In the last match, New Zealand dropped Tim Southee and Trent Boult in favour of two spinners, and the move paid rich dividends even against a strong batting side like India. At Dharamsala on Friday, they decided to drop Nathan McCullum, who was rather successful in the first match, in favour of pacer Mitchell McClenaghan. Again, the ploy worked to perfection. He ended up claiming three wickets, which featured the big ones of Shane Watson and Mitchell Marsh. McClenaghan ended with impressive figures of 3 for 17 as New Zealand, for the second match in a row, successfully defended a below par target.
McClenaghan bowled the penultimate over of the chase, with Australia needing a gettable 22 runs. But, the bowler derailed Aussies’ hopes sending back both Marsh and Ashton Agar, who was surprisingly promoted ahead of seasoned finisher James Faulkner. With the match tightly balanced, Marsh who had slammed a couple of sixes, hit a slower ball down long on’s throat. Agar then pulled the bowler straight into the hands of the keeper. By the time Faulkner got strike, there was too much to do, and he perished in the final over, picking up Martin Guptill in the deep.
Speaking of Guptill, he was the top-scorer for New Zealand earlier in the day, blasting 37 from 29 balls. The opening pair of Guptill and Kane Williamson added a fluent 61 in 7.1 overs. Guptill began in ominous fashion, guiding Nathan Coulter-Nile to the third man boundary in the first over, and then pulling him through mid-on. Agar was introduced in the third over, and was dispatched for three sixes by Guptill – two through long on off consecutive deliveries, and one straight over his head. 18 came off Agar’s first over, and he never bowled again.
The respite for Australia finally came Guptill holed out against Faulkner. This was followed by the wicket of skipper Williamson for 24, as he skied one off Glenn Maxwell. The bowler added the scalp of Corey Anderson as well while Colin Munro fell after a few switch hits, pulling Marsh into midwicket’s hands. At 97 for 4, the Kiwis were not so comfortable. Grant Elliot, it was, who ensured they had something to bowl at, stepping out and smashing Marsh through cover, and then pulling him for another boundary. He was run out off the last ball, contributing 27 from 20.
Australia began their chase rather confidently, with Usman Khawaja do a Guptill, easing his way to 38 from 27 balls. In the very first over, he hit Anderson for boundaries through midwicket and covers, before smashing half-volleys from Adam Milne. The fours kept coming for Khawaja, but Kiwis struck from the other end, Shane Watson hitting a slower ball from McClenaghan straight to mid-off. Mitchell Santner then lured Steven Smith out of his crease, and had him stumped. And, once Khawaja was run out, courtesy a brilliant Milne throw from the deep, Kiwis had the ascendancy. They did not let the advantage slip, and strangled Australia, by 8 runs
--By A Cricket Correspondent