Steven Smith, Australia's captain, praised Travis Head for taking his opportunity at No. 6 in Australia's 68-run victory over New Zealand in the first match of the Chappell-Hadlee series. Smith said the decision to prefer Head in the middle order had nothing to do with Glenn Maxwell's comments about team-mate Matthew Wade ahead of the match, describing Head's batting as "beautiful" after the two put on a century stand to revive Australia from 92 for 4 in Sydney.
Head made 52, his highest international score and second half-century in 13 ODIs, to help set up the Australia innings, while Smith went on to record 164 - a record at the SCG - as New Zealand conceded a total that proved to be well out of their reach, despite a fighting hundred from Martin Guptill.
"It was more about giving Travis another opportunity, he played well last week, scored a hundred in Shield cricket so he's in good nick," Smith said of the decision to pick Head ahead of Maxwell. "I guess it was about giving him an opportunity first and obviously he played pretty well, so he's taken that opportunity."
Asked about the relationship between the two Victorians, after Maxwell's criticism of Wade, Smith said: "I think they're okay. I made some comments in here the other day about him, the comments that he made were disappointing and disrespectful towards Matty and I think we've moved on from that now and it's about focusing on this series. It was great for us to get a win tonight and hopefully we can play some more good cricket in the nation's capital."
Maxwell has not played an ODI since the tri-series with West Indies and South Africa in June, during which Head made his debut. Since then, Head has made a number of handy starts - only twice failing to reach double-figures - but he needed some luck in Sydney, with Matt Henry fluffing a simple catch when he had 7.
"When he came out to bat, we were just communicating, saying that we'd try and get through to about 40 overs and then we'd have a bit of a crack at them," Smith said. "We were able to still play quit positively through that period and score five an over, so we set ourselves up nicely with that partnership and I thought the way he played was beautiful, he obviously got dropped that one at mid-off, but besides that I think he played some really good cricket. And it was nice to see Matthew Wade come in at the end and play a good little cameo as well.
"It looks like [Head's] improving every game, he's in good form, coming off the back of a hundred last week in the Shield, so he's playing some good cricket and I'm sure he's going to continue to improve."
Smith chose not to dwell on his own innings, calling it "pleasing" and saying he preferred the century he made at the SCG during the 2015 World Cup semi-final. He was also grateful for the indecision among the New Zealand ranks after Trent Boult appealed for an lbw when Smith had made 14 - Kane Williamson chose not to review, possibly on the suggestion of a team-mate that there was bat involved, only for Hawk-Eye to show it would have been overturned on DRS.
"I was pretty glad they didn't review it. I think it was out, so yeah, of course I'm glad," Smith said. "But not much was really going through my head, I let it go pretty quickly and moved on. Thought he set me up pretty well, actually, Boult wasn't swinging any so I was moving across even further and then he got one to come back quite late. So set me up pretty well and fortunately it got given not out, and unfortunate for NZ that it was.
"I think someone said that I'd hit it, from point, I reckon I heard someone say that I'd hit it, and I think they ran with that. I may have looked at my bat at one point as well, to throw them."