The visitors stumbled to 14 for 3 in the chase but such is their ability to recover they won with two overs to spare
Australia wobbled but, as so often when that happens, the world champions came through with flying colours to take the first T20I in Hamilton. Ashleigh Gardner walked in with the team at 14 for 3 and finished unbeaten on a superb 73, muscling the chase home alongside the returning Ellyse Perry.
Australia had kept control of New Zealand’s innings for the majority of the 20 overs with the home side largely unable to capitalise on having on having eight wickets in hand as the final five overs approached. The loss of top-scorer Amy Satterthwaite was one of three quick wickets to fall although a late flurry pushed the total to 130.
That looked a much more significant target when Jess Kerr and Frankie Mackay took out Australia’s top three inside four overs and they were lifted again when Meg Lanning departed. The game then swung when Gardner was given a life on 30 and such was her power that a few overs later there was only going to be one winner.
Vlaeminck’s lively comeback
Having not played for Australia since last February, Tayla Vlaeminck was handed the first over and sent a down a maiden where she touched 123kph. The second over did not go quite as well as she conceded 12 – including a no-ball and a wide – with New Zealand starting to show better intent in the Powerplay but the pace, which is difference she can provide, was sustained. Lanning then brought her back in the 11th over and she should have had a wicket when Satterthwaite top-edged a pull but Alyssa Healy, having made good ground, couldn’t hang on at backward square leg. With her last delivery being pulled for four by Satterthwaite, the final figures may not leap off the page but it was a performance that will have ticked a lot of boxes.
New Zealand’s failed acceleration
This was a better batting performance than some New Zealand managed against England, but they could never fully break free. Sophie Devine threatened before picking out deep midwicket (one of two wickets in three balls for Jess Jonassen) and Satterthwaite was shaping for a final push when she found deep midwicket two balls after sending Nicola Carey for six. The 16th and 17th overs, bowled by Jonassen and Georgia Wareham, went for five runs in total as the impetus drained from the innings – Amelia Kerr soaking up 29 balls for 20 – before Brooke Halliday and Maddy Green helped take 32 off the last three. Carey did a good job with her wicket-to-wicket line, especially her first two overs that went for just six, and the eight overs between Jonassen and Wareham brought 4 for 44.
There was no barnstorming Healy-led start on this occasion. She drove a catch to cover at the end of the first over against Mackay’s offspin and then next ball Beth Mooney edged her first delivery to slip – this time Mackay in the action in the field. Jess Kerr found considerable swing with her trademark, sharp induckers but it was a shorter delivery, which Rachael Haynes clothed to mid-on, that brought the third wicket and left a proper rebuilding job needed. In Lanning they have a master of it and for a while it looked like she could be the one to take the lead, but trying to launch Amelia Kerr down the ground she picked out long-on.
The ball followed Green around. Before taking the chance off Lanning she made a spectacular attempt four balls previously. Then in the over after holding the catch, the ball came her way again but she needed to make more ground as Gardner lofted straight and as her knees dug into the turf, she could not hold on. A few moments later, Gardner twice deposited Amelia Kerr over the rope – a calculated approach from the Australians to target New Zealand’s trump card – and it was the decisive swing as Gardner reached fifty from 37 balls. Four overs after the asking rate had ticked over eight it was back under a run-a-ball and the game was finished in style by Perry, who had calmly fed Gardner the strike, when she slotted away consecutive boundaries.
Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo