for the hosts and a third successive T20I defeat for New Zealand. We now move on to Hobart, where Australia will take on England on Wednesday before the same teams meet in Melbourne next Saturday. New Zealand next play in Wellington against England on Tuesday 13 February. They will need to play better than they did here to get some points on the board.