Australia slump to 10-wicket defeat
Shane Bond's love of hurting Australia pushed New Zealand to their third win in five years of Trans-Tasman contests and added to the visitors' severe woes. On the day when Australia's under-strength squad was hit further by the loss of Brett Lee and Michael Clarke to injuries, Bond made their situation much worse by capturing 5 for 23 as they toppled to their first ever ten-wicket loss.
Lou Vincent and Stephen Fleming powered past the tiny target of 149 in the 27th over and Australia must win the final two matches of the Chappell-Hadlee Series to hold their No. 1 ranking. Bond was magnificent on a pitch offering steep bounce and movement and he struck in his first and last overs while taking his tally against Australia to 33 wickets in ten games.
Bond dropped the inexperienced line-up to 2 for 16 in the fourth over and finished the innings with another three victims to collect his fourth five-wicket haul in one-day internationals. His first six overs went for seven runs after Fleming won the toss, but the highlight was a stunning caught-and-bowled to remove Cameron White. White watched in horror as Bond lunged low to his right for a one-handed grab and Bond was also the fielder at deep mid-off who accepted Shane Watson's drive.
While Bond was the standout, New Zealand performed strongly as a group and Australia were forced to rely on the hard-working 42 of Michael Hussey, the stand-in captain, to avoid further embarrassment. Hussey's workload has increased since Ricky Ponting and Adam Gilchrist decided not to join the week-long tour, but he was unable to provide the miracle.
Hussey batted at No. 4 and started to stabilise after the early discomfort, but despite facing an astonishing 96 balls, he was unable to get the scoring rate above three an over. Jacob Oram, who broke a finger catching Mitchell Johnson, gave up only 22 from his ten overs and Mark Gillespie and Daniel Vettori chipped in with important wickets.
Hussey fell to a second clever bowling change by Fleming, who had earlier switched Vettori's end and accepted Brad Hodge's edge at first slip. Hodge (22) and Hussey had started the rescue from 3 for 45 with a 41-run stand, but they fell within three overs and the side was in further danger. Fleming had called Craig McMillan into the attack and he struck with his third delivery when Hussey drove the slower ball to cover.
Australia were 5 for 98 and continued their slide when Bond returned to end the hopes of White and Watson, who were given rare opportunities for extended stints. Phil Jaques, who was promoted from standby player to opener, and Brad Haddin also missed out when they were Bond's first dismissals.
With Ponting (back), Gilchrist (resting), Andrew Symonds (arm) and Clarke (hip) absent, Hussey and Matthew Hayden were the only batting regulars in Australia's mis-firing side. Hayden also struggled for rhythm on a windy day and battled to 14 off 39 and the day failed to improve for Australia.
Defending their meagre collection, Australia needed quick breakthroughs, but with Lee having left the squad with an ankle injury they were short of explosive power. Vincent was the early aggressor but Fleming caught up later in the innings with an unbeaten 70 off 76 balls.
Glenn McGrath dropped a sharp caught-and-bowled chance off Vincent in the third over and the batsman should have been run-out on 18 and was spilled by Haddin on 53. He struck a fine straight six off Watson shortly before surviving a comical miss. He top-edged a pull shot about eight metres off the pitch and in a communication mix-up neither the bowler Johnson nor Brad Hodge were able to reach the simple chance.
It summed up Australia's day, but Vincent was not in the mood for compassion and thumped the next ball for four to square-leg. He finished the game with a pulled six off Johnson and registered 73 off 87.
Fleming, who was under personal pressure following claims he should be stripped of the captaincy, flicked a boundary behind square-leg off Nathan Bracken and square-drove the next ball for six. He cleared the rope again when he hooked Watson and brought up his half-century with a fine lofted off-drive from the same bowler.
After being upset to miss the CB Series finals last week, New Zealand fought back in fine style and are in a strong position to hand Australia their second tournament loss in a row. The visitors were missing a serious chunk of their first-choice side, but their World Cup preparations are stuttering badly. With injuries, poor form, sloppy fielding and four losses in five games, Australia have entered a rare and serious slump.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo