New Zealand show strength in opening success
New Zealand 205 (Tiffen 57, Perry 3-41) beat Australia 6 for 132 (Nitschke 27, Pulford 3-32) by 13 runs on D/L method
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details
Australia's World Cup defence got off to a poor start as their batsmen failed to deal with the pressure of a moderate chase against a committed New Zealand. In a tussle between the Group B heavyweights, New Zealand quickly overcame a horrible collapse of 7 for 34, which ended their innings at 205, by hitting the hosts regularly in their interrupted chase.
New Zealand were ahead by 13 on the Duckworth-Lewis method when the rain hit, leaving Australia at 6 for 132 after 33 overs. Kate Pulford's six-over spell of 3 for 30 shocked Australia as they fell to 4 for 71 after a bright opening created by 21 from the captain Karen Rolton and Shelley Nitschke's 27. However, the home team paid for sloppy shot selection and failed to take advantage of a handful of dropped chances.
Rolton hit a six to long-on off Pulford, who followed up with a short ball which hit the batsman, and in her next over she forced Rolton into miscuing an ugly pull. Lisa Sthalekar was dropped second ball by Sarah Tsukigawa, but it wasn't costly as Rachel Priest dived to her right for an outstanding one-handed take when the vice-captain was 6.
Nitschke pulled Pulford for six to fine leg the ball before being lbw, and the score could have been worse if Priest hadn't missed Jodie Fields on 0. Fields tried to be the glue for the rest of the innings, although she had to watch Jess Cameron (15) and Lauren Ebsary (1) depart to wild slogs.
Those wickets lifted the total required under Duckworth-Lewis and Australia were unable to get ahead following the first break for rain. The second one came shortly after and eventually ended the game. Fields, who missed an offcutter that lifted a bail before it re-lodged in its home, was unbeaten on 26 at the finish while Ellyse Perry was 17.
"It's disappointing to lose this way because I thought Jodie Fields and Ellyse Perry were going well when the rain came," Rolton said. "I thought the New Zealanders bowled really well. They put the pressure on us and we made the mistakes.
"We'll continue to be positive for the rest of the tournament and try to win our remaining group matches. There's still a long way to go in the tournament and a lot of games to play, so anything can still happen."
Haidee Tiffen, New Zealand's captain, set the pace in their innings with a watchful 57 from 113 balls. However, Tiffen, who exited after a highly-valuable partnership of 62 with Sara McGlashan, started the collapse in the 41st over when she charged at Erin Osborne and found Cameron at deep midwicket. They quickly tumbled from 3 for 171 to all-out after 48 overs.
Aimee Mason (0) followed Tiffen and Nicola Browne (3) missed a sweep to be bowled by Osborne. Further momentum was lost when McGlashan edged behind on 29 and Emma Sampson caught Tsukigawa off her own bowling.
Australia also missed a series of tough chances, including one by Cameron off the first ball of the game. Another difficult drop left Perry with a dislocated right little finger, but she returned to bowl at the death. She picked up McGlashan, Priest and Sophie Devine (13 off seven balls) in her haul of 3 for 40 from six overs.
Early in the game the fielding was excellent and Sthalekar's direct hit resulted in Pulford's departure for 3 in the fourth over. Suzie Bates entered in a bright mood and was 29 off 24 when Rene Farrell got one of her sharp inswingers to hit the stumps.
New Zealand were 2 for 42 and were taken forward by Tiffen and Amy Satterthwaite (38), who put on 67 to give the team a boost. Some light showers made things tougher for both sides, but Australia's spinners battled through and Sthalekar returned 2 for 35 while Osborne earned 2 for 37.
Two easier matches remain for the Australians before the Super Six stage, with them facing South Africa in Newcastle on Tuesday. New Zealand take on West Indies at Bankstown Oval in Sydney on the same day.
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo