The BLACKCAPS have taken first blood in the National Bank, Chappell/Hadlee series, beating the highly fancied Australian team by two wickets at McLean Park in Napier.
The scene was set
A colossal BLACKCAPS Twenty20 victory over Australia in Christchurch three days earlier was the ideal appetiser to the One-Day series - Perfect Napier weather, a good-sized McLean Park crowd and a pitch threatening a landslide of runs.
The tone for the duel was well and truly set by the Christchurch performance with both teams playing some exhilarating cricket. The Napier crowd was primed and ready for more of the same, and they weren’t disappointed.
After winning the toss and electing to bat, the Australian’s leapt out of the blocks, with opener Shane Watson taking 14 from off the opening Tim Southee.
Watson, supported by Brad Haddin, was playing some glorious shots and Australia’s total shot to 50 in just six overs.
Ross Taylor, making his debut as captain after a neck twinge forced Daniel Vettori out during the warm up, marshalled his troops well with the wicket of Haddin, bowled by Shane Bond, allowing New Zealand to start applying the brakes.
Watson was next to go at 58, skying a Jacob Oram delivery to Peter Ingram for 45 and Clarke departed soon after for 22 when he edged a Tuffey ball to the keeper.
Australian captain Ricky Ponting looked threatening during his innings of 44 before falling to a magnificent reaching catch by Guptill, handing James Franklin his first wicket.
The trend continued with Cameron White (33) the next Australian to go after getting a start, with Tuffey knocking over his stump and effectively slowed the Australian innings.
James Hopes (33) and Michael Hussey (59) steadied the ship for the Australians before they were both bowled by Southee and Bond respectively.
The BLACKCAPS lost Jacob Oram to a freakish fielding injury. The tall all-rounder was stretching to field a ball and over-extended his leg, injuring his knee and had to be assisted from the field.
In the end Australia managed 275 for eight on a ground that most predicted a score in excess of 300, just to be competitive.
Tuffey finished with three for 58 while spearhead Bond took two for 50 with all of the BLACKCAPS bowlers toiling honestly and with purpose.
New Zealand’s response started well, with Brendon McCullum and Peter Ingram racing to 75 in just 11.2 overs before Ingram was caught for in the deep for 40 off the bowling of Mitchell Johnson.
Australia made another breakthrough with the score on 90, this time McCullum, bowled Bollinger for 45.
After a decent start, the BLACKCAPS batsmen struggled to dispatch some very controlled and accurate Aussie bowling in the middle stageS with the departure of Martin Guptill for nine off 30 balls highlighting this.
With the run chase floundering the BLACKCAPS desperately needed to up the run-rate. A partnership between Ross Taylor and James Franklin managed to re-build momentum before Franklin departed for 12 with the score at 175 for four.
Taylor built nicely and accelerated past 50 to put his team in control of the match. When he holed out for 70 the match changed once more with the Australians wrestling back the momentum.
Neil Broom and Tuffey didn’t stay long, setting up a tense finish with Styris left to bat with the tail.
Things got heated towards with end of the innings as Styris hit Johnson for back to back boundaries leading to the pair facing off in the middle of the wicket.
The drama continued with Tim Southee being run out in the 47th over bringing Bond to the crease with 20 still required and the injured Oram the only man back in the shed.
Great batting by Styris reduced the runs required to 12 from 12 deliveries with Australian’s go to man Shane Watson brought into the attack. But it was Bond who took it to the visitors striking two boundaries, leaving one required off the final over.
Styris wasn’t content with nudging one – he boomed a huge six down the ground to seal the two wicket win and finish unbeaten on 49 off just 34 deliveries.
The wash up
Stand in captain Taylor singled out the experienced Styris as the key performer, “he played an outstanding role. I guess when you’ve played over 150 matches you know what to do in different situations and the way Scotty came out there and batted, we hope he can continue that form in the next few games.”
It is the first time in 13 One-Day Internationals that Australia have tasted with Ponting seeing it as a chance to improve, “It’s never nice to lose the game but you always learn more for a loss than a win so we’ll look at what we did wrong tonight and make sure we train better leading up to the next game.”