Qantas T20 Tour of NZ 2021
Aussies suffer record loss after top order stumble
Australia lose four wickets inside the first five overs of their run chase after Devon Conway’s unbeaten 99 steers New Zealand to an imposing total
22 February 2021, 11:00 PM AEST
New Zealand overcame a horror start on a grim day to hand Australia their fifth-biggest (in runs) T20 International defeat thanks to the batting brilliance of ex-South African Devon Conway (99no) and the wrist spin of India-born Ish Sodhi (4-28).
After dominating the first half-hour in which NZ crashed to 3-19, Australia's new-look T20 outfit succumbed to some sloppy fielding and then slipshod batting to be bowled out for 131 in the 18th over, 53 runs shy of the Black Caps’ 20-over total of 5-184.
It represents Australia's heaviest T20 defeat in 10 meetings with the Kiwi rivals, the previous heftiest being just eight runs during the 2016 T20 World Cup in India, where the next iteration of the ICC's global 20-over showpiece is scheduled to be held later this year.
Conway, who had scored a first-class double-century in South Africa before quitting the nation of his birth in 2017 due to lack of opportunities through the country's quota system, needed to score two from the final delivery of NZ's innings to reach a maiden T20I century.
However, the left-hander struck Kane Richardson's low, wide full-toss so sweetly to the fielder on the backward point rope he was only able to complete a single, thereby ensuring he remained unbeaten on 99.
More importantly, he had dragged his adopted homeland from the brink of a batting disaster to a tally that initially seemed competitive and, ultimately, proved well beyond Australia's re-shaped batting outfit.
With T20I regulars David Warner and Steve Smith absent from the series having been originally named in the since postponed Test tour to South Africa, Australia never recovered from losing their first four wickets inside the six-over Power Play.
Australia skipper Aaron Finch's miserable run with the bat continued when he slapped a catch to point in the first over of his team's pursuit, meaning he's now completed 10 innings at BBL and T20I level without reaching 20.
His demise for one was followed by the loss of debutant Josh Philippe (2), Matthew Wade (12) and Glenn Maxwell (1) in the space of 21 balls before Mitchell Marsh (45 from 33 deliveries) tried to stem the tide.
But the loss of Marsh, Daniel Sams (1) and Ashton Agar (23) within five deliveries left Australia staring at their biggest-ever T20I defeat (previously 100 runs to England at Southampton in the format's infancy in 2005) and gave the home crowd reason to smile on an otherwise sombre evening.
Tonight's game came 10 years to the day since Canterbury was rocked by an earthquake that levelled entire suburbs of Christchurch and claimed 185 lives, with rival captains Finch and Kane Williamson paying their respects at the national memorial in the city earlier in the day.
It was also 16 years (and five days) since the two teams met in the historic first T20 international at Auckland's Eden Park, a game distinguished by its pantomime feel as players struggled to take seriously the embryonic new format.
The only similarity between that hit-and-giggle fixture and tonight's highly polished contest was the return of the Black Caps retro beige shirts that their players also donned in the 2005 match, in tribute to nation's famed ODI uniform of the 1980s.
A virtually full house at Christchurch's Hagley Oval didn't have much to cheer in the opening half-hour as the home team slumped to 3-19 when Williamson (12) fell in the fourth over.
The trouble had started just three deliveries into the innings when opener Martin Guptill sliced Sams to backward point where Agar juggled but secured the sharp chance.
Guptill has endured a lean trot in the 20-over format this summer, managing just 46 runs from his three T20I appearances against Pakistan last December followed a trio of single-figure scores in NZ's domestic T20 competition before he sustained a hamstring injury.
The veteran opener was forced to undertake a fitness test before being passed fit to take his place in the series opener against Australia where he duly recorded just his third duck in 95 T20 matches for his country since 2009.
Sams shared the new ball with leg spinner Adam Zampa, but it was Finch's decision to return to pace for the third over that yielded another key breakthrough as Australia's newest cricket millionaire, Jhye Richardson, struck with his second delivery.
