Cool Styris gets New Zealand home
Scott Styris went from probable 12th man to match-winner after guiding New Zealand to a two-wicket victory in a tense chase of 276 in Napier. Styris began the day outside New Zealand's starting XI but was called in late due to Daniel Vettori's stiff neck, and the inclusion helped Ross Taylor start his international captaincy career on a high.
Styris sealed the win with a six over long-off from the second ball of the 50th over from Doug Bollinger and finished unbeaten on 49 from 34 deliveries. He roared as the ball sailed over the boundary and was pumped up after he and Mitchell Johnson appeared to clash head and helmet in the 46th over, in which Styris slogged two boundaries.
He and Shane Bond had combined for a 35-run stand that meant Jacob Oram did not have to bat after suffering a potentially serious injury to his left knee in the field. Although it was Styris who saw the chase home from No. 7, fittingly it was the fill-in captain Taylor who had put New Zealand in a winning position with his 70 from 71 deliveries. He woke up on match day unaware he was about to lead his country for the first time and by the end of the evening had a 100% winning record.
The late withdrawal of Vettori had the potential to ruin New Zealand's victory chances. He is their captain, a selector, their best bowler, an important lower-order batsman and in his spare time probably maintains the New Zealand Cricket website. But New Zealand showed that Australia, who made seven changes from Sunday's Twenty20 side, were not the only squad with depth.
Daryl Tuffey bowled well, James Franklin stepped up as a bowler in Oram's absence, Peter Ingram gave them a good start to the chase and Styris did the rest. There were also the expected contributions from Taylor, Bond and Brendon McCullum. The key to New Zealand's chase was getting a strong start and a 75-run opening stand from McCullum and Ingram fulfilled that requirement.
McCullum looked set to continue the form he showed on Sunday when he posted a Twenty20 century. He took to Bollinger early and flicked short balls comfortably off his hip behind square, and drove with supreme power through the off side. Ingram (40) began in scratchy fashion and for a while looked outclassed, until he got a few away off the middle of the bat through the off side against Ryan Harris.
Eventually Ingram tried to lift Johnson over mid-off only to see Michael Hussey sprint back to take a wonderful catch with the flight of the ball. Bollinger was understandably elated when he cramped McCullum and drew an inside edge onto his stumps for 45 from 43 deliveries. From there, Taylor's confidence and Styris' calmness finished the job, albeit in tighter fashion than they hoped.
Taylor was aiming to be there at the end but his departure, caught at deep midwicket off Shane Watson, gave Australia a sniff. In the finish, it wasn't enough to save Australia from their first defeat in their past 14 one-day internationals. They were punished for posting a below-par 275 for 8 on one of the best batting surfaces they had seen.
The visitors needed to capitalise on the enticing combination of a wonderful pitch and the absence of Vettori. On paper, their score probably looked impressive but the lowest first-innings total in the past six years and ten ODIs is 273, which Australia barely scraped past despite a blazing start that threatened a score well in excess of 300.
Watson seemed to think the Twenty20 series was still going as he struck 14 from the opening over off Tim Southee and dented a green plastic seat in the stands with a powerful pull for six off Bond. Australia reached 50 in the sixth over but things slowed significantly when Watson lifted Oram to deep midwicket and was well taken by Ingram for 45 off 31 balls.
From there, it was more a gradual climb than an all-out assault and New Zealand's seam-only attack did well to vary their tactics and pick up regular wickets. Ricky Ponting looked set to anchor the innings until on 44 he failed to adjust to Franklin's slower ball and drove to short cover, where Martin Guptill took a sharp one-handed catch.
Michael Clarke (22) was surprised by a snorting bouncer from Tuffey and fended an edge behind, and the bowler also collected Cameron White for 33 with a delivery that jagged back and took the off stump. Perhaps only Elizabeth Taylor could match Australia for sheer number of partnerships cut down in their prime.
It wasn't until Hussey (59) and James Hopes (33) came together that Australia found another half-century stand to follow the 50 compiled by the openers Watson and Brad Haddin. Their 72-run combination pushed Australia to a competitive, if slightly underwhelming total that was boosted by a few late boundaries from Johnson.
The only negative for New Zealand in the field was the injury to Oram, who was helped from the ground after what looked like an innocuous incident. He jogged in from mid-off to collect a ball but something clearly twinged in his left knee and he slumped to the turf in pain. Luckily for New Zealand, he didn't need to hobble to the crease to bat.
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo