New Zealand v Australia, World Cup 2015, Group A, Auckland February 28, 2015

Williamson and Vettori, icemen in the burner

Daniel Vettori and Kane Williamson brought old-school values to a match being played at a very modern, high-octane pace
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'My role in the team is to contain' - Vettori

How else would you finish a match that has been dominated by two of the outstanding pace bowlers in the current game than driving a straight six into the crowd?

We are only just nudging into the third week of this World Cup, but New Zealand's campaign has felt as though it has been running in overdrive. Four matches down and four wins in the bag - just. The most outlandish fact, though, is that their last two games, against England and Australia, have accumulated a tick over 100 overs. Fast-forward cricket.

However, crucial to their nail-biting one-wicket victory at Eden Park (nail-biting despite a whopping 161 balls remaining) were the moments where the game slowed down. With ball and then bat.

For large periods of the match New Zealand could ride on the emotion of the packed crowd in an unprecedented atmosphere, but there were two priceless players on hand when the occasion - and later the almost unplayable Mitchell Starc - threatened to get the better of them.

Daniel Vettori and Kane Williamson brought old-school values to a match being played at a very modern, high-octane pace.

Vettori was introduced into the attack for the seventh over with Australia sitting on 51 for 1. Tim Southee's removal of Aaron Finch brought the first primeval roar of the day, but David Warner was skipping along on 23 off 20 balls. In the days leading into the match, Vettori had said "it's not great" about the prospect of operating against the short boundaries but added "it's still possible to perform."

And how he lived up to his word. At the pitch report Shane Warne had said "they'll be zero spin out here" and he was not far wrong, but the guile of Vettori meant a spinner played a crucial role.

Before today, he had conceded only two boundaries in 152 balls at the tournament against Sri Lanka, Scotland and England and his ten overs included just two fours and a solitary six - that coming from a final that over which cost 13.

His 16 deliveries to Warner cost eight runs; eight to Shane Watson, five runs; eight to Michael Clarke, three; five to Steve Smith, just one. Warner, trying to break the shackles, slashed just out of reach of short third man and Clarke would later edge a more flighted delivery short of slip. The tourniquet induced Watson to pick out deep midwicket to signal the start of Australia's astonishing collapse of 8 for 26 and a subtle flatter delivery found the edge of Smith's bat.

It was in the midst of Vettori's unbroken spell that Trent Boult shredded Australia's middle order. Boult's wonderful late swing deserves all the praise it receives, but some of Australia's attacking shots were surely brought about by not being able to cut loose against Vettori.

"It started a roar from their half," Boult said of Australia's innings. "Dan [Vettori] came and did his own thing and really tied it up. He's been doing it for years now. He's a massive part of our team and is a pleasure to watch when he does things like that. It allows us to hang off then come back and strike at the right time."

"I was trying to get a boundary, wasn't it Trent?" © Getty Images

Vettori's calming role at first change was replicated by Williamson's innings at first drop. Both Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum had crashed their first legitimate deliveries for six and when Guptill picked out mid-off 39 had already been trimmed from the meagre target in less than four overs. McCullum continued charging even after a crunching blow to his arm from Mitchell Johnson.

It appeared as though, like against England, no one apart from McCullum would much be needed to knock off the runs. However, when his dismissal was followed by Ross Taylor and Grant Elliott either side of the interval, he became the most valuable asset for New Zealand. From cheering sixes, the stands went to cheering singles, or even the forward defensive - for which Williamson's bat was rarely anything other than immaculately dressed.

A febrile atmosphere had become one of utmost tension, especially in the period after the interval as Williamson and Corey Anderson began to steady the innings. While Anderson occasionally swished, there was the reassuring sight of the leave alone from Williamson. A couple of times he rose onto his toes to punch a brace into the covers, greeted by as throaty a roar as McCullum's sixes or Boult's wickets.

When Williamson briefly came out of his shell to fetch two boundaries of Mitchell Marsh, the crowd was back into party mode as the target quickly came into view. Then Anderson lazily picked out mid-on, but still no major worries: 21 needed. Then Luke Ronchi, after one six, was bounced out. Still okay: 15 needed. Vettori finds mid-on, what was happening?

Seven needed, three wickets in hand, the fast bowlers for company. Clarke sets his field deeper, allowing a single which Williamson takes. Two balls later and it's nine down. Forget that, in the bigger picture, this was just a round-robin group. A most remarkable turnaround was afoot.

Williamson, at the non-striker's end, prodded the pitch then waited for Boult to join him. "When we needed seven, every run seemed quite significant and we still had three wickets left so I thought it would be okay, but it was pretty tough," Williamson explained.

Regardless of Williamson's class - class that will, in many people's eyes make him New Zealand's greatest ever batsman - for two balls he was powerless. But Boult survived, helped by one of his two deliveries being off target, and Williamson was not going to leave him to face another.

"I was looking to hit a boundary, ideally a six, after what Starc did at the other end, it was tough for the new batsman coming in, so I was trying to get a boundary, wasn't it Trent?" he said while looking repeatedly at his team-mate with a wry smile. Both were certainly in agreement. Along with about 40,000 other people.

