It was a game of dots.

And at one stage Australia bowled themselves into a run out chance. Nathan Lyon's first five overs had 17 of them. No wickets, but on a surface that helped him, and with Lyon bowling his trademark just outside off, good length, New Zealand couldn't score off him. With Mitchell Starc bowling at the other end, in 11 balls Australia found nine dots, and then there's a ball hit to the right of Glenn Maxwell.

For most of the innings, Maxwell looked like he was fielding to make up for his batting. At times he was closer than a gully, while fielding at point. This single was hit square of him at midwicket, and they took off for a run. Maxwell got there quick and found the one stump visible to him. Tom Latham's dive was just enough to get home. But all those dot balls eventually got New Zealand.

Watch on Hotstar (India only): Highlights of Australia's bowling performance

Earlier in this tournament, the Australian attack was the wickets of Starc and the pressure of Pat Cummins. When the first change was made, it felt like a different sport. Nathan Coulter-Nile wasn't poor, but he didn't take wickets and wasn't that economical. Adam Zampa struggled with form and went for runs without getting the wickets he would have wanted. Kane Richardson came in as a death specialist because the bowling wasn't working that well and was fine, but didn't look that threatening.

And then there was the fifth bowling spot, which always looked like a weakness. If Australia were doing well, Marcus Stoinis and Maxwell would be slotted around the better bowlers. When Stoinis was injured, even Aaron Finch had to bowl. Stoinis when fit has taken wickets while going at just over a run a ball, Maxwell has the same economy, but without wickets.

Outside of Cummins, or Starc's soul-eating return spells, dot balls have been scarce for Australia. The only games before this where they found dots was against Afghanistan and West Indies, two teams against rotating the strike.

Against England they made two changes, they brought in Jason Behrendorff and they decided on Lyon over Zampa. Neither of these changes were about addressing the original issue of pressure. Behrendorff was brought in because of the match-up against the English batsmen and Lyon came in because of Zampa's form. And part of the reason they'd held back Lyon for so long was because they'd have two off-spinners with him and Maxwell. After Behrendorff's five wickets, there was talk of dropping him because he didn't match up as well with New Zealand's top order.

Australia nearly didn't keep this bowling attack, a line-up who just rolled New Zealand for 86 short when defending only 243. New Zealand made fewer runs (153) than they faced dot balls (172). Starc admitted it was partly the pitch, but Australia - who struggled in their innings - faced fewer dots despite losing five early wickets and batted their entire 50 overs.

WATCH on Hotstar (India only): Fall of wickets

On Saturday it felt - and against England too - like they had four bowlers who do not bowl poor balls. Behrendorff may not be great after the opening overs - where he is outstanding - but he doesn't bowl many poor balls. His career is built on early swing and quality line and length. To hit him, you have to take the risk. And by just taking the new ball - even if he doesn't provide wickets - he allows Pat Cummins to move to first change, meaning that the pressure isn't let up. Coulter-Nile and Richardson weren't given the new ball once.

Lyon on a wicket with any assistance for him is a tough white-ball proposition. On Saturday he bowled Test line and lengths, there was bounce, some grip from the wicket, and he doesn't bowl a poor ball. If you want to score off him, you need to read his flight perfectly, or swipe him across the line. Zampa on a better batting wicket gives you spin in both directions and more wickets. But he doesn't create this level of pressure, and he will never be as accurate as Lyon.

Lyon and Behrendorff didn't just bowl dots; they don't give four balls that don't include some risk from the batsmen. On a wicket like this, they were like a vice grip. From Australia's front-liners New Zealand managed only five boundaries in 35.4 overs. Even with the conditions in their favour, that is an extraordinary effort.

That doesn't change the fifth bowler problem. At one stage Australia bowled six bowlers in seven overs, and Aaron Finch found new ways to burgle his fifth position. This includes bowling himself, and using Steve Smith, whose first over included two full tosses. Australia chased the match-ups like they were using a spreadsheet in the middle. Perhaps it was at its weirdest when Smith came in to bowl off-spin like a club player who was making a comeback after 20 years, and wasn't expecting to roll his arm over. But because of the pressure of the front four, even with Australia using four bowlers to make up the final ten, it didn't matter.

The most important thing though is what happens with Starc. An excellent support cast means that Starc can be used purely to win ODIs - which seems to be why he was born. Twenty-five overs into the innings Starc had only bowled three, yet the total was only 92 for 2. Part of that was because Behrendorff's second spell was seven overs of 2 for 20. So when Starc came on it was only after a couple of ordinary overs from part-timers, not to stop the ship from sinking like earlier in the tournament. It also meant that with New Zealand needing nearly 150 runs, they would have to score them with Starc bowling a large chunk. They never got close.

The last time New Zealand was in the game Maxwell and Cummins were bowling in tandem. Cummins was very hard to hit, and Maxwell followed with a low pressure over where New Zealand were reticent to take him on to the long boundary. It meant that in two overs Australia had bowled seven dots, and the runs per over had now got to where Ross Taylor had to go. And that meant he had to go against Cummins. The first one he found a gap, the second one he tried his famed slog sweep and hit the ball straight up in the air. The dots won the day.

Every dot made Australia look like the kind of attack that wins World Cups.

Jarrod Kimber is a writer for ESPNcricinfo. @ajarrodkimber