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

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