Andrew McGlashan is a senior assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • j on March 1, 2015, 23:43 GMT

    Sameold, I agree with everything you said. NZ should take this win, enjoy it, and move on. There will be bigger challenges ahead. There may be some negatives out of the game, but it doesn't matter, you should always focus of the positives. This NZ team is in pretty fine shape. They not only fiercely competed with one of, if not the biggest threat at this world cup, but they had them on the canvas for most of the match. Like any Aus/NZ battle sometimes it's not enough to have either side just on the canvas, there has to be a complete KO before it is truly over. In the end NZ did in the full number of rounds. If that was the final NZ wouldn't care about how it was won, only that it was won. Question; if these teams meet again in the tournament will the Chappel-Hadlee be up for grabs again?

  • Rahul on March 1, 2015, 6:21 GMT

    This match and the six scored by Kane will be counted as the defining moment of the tournament if NZ go on to win the world cup. They have broken the hodoo of Australia. Kane Williamson has an unshakable temperament backed by solid cricketing Technic. NZ team looks destined to finish the unfinished business of 92. The team ticks almost all the boxes, Great Leader - Check, Solid no 3 - Check, Attacking middle order - Check, Good all rounders - Check, Good spinner - Check, Good seam and swing bowlers - Check, Good blend of young and experience - Check. One gets the feeling that only extreme bad luck or individual freakish brilliance (likes of Stark or ABD) stands in the way of black caps and Championship.

  • Beau on March 1, 2015, 3:23 GMT

    @SIXFOUROUT: NZ may have made them look pretty shabby, but any attack featuring Kula and Herath can't really be less than 'decent'. This Aussie attack is devastating, not decent, most days. When Mitchell Johnson is your weak link, you're doing OK in the bowling stakes. :)

    That said, you make a good point. There is reason to be concerned about the NZ batting, just a little. But Elliott and Taylor have both already hit 100s in 2015, Anderson does his job more of than than not, and Ronchi is on an amazing run (he just copped a brute from Starc yesterday). Collapses happen, anyone can nick off early, and small chases seem tricky for NZ for some reason. It's not really about whether they're 5/100 or 1/100 if they end up with a win. And they have been winning. So how about we just chalk yesterday up to Starc, swing and that weird low total hoodoo NZ seem to have, and enjoy this win?

  • Dummy4 on March 1, 2015, 3:05 GMT

    Happy with NZs win yesterday and what an epic match!

    My biggest concern was Grant Elliot's pendulum bat swing first ball after the break when the ball is swinging!

    Looked like he was playing bat down and he was swinging the bat to make sure the ball missed it! What happened to playing down the line of the ball. Fantastic bowling for sure but some of the wickets were highly avoidable (for both NZ and Aus)

  • Lance on March 1, 2015, 2:50 GMT

    Exciting game loved it!!! definitely lived up to the hype with so much passion and 1 of the best games of cricket you will ever see... Williamson stone cold under pressure gotta love it :)

  • Tom on March 1, 2015, 2:16 GMT

    Aust should have bowled first. I was surprised by Clarke's decision.Batting second means the team knows what is required. McCullum's approach is well suited to chasing a small total but batting first requires more circumspection. The bowling conditions were always going to be the same for both sides. Note his criticism of the batters 20/20 approach.What instructions on tactics were given to them before the start of the game? What did the captain say in the sheds when the signs became obvious that the death or glory approach when batting first was fraught with danger against that attack on that pitch. I suspect the first over gave the openers a false sense of security. I would have expected the captain to counsel the batters to come to exercise care at least early in the innings. I think Clarke is an excellent test captain esp. tactically but not convinced he has the feel for ODI.

  • Patrick on March 1, 2015, 1:44 GMT

    Great article, with 19 wickets taken and NZ benefiting from both umpires calls the difference was Vettori's control and Williamson's application, something Aust sorely lacked. I hope McCullum's arm is ok, it was a nasty ball though appropriate play from a fast bowler taking a belting bowling full. Interesting to ponder what kind of match we'd have seen had NZ been invited to set a total, Clarke can complain about the preparation focus (yet another power play?) but he overlooked the opportunity to deny NZ their preference to use the bowling conditions first and chase.

  • A.J on March 1, 2015, 0:39 GMT

    That innings of Williamson's was one of the best ODI innings ever played. I don't care about 200's, what I like to see is runs under pressure and 45 not out in this context was worth every one of Chris Gayle's 215. I would have given him man of the match, though credit to Boult & Starc.

    Batting second on a home Eden Park got NZ over the line here, but the team that deserved to win won, so that's that.

    People seem to be wondering why NZ is facing more scrutiny about their batting collapse even though they won, I suggest it's because:

    1. This is the 7th time in 15 matches they've been 100/5ish.

    2. This is only Australia's first loss in a long time, NZ lost 4 games to a weak Sri Lanka and Pakistan in the last 12 weeks.

    3. The first time NZ faced a decent bowling attack they were 152/9 (Yes Aus lost).

    Well done Kiwis for the win, still deserved.

  • Chris on March 1, 2015, 0:24 GMT

    It's funny reading all of the Indian comments on here. Don't forget, you just got PUMPED by Aussie in the Test and one day series. Secondly, you very well may end up playing NZ in New Zealand during the knock out stages (who incidentally whipped India last time you toured here).

  • malcolm on March 1, 2015, 0:22 GMT

    Johnson was a disgrace yesterday !! If the pitch isn't bouncy he's an average bowler because all he does is bang it in short ! Watson has to go. Finch needs to get his head down instead of thinking this is a 20/20 game. Why these bowlers don't bowl 6 yorkers is beyond me , no one is going to it it for 6.

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