It had it all (except a big score). There were thrills – the bowling, and there were spills – the 19 wickets combined that fell. There were cheers and – although I didn’t hear any – very probably jeers. But in the end it was devastating pace, and some very good spin bowling that made the New Zealand vs Australia derby today one for the ages.
Australia started well after winning the toss that determines who bats first/fields first with a strong run rate that suggested a big scoring match. But no one told leg spinner Daniel Vettori, or pace bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult. Realising Australia was starting down the course of a big score, N.Z. captain Brendon McCullum introduced Daniel Vettori, a veteran of four Cricket World Cups whose immediate task was to chill the Australian run rate until New Zealand’s pace bowlers were ready to strike. It worked. Slowly but surely the Australian run rate which had be sailing along at nearly seven per over began to drop. 80/1 became 80/2 and 80/3 as Daniel Vettori and Tim Southee picked up wickets on consecutive deliveries.
The crowd, which had been relatively quiet until then found its voice. Australia had barely begun to consolidate their loses when in the space of two runs 95/3 became 97/6. Australian supporters could only watch in despair as the carnage unfolded before their eyes.
At 124/9, Australia were only one run better that which England scored a week earlier against New Zealand. Australia, which had held the World Cup aloft in 1999, 2003 and 2007 was teetering on the edge of calamity. If they went out there it would worsen their lowest ever World Cup score by 35 runs. Australia managed to hold themselves together until they reached 151.
To any person who knows how to play cricket and is aware of New Zealand and Australia’s rivalry, this must have seemed too good to be true. But they would also know history has some harsh lessons. In 2003 Australia had been reduced to a similar score until a magnificent fight back dragged them to 208/9. When Australia went into field, their pace attack had New Zealand back in the pavilion for 112. Australia went on to win the World Cup.
And just as no one told Daniel Vettori, Tim Southee or Trent Boult about Australia’s intentions in the first innings, no one told Mitchell Starc about New Zealand’s intentions. With devastating pace to match the havoc that the New Zealand bowlers sowed in the Australian team, Mitchell Starc single handedly brought Australia into the match and then almost won it. His bowling figures of 6-23 tell the story of how Australia bore an uncanny resemblance to New Zealand in 2003. Undone by devastating pace.
But Kane Williamson had no intention of New Zealand repeating 2003. With one wicket in hand, and Mitchell Starc staring down the prospect of causing a huge upset, Kane Williamson’s bat drove a six into the crowd to end what was one of the greatest roller coaster rides of World Cup cricket.
And that, ladies and gentlemen is why a) Australia is New Zealand’s No. 1 cricket foe and b) why New Zealanders love nothing more than beating Australia.