At the Sydney Cricket Ground: New Zealand 200-3 (Devon Conway 92 not out from 58, Finn Allen 42 from 16, Jimmy Neesham 26 not out from 13; Josh Hazlewood 2-41, Adam Zampa 1-39) beat Australia 111 from 17.1 overs (Glenn Maxwell 28 from 20; Tim Southee 3-6, Mitchell Santner 3-31, Trent Boult 2-24) by 89 runs.
Toss: Australia elected to field
This – a scarcely believable hammering of Australia – had to feel immensely satisfying for Devon Conway.
Perhaps he’ll see his match-winning knock against the reigning champions more as an act of redemption, after the Black Caps opened their T20 World Cup campaign with a drought-breaking 89-run win at the SCG.
Less than a year after he broke his hand punching his bat, forcing him to miss the 2021 World Cup final against Australia, Conway struck a majestic 92 not out from 58 balls in New Zealand’s first victory at the SCG since former skipper Brendon McCullum’s ODI debut in 2002.
The in-form left-hander accounted for almost half of New Zealand’s 200-3, becoming the fastest Kiwi to 1000 T20 runs, and third-fastest overall (26 innings), in the process.
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Highlighted by Glenn Phillips turning Superman, when he hunted down a ballooned shot in the night sky and pulled off a superb diving catch, New Zealand turned in their best fielding performance in some time, as the Kiwis kicked on and demolished the pre-tournament favourites.
In the end, the Black Caps did it easy. Not that their fans, long stung by the never-say-die Aussies, would have been getting ahead of themselves as they watched it unfold.
The reality is they bossed the tournament hosts from the get-go, taking regular wickets to ensure the Aussies were never on track to mow down their imposing total.
Ish Sodhi’s dismissal of Glenn Maxwell, who was bowled reverse sweeping one too many times when on 28, effectively sealed the result with the Aussies in the deepest of pits at 89-7 after 13.3 overs.
To think there was a brief moment early in Australia’s chase, when David Warner edged a Trent Boult out-swinger to second slip immediately after Kane Williamson moved his extra catcher, when New Zealand fans might have thought it was destined to be another one that would get away.
Forget it. Warner hit a Southee delivery on to his pads, before it ricocheted back on to his bat and on to his stumps the next over.
Helped by one of two excellent outfield catches by Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner snared 3-31 from his four overs, before Boult went pole hunting and cleaned up the tail. Tim Southee also snaffled 3-6 to ram it home.
You don’t often see the Aussies rattled, shoulders slouched and heads down, frustration smeared all over their dials.
But there was no shortage of negative energy exerted by the world champions, particularly their trio of fast bowlers – Mitch Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood – as the Kiwis took it to them after being sent in.
Finn Allen started it, announcing his arrival on the biggest stage of all by pasting Starc for 14 runs – the most by an Aussie in the opening over of a T20.
But Allen, having clobbered Starc over wide long-on for six, and Conway were just getting started, as they hit half of the opening 12 deliveries to or over the boundary, powering New Zealand to 29-0.
Even Hazlewood, the top ranked T20 bowler in the world, looked rattled as both Kiwi openers showed their intent by dancing down the wicket and swinging their blades.
The usually composed Cummins should have had Allen when he had 19 runs to his name, only for Adam Zampa to spill a chance at short fine-leg.
Allen didn’t waste any time rubbing salt into the wound, pumping the next ball over mid-off, before hoisting another over deep square leg for six.
New Zealand had 46 from three overs, soon to be 56-0 after Marcus Stoinis delivered the fourth over.
Australia were under the pump, desperate for a wicket to counter New Zealand’s brutal assault. Hazlewood delivered, yorking the advancing Allen, but not before he’d tonked a rapid 42 from 16 – just the type of innings that resulted in him taking Martin Guptill’s spot in the team.
The platform was set, one Conway and Neesham, who heaved the last ball of New Zealand’s innings for six to bring up 200, didn’t waste.
The big moment
There were plenty of candidates. But Phillips’ remarkable diving grab to dismiss Stoinis takes the cake.
To think the same bloke shelled a bunch of chances in the recent tri-series in Christchurch, prompting him to quip a witch was haunting the side.
Best with the bat
Conway. Someone who has the rare ability to make batting look easy, to take his stance on the biggest of stages and swat bowlers wherever he should decide, piercing even the smallest of gaps with surgical precision.
Best with the ball
Take your pick between Southee, Boult and Santner. All of them were dialled in.
The big picture
Talk about sending shock waves through the tournament, although the Black Caps don’t need told T20 cricket is a fickle game.
Afghanistan looms on Wednesday, while the Aussies clash with Sri Lanka the same day.