Martin Smith, at Edgbaston, Birmingham
Martin Smith, at Edgbaston, Birmingham
Hazlewood's six restricted NZ but wickets had Australia well behind par as heavens open
Birmingham's inclement weather has continued Australia's Edgbaston curse and helped them escape with a point from their ICC Champions Trophy opener against New Zealand.
Chasing a revised victory target of 235 from 33 overs, the Aussies lost David Warner, Aaron Finch and Moises Henriques to be 3-53 after nine overs before the elements finally won out having threatened to do so for most of the day.
The Black Caps would be the more aggrieved of the two sides given Australia were 25 runs behind the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern par score when play was abandoned. But with a minimum of 20 overs in the second innings required to constitute a match, the points were shared.
Remarkably, five of Australia's past six one-day internationals at Edgbaston have now been washed out, stretching back to 2005, including their Champions Trophy clash against the Kiwis here four years ago. And the Aussies haven't won an ODI in Birmingham since 1993, a streak of eight matches that includes just two defeats, five no results and their famous tie against South Africa at the 1999 World Cup.
In defence of Britain's notoriously drab early-summer weather, the Aussies have experienced rain on just two days since arriving in the United Kingdom a fortnight ago – once for their washed-out warm-up game against Pakistan last Monday, and today.
And with heavy rain forecast in London for their match against Bangladesh on Monday, Australia may need to beat tournament favourites England back at Edgbaston next Saturday to avoid an early exit for the second consecutive time in this tournament.
Josh Hazlewood had earlier turned a horror morning into a record-breaking afternoon, claiming the second-best figures in tournament history to lead Australia's impressive fightback with the ball after skipper Kane Williamson had superbly guided the Black Caps to a total of 291 from 45 overs.
The Black Caps lost their final seven wickets in just six overs to hand the Australians the momentum heading into the run chase, which was pushed back by more than an hour due to the second of three lengthy rain delays.
The Kiwi bowlers then put their side into a dominant position by removing Warner (18), Finch (8) and Henriques (18) before heavy showers hit the ground and the 18,000-strong crowd gave up hope of a result.
Australia had earlier recalled Henriques for just his ninth ODI, the allrounder batting in the middle order ahead of T20 star Chris Lynn.
A former friend turned foe in the opening 15 overs of the day as Black Caps opener Luke Ronchi, who nine years ago clattered a 22-ball ODI fifty in one of his seven matches for Australia, matched the early Aussie aggression with plenty of his own to blaze a rapid half-century in an entertaining start to the match.
The vaunted pace trio of Hazlewood, Mitchell Starc and Pat Cummins were punished by the dashing Kiwi right-hander, who audaciously creamed nine fours and three sixes either side of a two-hour rain delay to post his first 50-plus score since his record-breaking 170no against Sri Lanka two-and-a-half years ago.
The 36-year-old had averaged less than 15 in 36 innings since then but he rewarded the Kiwi selectors, who had boldly gambled on him at the top of the order instead of the more steady option in Tom Latham, who was available for selection despite managing a foot injury leading into the game.
Good fortune, as with most things in the opening 15 overs, also went Ronchi's way; he benefitted from two clear chances that were missed by Starc, the first a simple run out opportunity and the second a relatively straight-forward catch that was put down at mid-on.
But it was largely good cricket rather than good luck that saw Ronchi dominate the early exchanges, the highlight being an extraordinary six over cover off the bowling of Cummins, who conceded 52 runs from his first five overs.
While the pace of the main three quicks was treated disdainfully on a batsman-friendly pitch, it was bowling smarts rather than speed that finally halted the early carnage.
John Hastings, who was in a two-way battle with Marcus Stoinis to win the final pace-bowling spot in the side, justified his selection by first drying up the runs and then having Ronchi caught by Glenn Maxwell at point for a 43-ball 65, one of the Victorian's four catches for the innings.
The Kiwi momentum slowed thereafter but the platform had been laid for Williamson to cruise to his ninth ODI century and again underline why he's destined to be his country's greatest-ever batsman.
The skipper, who pre-match had declared Martin Guptill to be his side's best white-ball cricketer, went a long way to claiming that title for himself with a typically controlled and classy knock.
The right-hander was at his graceful and serene best, his placement impeccable and his timing superb as he glided eight fours and – in rare displays of overt aggression – hammered Hastings for two sixes over the mid-wicket boundary.
He shared a 99-run partnership with Ross Taylor (46 from 58 balls) and accelerated when his senior partner was dismissed, his second fifty coming from just 34 balls.
But his dismissal just two balls later, smartly run out by a combination of Henriques and Cummins after a mix-up with Neil Broom, helped the Aussies launch a fightback.
Having been 3-254, the Black Caps then lost 7-37 in less than six overs as the three big quicks responded admirably after the early run spree.
Having conceded four boundaries and a total of 20 from his opening two overs, Hazlewood led the late charge to finish with 6-52 from nine, the ninth-best figures by an Aussie in ODIs and the second-best by any bowler in the history of the Champions Trophy.
Starc and Cummins were also impressive late on having leaked runs early as the Black Caps managed just three fours and a six following Williamson's dismissal.
But it mattered little in the end as both teams left a sodden Edgbaston with a point each, plenty of frustration and the likelihood that they can't afford a single defeat from here if they want to lift the trophy at The Oval on June 18.
Champions Trophy 2017 Guide
Squads: Every Champions Trophy nation
2 June – New Zealand v Australia, No Result
3 June – Sri Lanka v South Africa, The Oval (D)
4 June – India v Pakistan, Edgbaston (D)
5 June – Australia v Bangladesh, The Oval (D/N)
6 June – England v New Zealand, Cardiff (D)
7 June – Pakistan v South Africa, Edgbaston (D/N)
8 June – India v Sri Lanka, The Oval (D)
9 June – New Zealand v Bangladesh, Cardiff (D)
10 June – England v Australia, Edgbaston (D)
11 June – India v South Africa, The Oval (D)
12 June – Sri Lanka v Pakistan, Cardiff (D)
14 June – First semi-final (A1 v B2), Cardiff (D)
15 June – Second semi-final (A2 v B1), Edgbaston (D)
18 June – Final, The Oval (D)
19 June – Reserve day (D)