Australia clinch a heart-stopper
A magnificent day of big-hitting inspired by Andrew Symonds ended in a desperate finish as the debutant Mick Lewis sealed the series with a run out for a two-run victory. New Zealand bravely chased the imposing target of 323, which included an Australian record partnership of 220 between Symonds and Michael Clarke, with stunning contributions throughout their order but fell cruelly short.
Brett Lee had almost given the game away with an 18-run 49th over - it included a no-ball for a waist-high full toss that went for four, a bouncer called wide and another controversial no-ball for having only three fielders inside the inner circle - but he was saved by the nerveless Lewis. New Zealand started the final over needing only six for victory following a scurrying, never-give-up attitude from the lower order, but Lewis remained calm with a series of full-pitched deliveries and after being helped by Clarke's superb direct hit from point to remove Brendon McCullum (49 from 33 balls) he secured the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy with an underarm lob.
"We looked like we had it in the bag a few times but New Zealand kept coming and coming," Ricky Ponting said after the match. Ponting had always planned to give Lewis, a regular death bowler for Victoria, the final over and when Kyle Mills blocked down the pitch Lewis won a hectic race to provide an exhausting finish to a pulsating match.
The overdose of entertainment was led by Symonds with a brilliant, brutal 156 and he was followed by more bludgeoning half-centuries to Lou Vincent and Chris Cairns as the whimper of the first game was followed with a massive bang. Boundaries rained like the weather in the lead-up once Symonds reached his half-century, lifting Australia from the trouble of 50 for 3. What followed were three magnificent examples of power hitting.
Symonds played patiently at first, waiting 70 balls to bring up his fifty, and then exploded in a way few fireworks displays can manage - his hundred arrived from a further 39 balls and his 150 came only 16 deliveries later. "You won't see many, no, you won't see any innings like that," Ponting said. Australia's total looked unassailable to most people, but Vincent's tunnel-vision did not allow for more meek surrender after the humiliation of the opening contest in Auckland on Saturday and he began the chase as wildly as the tourists' innings had ended.
Facing 49 balls, Vincent pounded 71 to give New Zealand a speeding start that downgraded a disastrous outlook to a more hopeful one and showed Lee could not only be faced, but punished. The tactic worked and Lee, who collected 3 for 5 at Eden Park, spilled an incredible 85 from ten overs ending in his late-innings explosions and donations. Despite suffering an upper leg injury that required a runner, Vincent loaded nine fours and two sixes, including welcoming Lewis by twice dispatching him over his head for boundaries, before being dismissed in the 15th over with the score at 93 for 1.
The match seemed to float until Cairns hulked out shortly before the halfway stage of the chase with more points to make after being dropped for the tour to South Africa. With the run-rate growing he started knocking off the deficit and showed the seriousness of his intent when he launched two sixes off Symonds as revenge for the Australian planting him over the boundary with three consecutive balls during a 25-run spree in the 48th over. There were boundaries everywhere and the limited-overs bodybuilders flexed at every opportunity and stayed until McCullum left.
Cairns brought up his half-century from 45 balls and then eyed larger targets with Jacob Oram, who chipped in with 41 off 40, and while the chase often looked too heavy it was never called off. The departure of Cairns for 60 with 86 still required appeared to be the end, but New Zealand kept finding the gaps and running like Olympic sprinters. Lewis was responsible for the prize wicket of Cairns after he recovered quickly from the initial damage from Vincent, picking up both openers and finishing with 3 for 56 from 9.5 overs.
The Lewis and Clark combination is most famous as American explorers, but the two fresh faces in Australia's line-up started making their own discoveries with skidding deliveries and tight lines. Stuart Clark, who was also dependable with 1 for 49, chipped in with the soft dismissal of Craig McMillan and the duo was responsible for taming New Zealand as they slowed to 109 for 3, which earned them control in between the blasts from Vincent and Cairns.
However, none of their bombs were more stunning than those from Symonds as he turned a smart, hard-working mood into a severely brutal one over 127 balls that included 12 fours and eight sixes. After 25 overs Australia were a steady 115 for 4, but Symonds and Clarke, who gave perfect support with 82 from 77, turned the game upside down as they showed their varying and impressive skills. New Zealand's bowlers suffered heavily - Mills gave up only 24 runs from eight overs before leaking 36 in his final two while Cairns was belted from respectability to 1 for 66 - but the feeling could not have been as bad as seeing the video screen signal their heroic defeat.
Adam Gilchrist c Cairns b Mills 8 (10 for 1)
Badly mis-timed pull that ballooned to mid-on
Ricky Ponting c McCullum b Mills 28 (47 for 2)
Suprised by extra bounce but didn't need to play defensive push
Brad Hodge c Hamish Marshall b Chris Cairns 0 (50 for 3)
Cut short and wide delivery to point
Simon Katich run out 36 (101 for 4)
Glanced to fine leg, called through by Symonds, direct hit and no replay needed
Andrew Symonds b Vettori 156 (321 for 5)
Stepped away trying for another boundary and missed
Lou Vincent c Gilchrist b Lewis 71 (93 for 1)
Slashing cut shot caught fine edge
Nathan Astle c Clark b Lewis 22 (98 for 2)
Top-edge pull skied to fine leg
Craig McMillan c Hussey b Clark 9 (109 for 3)
Another weak dismissal against Australia with bunt to midwicket
Hamish Marshall lbw Hogg 10 (134 for 4)
Tried to pull short ball that may have headed down legside
Scott Styris c & b Hogg (156 for 5)
Patted back a well-pitched delivery
Chris Cairns c Lee b Lewis 60 (237 for 6)
Cross batted shorter ball down to long on
Jacob Oram c Clark b Lee 41 (277 for 7)
Stepped away to upper-cut and picked out third man
James Marshall run out 6 (295 for 8)
Chasing desperate second run to Hussey long off that wasn't there
Brendon McCullum run out 48 (319 for 9)
Hit straight to Clarke at point and well beaten by direct hit
Kyle Mills run out 0 (320)
Defended down the pitch and in mad scramble was beaten by Lewis underarm
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo