Australians 9 for 219 (Finch 52) beat New Zealand XI 215 all out (Blundell 77, Young 60, Behrendorff 3-34, Cummins 3-36, Coulter-Nile 3-44) by one wicket
The Australians, including Steven Smith and David Warner for the first time in more than a year, had to scramble for a one-wicket victory against a New Zealand XI including just five of the World Cup squad after suffering a batting collapse on the first of three practice matches at Allan Border Field.
Having earlier restricted the New Zealanders to 215 they stumbled from 2 for 122 to 9 for 205 leaving the final pair of Jason Behrendorff and Adam Zampa to edge them across the line as darkness fell and save the blushes of a middle order that produced some poor shot selection.
For all the excitement at the end, the result of this match won't be hugely significant in the bigger picture but it was the latest milestone in the comeback story of Warner and Smith, pulling on the Australian colours for the first time since the Newlands ball-tampering scandal. They are likely to face more hostile crowds over the next few months than the 1000-plus of friendly local support that gathered on a public holiday. "Welcome back, Smithy" came a lone voice as the Australians took the field in the morning and both were greeted by warm applause as they walked to the crease. In England, however, things are expected to be a bit different.
One of the more intriguing aspects of the day was a small message in how Warner was used: it doesn't matter how good your form is, you may have to take on a new position in the team as he was slotted in at No. 3 despite only once in 104 ODI innings having not opened.
As it was, Warner arrived at the crease in the first over of the chase when Usman Khawaja was bowled by Matt Henry playing an expansive drive and, after an iffy start where he was dropped at gully before scoring, cantered his way to 39 off 43. Smith, who earlier took a terrific one-handed diving catch that will have given the troublesome elbow a good test, got himself settled before falling for 22 and the innings stuttered.
Marcus Stoinis was caught behind from a loose drive, Shaun Marsh slashed to gully and Alex Carey nicked a wild shot to leave it to the bowlers. Nathan Coulter-Nile tried to muscle the Australians over the line but was lbw to Todd Astle with 11 still needed.
In the weeks leading up to Warner and Smith returning, Australia strung together eight consecutive ODI wins. One of the key parts of that was the success Khawaja and Aaron Finch had together at the top of the order. What the top order looks like at the World Cup remains one of the questions Australia need to answer. In all likelihood various combinations will be used during the three matches against New Zealand, and the odds still favour Warner opening come the tournament, but the fact he didn't get first crack was a reminder that nothing can be taken for granted.
Warner didn't quite middle everything from the off, perhaps still adjusting to the change in conditions from the IPL to Brisbane. He almost spooned his first ball close to backward point then nearly offered a return catch to Henry, who should have had him in his next over when Daryl Mitchell spilled a chance at gully, but was soon dispatching deliveries to the boundary. He took a particularly liking to anything Doug Bracewell dropped short before trying something a little too inventive off Astle and top edged a reverse sweep.
Smith had been given a tough net session by the Australian quicks yesterday but looked reasonably assured in the middle, one straight in particular standing out, until he was caught behind off Henry as Australia's collapse was set in motion.
The player who was a shining light for the men's team during a difficult home summer, Pat Cummins, had got the day off to a lively start when he struck twice in the opening over to send back George Worker and Henry Nicholls.
From there, the New Zealanders recovered impressively through a third-wicket stand of 137 between Will Young and Tom Blundell. Young, recently handed a central contract, is the next in line behind the incumbent batsmen while Blundell earned the final spot in the World Cup squad when he was preferred ahead of Tim Seifert as back-up wicketkeeper.
After laying a foundation following the early losses both started to expand their strokeplay; Blundell launched Behrendorff into the grandstand over deep square and Young later peppered the same area. However, when Young clubbed Coulter-Nile to deep midwicket and Blundell fell four overs later and the innings went into a nosedive as the New Zealanders lost 8 for 78.
Cummins, Behrendorff and Coulter-Nile each finished with three wickets while Adam Zampa nipped out Mitchell with a stumping. Kane Richardson, who is one of the standby pacemen for the World Cup along with Josh Hazlewood, and would be in line for a call-up if Jhye Richardson doesn't recover from his dislocated shoulder, went wicketless and will hope for another chance in the next two matches. Australia will hope to bat better.