Dominant Australia wrap up the series
Australia 264 for 5 (Clarke 71*, Hussey 65*, Katich 58) beat New Zealand 178 (H Marshall 55) by 86 runs
Australia sealed the five-match series against New Zealand with two games to play thanks to another strong all-round performance at Auckland. Brett Lee provided the early destruction as they defended 264, and Andrew Symonds lined up two crucial run outs to seal the 86-run victory.
Battling to stay in the contest on a slow pitch that should have suited them, New Zealand failed to step up from a fiery Lee opening despite a bright half-century from Hamish Marshall. The batsmen showed too much grit when galloping was required, but they were facing a tight bowling attack that gave away little despite missing the resting Glenn McGrath.
Nobody showed courage like Michael Papps, who did not want to leave the field after being hit twice in the head by Lee bouncers. Papps was brought in for Mathew Sinclair, but New Zealand quickly had another batting headache. Shaking off the first blow, Papps was unable to continue in the fifth over when the second thundered into his forehead as he ducked. The result was a large egg above his left eye and a trip to hospital for x-rays. New Zealand fared only slightly better.
"We just weren't good enough," Stephen Fleming said. "In all departments we were outplayed, they never let us gain any momentum."
Lee had already caused more damage to Fleming's poor series, forcing him to play on for 1 and adding to his scores of 5 and 1 at Wellington and Christchurch (7 for 1). Astle survived the early spell but could not escape the threat of Michael Kasprowicz, who found his edge as he tried to cut too close to his body (45 for 2). The situation was actually worse as it did not account for the injury to Papps.
Marshall was full of energy and recorded a 55 that kept his side in the match and included the special experience of batting with his brother James, who was on debut. The Marshall brothers rattled up a quick 21-run partnership, but the identical twins went to almost identical Symonds run outs.
They may still share the same room, but they did not have the same thought when James took off for a single and was sent back. Symonds knew what was happening and swooped on the defensive shot and his direct hit beat the diving James (136 for 4). Symonds then made it a double when his underarm was too quick for Hamish following a stutter with Chris Cairns (136 for 5).
Cairns was New Zealand's final hope but he hasn't reached his usual high level with the bat this series, and the match was gone when he found Michael Hussey. Hussey took a beautiful diving catch at deep point, but replays showed the ball may have brushed the ground as he leaped forward (161 for 6).
Australia's ability to hit back successfully from mini-collapses was shown again when Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey shared a 136-run stand, a national record for the sixth wicket. Speeding to 67 off ten overs with Adam Gilchrist and Simon Katich, Australia slipped to 128 for 5, but Clarke and Hussey were happy to escape from the dangerous situation.
As Hussey, playing his third ODI, walked off with 65 from 73 balls it looked like he'd been part of the team for years, not weeks. Happy to take the senior role and go for the bigger shots as the innings progressed, Clarke brought up his fifty off 61 balls and ultimately collected 71 from 75 in an effort that earned him the Man-of-the-Match award. "It was vital at that stage that we had a partnership," Ponting said, "and the maturity that was shown was great for us."
Katich led the opening stages with a polished half-century as his partners regularly disappeared. The tight bowling finally got to him and he became one of Daniel Vettori's two victims during a brilliant spell, which also included Damien Martyn (90 for 3).
The wickets were a pleasant bonus for Fleming, who was relying on tight spells from his light attack once Andre Adams and Jeff Wilson were omitted. But he cringed watching Tuffey's beginning that gave up 16 runs and the first ten overs were ones to forget. Tuffey started with four no-balls - Gilchrist hit the opening one for four - followed it with two wides and Australia were 10 before the first live delivery. The next ball, a legitimate one, was driven for four, then Tuffey released two more wides before finishing the over with no extra damage.
Tuffey leaked nine runs in his second over and was not used for the rest of the innings. The extra strain was taken up by the part-timers Astle and Craig McMillan, who performed well under their unexpected loads. Only Marshall was able to take on more responsibility when they batted, and it cost them the series.