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New Zealand's celebrations suffer a reality check

The clouds are in; it's dark, the batsman is playing the ball late and nervously. It's supposed to be an Australian bowler, one of the much-vaunted, never-actually-seen-together, four fast bowlers of the apocalypse, and the quivering mess is supposed to be one of New Zealand's late-innings hitters. But this is Australia's No.4, Moises Henriques, and he's facing New Zealand's first-change bowler, Adam Milne.

As Henriques is leaving the ground, New Zealand are celebrating in the rain that will ultimately end their celebrations.

Australia came into this game as favourites, but New Zealand played like they were in charge from the start of the match. They took a chance on Luke Ronchi (despite his average of 13 since the last World Cup and that he hadn't scored more than 37 in an ODI in over two years) instead of the ever-reliable Tom Latham (Av 38 in that time). In part because Latham had scored four ducks in his last six innings as a keeper, and averaged 6.5 while keeping. But also because Ronchi was going to go at Australia as Brendon McCullum did, and that's pretty much exactly what happened. He hit nine fours and three sixes, and his 65 came at a strike-rate of 151 including 41 runs off 17 Pat Cummins deliveries. The real pace was coming off Ronchi's bat, not from the hyped Aussie attack.

When Ronchi's attack finished, the batting robotic 2017 Model K that we call Kane Williamson played an ODI innings as if it was pre-planned to be a hundred from the moment he came out. He played late, took chances when the odds were in his favour, manipulated the field and, when he tried to go big, he always had a well-constructed back-up safety shot. His partnership with Ross Taylor was allowed time to breathe because of Ronchi, and they batted throughout the middle of the match and were starting to accelerate in their last few overs together before Taylor skied a ball into the covers. Williamson kept going, and the only thing more predictable than him making a hundred was the questions it kickstarted about his place in the Big Four pecking order.

As skipper, Williamson manipulated the field as if he was playing batting mindgames with the Australian top order. Mid-on was up and back, fine leg and deep square kept changing and, at one stage, he set a triple-threat legside trap of two short midwickets and a catching short square leg for Steve Smith.

The only time New Zealand were not in control was when Williamson was run out and the middle- and lower-order followed him with a collapse. The platform was so good that the Kiwi middle order chose to go hard against what is possibly the best bowling line-up in this tournament and squandered what could have been an even bigger total had they played with more circumspection.

The death bowling was the only real highlight for Australia. Cummins' first five overs went for 52 runs, his next four claimed 1 for 15. Earlier in their innings, Australia's only decent bowling came from the combined fifth bowler of Head and Henriques, who conceded 47 in their 10, their most frugal in the game. Hazlewood and Starc both ended with 52 runs off their nine overs, but Hazlewood added five death wickets in his last three overs to give him a six-wicket haul that he probably won't be telling his grandkids about.

But the Australians were pretty honest with how they bowled, "I think especially the first 10 to 15 overs, we bowled probably too full and both sides of the wicket," said Hazlewood. "I think in England you've got to bowl fairly straight and we were too wide outside off a lot of the time whether it was short or full.

"I think we obviously missed that practice match the other day to give a few boys the run, so at the end that probably came back to get us, but we've got to be better in these shorter tournaments from ball one."

His captain Steve Smith was even more honest, he called the bowling performance, "rusty" and "pretty ordinary" and that, with the rain, "we've perhaps got away with one there".

New Zealand didn't come into this tournament as a favourite: the team who reached the last World Cup final have been lacking for inspiration in ODIs since McCullum took his talents to franchise cricket. But they bossed the Australian bowling and confused the Australian batting before Birmingham's weather stopped them short.

But for all the good news out of New Zealand's game, with the rain and the draw, they now have the harder run than Australia to qualify. Australia's next game is Bangladesh, who battled hard against England, but ultimately without Mustafizur Rahman's wicket-taking will find it hard to take wickets in this tournament. If Australia win that game on Monday, New Zealand have to beat England, the home team and favourites, the following day or they'll be relying on net run-rate from their final match against Bangladesh.

Williamson said: "it is what it is". Hazlewood said: "I think we'll be better for the run." That was it at the end, a what-if for New Zealand, and a practice match for Australia. Adam Milne did bowl very well, for all of his 12 balls, but for New Zealand that wasn't enough to celebrate.