NZ opener Tim Seifert had entered this five-match campaign in hot form, having compiled scores of 50, 69no, 91no and 93no in the recently completed domestic T20 competition after his exploits in T20I series against West Indies and Pakistan this summer lifted him to ninth in the format's world rankings.
But he had no answer to Richardson's pinpoint yorker that dipped late before smashing into the base of the opener's off-stump.
When Sams returned and had Williamson caught behind – a bottom edge to an attempted pull shot against a ball marginally too full – the hosts had lost their entire top-order inside four overs.
However, Conway showed why he is the reigning NZ domestic player of the year as the left-hander blasted his way to his highest T20I score in just his seventh outing for his adopted country.
Conway was granted eligibility to represent NZ in 2020, three years after leaving his homeland and settling in Wellington.
The 29-year-old set about resurrecting the Black Caps' innings, initially through a fourth-wicket stand of 74 (from 51 balls) with right-hander and South Africa émigré Glenn Phillips.
When Phillips holed out to mid-on after mis-hitting an attempted pull shot off Marcus Stoinis having scored 30 from 20 balls faced, Conway took it upon himself to lift his team to a match-winning total.
He helped himself to 63 of the 117 NZ plundered from the final 10 overs, and received valuable assistance from allrounders Jimmy Neasham (26 off 15) and Mitchell Santner (7no from five) as the Black Caps posted their third-highest T20 total against their trans-Tasman rivals.
Australia were well aware that only one of those scores – the 6-214 NZ scored at Christchurch's former international cricket home Lancaster Park in 2010, a year before it was destroyed by the earthquake – had yielded a win for the Black Caps.
When the teams most recently squared off in a bilateral T20I series three years ago, NZ posted a seemingly unassailable 6-243 only to see their arch-foes chase it down for the loss of five wickets with more than an over to spare.
But that famous run chase was built on a century opening stand between David Warner and D'Arcy Short and the start to Australia's innings tonight could hardly have been more of a contrast.
Instead, they replicated the Black Caps' early implosion as they stumbled to 3-16 inside four overs.
Finch was replaced in the middle by Philippe who arrived at the wicket for his maiden international innings before the first over had been completed.
The reigning KFC BBL player of the tournament faced just three balls before an attempted leg-side flick against Trent Boult brought a leading edge that lobbed to Conway on the leg-side.
Philippe was replaced at the crease by Marsh, who had presented his Western Australia teammate with his national cap prior to the 23-year-old's debut, as Australia's fortunes continued to slide.
Wade had taken the wicketkeeping gloves in preference to Philippe but he might be requiring some intensive physiotherapy before doing so in the next game at Dunedin on Thursday after copping a couple of stinging blows from the new ball.
The left-hander, who had engaged in a memorable bouncer battle with NZ Test quick Neil Wagner in Australia last summer, was hit flush on the left forearm by Boult and then on the helmet via a top-edge against Southee before he also fell to a mishit attempted drive over cover.
At 3-16 in the fourth over, Australia found themselves in a near-identical mire to the Kiwis before Conway hauled them to respectability.
But that predicament worsened after Maxwell edged to second slip for one, and when Stoinis bunted a return catch to Sodhi in his first over, it was up to Marsh to win the game.
He responded with his highest individual score in T20I outings, but it paled alongside Conway's heroics and Sodhi's spin as NZ celebrated a deserved win and bragging rights in the first of five matches against their bigger neighbour.
Australia XI: Aaron Finch (c), Matthew Wade (wk), Josh Philippe, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Mitch Marsh, Daniel Sams, Ashton Agar, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa
New Zealand XI: Martin Guptill, Tim Seifert (wk), Kane Williamson (c), Devon Conway, Glenn Philipps, Jimmy Neesham, Mitchell Santner, Kyle Jamieson, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult
Qantas T20I tour of New Zealand 2021
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams, Tanveer Sangha, D'Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Ashton Turner, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.
New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Hamish Bennett, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, *Martin Guptill (pending fitness test), Kyle Jamieson, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (wk), Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee. *Finn Allen (on stand-by for Guptill)
1st T20: New Zealand won by 53 runs
All matches will be shown live in Australia on Fox Cricket and Kayo