(ESPN) Eden Park was transformed into a T20 batting paradise as Australia pulled off a world-record run chase in Auckland, reducing Martin Guptill’s 49-ball hundred – and a host of other records – to a footnote. D’Arcy Short and David Warner hammered aggressive fifties to set the tone of the reply and Australia’s middle order kept the pedal to the metal at a stage where New Zealand had stuttered to seal victory with more than an over to spare.
The stands were peppered for 32 sixes – equalling the T20I record – as the odd-shaped boundaries at Eden Park produced a lop-sided match in which batsman were able to swing with impunity and bowling became an exercise in damage limitation. No team had successfully chased as many in all T20 cricket.
New Zealand were left to rue a passage at the back end of their innings when they didn’t score a boundary for 18 balls, but the point at which the game tipped decisively came in the 17th over of the chase. Australia needed 42 from 24 but Ben Wheeler, in the side after an injury to Mitchell Santner, delivered a no-ball that Aaron Finch struck for six, followed by a four and another high full toss.
Wheeler was removed from the attack, the equation had become 29 from 23, and although his replacement, Trent Boult, had Short caught behind top-edging a pull, another four and a six from Finch left Australia needing less than a run a ball. Finch’s unbeaten 36 off 14 at No. 5 provided a muscular contrast with the way New Zealand had faltered and it was probably apt that he finished things off with the final six of a gluttonous encounter.
Australia had ransacked their way to victory, leaving Guptill in the shade despite several personal milestones. Their fourth win from four in the tri-series left the home fans muttering quietly to themselves but would have been cheered down in Hamilton, as it helped keep England in with a chance of pipping a shell-shocked New Zealand to a place in the final.
Guptill became the leading run-scorer in all T20 internationals, surpassing Brendon McCullum, while also striking the fastest hundred by a New Zealander (one delivery quicker than McCullum) and moving up above his former team-mate to second on the all-time six-hitting list, too. But from Guptill’s dismissal in the 17th over, New Zealand stumbled. Kane Richardson picked up two wickets as New Zealand lost 4 for 12 and it required a couple more sixes from Ross Taylor – one of which was adroitly held by a fan in the crowd wearing a sponsor’s shirt – to ensure the innings didn’t dribble to a conclusion.
This was a night to make bowlers question their life choices. AJ Tye conceded 64 from his four overs, soothed a modicum by two wickets, but he could probably spare some sympathy for New Zealand’s Wheeler, who was left with 0 for 64 from just 3.1. Perversely, the most economical bowler on either side – Ashton Agar – did not deliver his full quota.
Having been on the receiving end of untrammelled aggression from Guptill and Colin Munro, who struck six sixes of his own in making 76, Australia’s openers took the Spinal Tap route and turned the amps up to 11. Short’s first three boundaries all came off the edge of the bat – the first flying all the way over the rope at third man – and he might have been caught on 18 gloving a pull at Tim Southee, but Tim Seifert could not hold on one-handed down the leg side.
Warner, whose run of poor form in white-ball cricket had extended 10 innings without a fifty, had 12 off seven balls when he twice latched on to Wheeler for leg-side sixes. Five wides over the keeper (among 20 extras down by the New Zealand attack) turned the fifth into a 22-run over, and Warner cleared the ropes two more times in the next as Australia equalled the Powerplay record of 91 in T20 internationals.
A 20-ball fifty from Warner had clearly shaken New Zealand’s resolve, though he fell shortly after missing an attempted pull at Ish Sodhi’s googly. Chris Lynn struck one towering blow before being caught by Guptill – who had dropped him two overs before – but Short crashed two sixes and a four from his next four legitimate balls to keep Australia on track.
Australia raised their 150 in the 12th over, just as New Zealand had. Short had not looked as imperious as Guptill but he was striking the ball ever-more cleanly; Glenn Maxwell, meanwhile, continued the theme of the night by hitting his second ball for six over long-on as New Zealand’s late-innings lull began to look ever-more costly. Something had to give and it turned out to be Wheeler.
Having chosen to bat, and knowing that victory would make their final game against England an irrelevance, New Zealand set about the Australia attack with calculated fury. In the first match of the tri-series, New Zealand had limped to 117 for 9 at the SCG; back on home soil, they crossed that mark in the 11th over.
Guptill flicked his first delivery for four and cleared the ropes for the first time in the second over, smoking Billy Stanlake down the ground. Munro took a little longer to find the boundary – two balls – and then, from a steady start, began to stage an exhibition of six-upmanship with his opening partner.
Only one over in the Powerplay went for less than 10, as New Zealand piled up 67 without loss. Munro climbed into Agar with sixes in the seventh and ninth overs, bringing him up to parity with Guptill. It was the latter who reached his half-century first, from 30 balls, when he munched Short’s left-arm wrist spin – making its first appearance at international level – over long-on; Munro then got there in identical fashion, three balls faster, later in the same over.
The 12th threatened to become a Tye-breaker when Munro hit the first three balls for six, but the bowler held his nerve to instead break the stand via a mistimed blow to long-on. Guptill maintained the tempo, clearing the ropes for the ninth time to bring up his hundred with 28 balls still remaining in the innings, but he was also removed by Tye as New Zealand lost power at a crucial juncture. Australia in with a chance? You’d better Adam and Eve it.