Bracken delivers tight success for Australia
Nathan Bracken inspired Australia - and weary Twenty20 bowlers the world over - with a sequence of 10 consecutive dot balls from which New Zealand never fully recovered. A late Brendon McCullum onslaught positioned the visitors for a charge at Australia's modest 7 for 150, but Bracken bookended the innings with a canny final over that left the tourists stranded a run short.
Bracken became just the second Australian bowler to register a maiden in Twenty20 internationals with his first over to Peter Fulton, then proceeded to tie down the lively McCullum for a further four deliveries before conceding a run. He was later summoned by his captain Brad Haddin to close out the New Zealand innings, and he did not disappoint.
The tourists might have lost by a run, but only did so when Nathan McCullum blasted a four and a six from Bracken's final two deliveries when the match was all but gone. Prior to those two balls, Bracken had conceded no worse than a single. He finished with figures of 0 for 16; enough to earn the Man-of-the-Match honours.
New Zealand's run-chase began disastrously, when Martin Guptill - just two days removed from a breathtaking half-century at the Gabba - fell to Peter Siddle (2 for 24) in the first over of the innings. Siddle struck again with the wicket of Fulton in his next over and, combined with precise spells from Bracken and David Hussey, served to restrict the tourists to a steady run-rate through the early-to-middle overs.
The match appeared headed for an insipid finale until the the New Zealanders roared back into the contest by taking 20 from James Hopes' final over - McCullum proving the chief destroyer. But a suffocating closing spell from Bracken and a bizarre catch to Adam Voges ensured the result fell the way of the hosts.
Voges' effort to remove the dangerous McCullum (61 from 47) will grace highlight reels for years to come when, in the penultimate over of the match, he claimed the ball at long-on, stumbled towards the boundary, hurled it skywards, tripped over the rope and regathered centimetres from the turf. McCullum remained at the crease to view the replay before eventually accepting his fate.
Twenty20 matches are generally vibrant, high-octane affairs, but the opening stanza was decidedly subdued. The tourists countered the bright start provided by David Warner (23 from 15 balls) with a suffocating six-over period delivered by Daniel Vettori and Ian Butler - the master and the apprentice - that yielded 35 runs, and took full advantage of the holding Sydney pitch.
Vettori, as has so often been the case, proved particularly troublesome for the hosts, bowling a tidy, flat line that yielded the superb figures of 1 for 23, and included the wicket of Australia's top scorer Hussey (41 off 39). Vettori was ably supported by the debutant Butler, who finished with 1 for 30, and Iain O'Brien, who conceded 22 runs from his opening two overs but fought back for figures of 2 for 34.
The Australians threatened to post a large total when Warner and Haddin (15 off 10) skipped away to a brisk start, but Tim Southee's dismissal of the captain dampened the pace of the innings. The hosts did not clear the boundary rope until the 15th over - a criminal offence in the 20-over game - and managed only one more before the innings was out.
The largest cheers were saved for the arrival of the debutant Moises Henriques to the crease, but those were soon silenced. Henriques, the New South Wales allrounder, was run-out for 1 after facing just two balls, stifling Australia's momentum in the dash for late-innings runs.
Alex Brown is deputy editor of Cricinfo