Cool Taylor steers New Zealand to tight victory
Ross Taylor showed calm class and Kyle Mills combined with bat and ball, but New Zealand had to wait until the last delivery to hand Australia their fourth loss in a row and gain a 1-0 lead in the Chappell-Hadlee Series. Taylor guided the tentative chase of the home team's below-par 181 and carried an order of novices before Daniel Vettori sealed the success with a glide behind point.
The timing of New Zealand's batting Powerplay was crucial - it came with eight overs to go - as they went from heading towards a troubling loss to redirecting course. Mills, who had already earned four wickets, picked up consecutive boundaries off Nathan Bracken (3 for 38) in a 12-run over that was followed by 11 from Shaun Tait, including a brave six swiped over midwicket by Taylor.
There was a late shift when Mills went for 26 from 35 balls and Taylor was caught by Michael Clarke for 64 off 97. With three wickets left, the visitors required nine from the final two overs and five from the last, losing Tim Southee before Vettori's poise.
Taylor's enthusiastic attitude brought some energy to the pursuit that was ailing at 3 for 25 in the 14th over and there were plenty of moments of doubt throughout. He was missed at third man on 15 by Mitchell Johnson, but his innings will be remembered for the Tait six, some fine cover drives and his desire to look for singles at every opportunity.
In a match that was excruciatingly ugly at times and gripping at others, Australia's batting was awful and New Zealand's was only slightly better. There were mistakes made at the WACA from players and officials that would not have been acceptable in the World Cricket League Division 3, where Afghanistan and Uganda finished on top. However, the bowling was a lot better than the standard at that tournament in Argentina, especially the work of Mills and Bracken.
New Zealand overcame two horrible moments in their chase, starting with Brendon McCullum being given out lbw despite a thick edge from the second ball of the innings off Tait. In the 36th over Neil Broom was "bowled" on 29 by Clarke after sharing a positive stand of 42 with Taylor. Not only did Brad Haddin's gloves come in front of the stumps, but he knocked off the bails and the ball did not seem to hit the wickets. Vettori was also involved in a tight run-out call but survived late in the game.
Life was hard for the visiting batsmen but three of the top order did not help their chances of success. The opener Martin Guptill's 13 took up 33 balls as the side started with extreme caution. Peter Fulton, who was even more of a tortoise than Guptill with 7 off 35, was the victim of a sensational caught-and-bowled from Johnson and then Grant Elliott spent 31 balls over 8 as the pressure increased on Taylor. He coped with it like it happens every week.
Mills provided the spark for New Zealand as they added to Australia's month of pain. Ricky Ponting's side lost the No. 1 ranking with their defeat to South Africa on Friday and there was no sign of recovery as the top order crumbled again at the WACA. Australia did worse than their 4 for 53 two days ago by slumping to 5 for 54 on a pitch Ponting said was ideal for batting after winning the toss.
A mix of loose shots, tight bowling from Mills and Vettori, and awful running contributed to the severe problems. Not only did the wickets fall quickly and early, but the batsmen also found it incredibly difficult to score at much more than two an over until Michael Hussey was joined by Haddin.
Mills was excellent over three spells and gained 4 for 35 as he ensured the innings finished eight balls early. Vettori is always a threat for Australia but was virtually impossible to get away as he gave up only 22 from ten overs in a fabulous display.
Hussey followed his breakthrough 78 on Friday with a measured 49 - he didn't have much choice considering the situation - and Australia were thankful for his effort. He pulled a six off Jeetan Patel and struck only one four, an off drive from Mills, before miscuing to mid-off.
Australia's troubles were highlighted by Ponting and Clarke, the two most senior players. They were too keen to show their aggression and made poor choices when chasing unachievable twos to the deep and were run out with the side already in trouble.
Mills began the match by removing both openers, with Shaun Marsh (15) and David Warner (7 from 18 balls) both finding the two-metre Fulton at short cover. Shortly after the start of the second innings Marsh fell to the ground while chasing a ball and was helped off with a left hamstring injury, adding to Australia's worsening situation.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo