A Scott Styris hundred and a last-gasp half-century from Brendon McCullum surged New Zealand to a world-record chase of 332 for 8 as they avoided a cleansweep of Chappell-Hadlee Series losses. McCullum's mind-blowing 50 from 25 deliveries saved a near-helpless situation of 74 required from seven overs with two wickets remaining, and they ended up securing the victory with an incredible six balls to spare.
Australia went into the match with an experimental bowling line-up, which contained only 34 appearances for the five front-liners, and they were handed a book full of dreadful lessons, particularly in bowling at the death thanks to McCullum and Daniel Vettori. McCullum continually found himself with room and belted four sixes and three fours while Vettori scampered 23 from 12 deliveries to earn a wild victory as captain.
Vettori won the toss and chose to bowl on the basis that his side was better at chasing a total than setting one. The logic had almost worked at Wellington on Wednesday when they lost by two runs, and today they refused to give up, not only winning by two wickets but knocking off Australia's previous mark of 330 for 7 against South Africa in 2001-02. "It's been a privilege to be part of this amazing game and hopefully it will set us up for the season," Vettori said.
A chase requiring more than a run a ball needed one of the top order to play a significant role and Styris delivered with an innings combining a calm outlook and explosive shot-making. His 101 meant New Zealand always had an eye on the target, but after Lou Vincent continued his fire-breathing from the second match he received little help until Jacob Oram connected with a flurry of big swings as light rain arrived with ten overs remaining.
When Oram and Styris, the Man of the Match, fell in the same over from Stuart Clark, who collected career-best figures of 4 for 55, the Australians were confident of a whitewash, but the match swung again with the arrival of McCullum. The target was not so much chipped away as chopped at and Mick Lewis, the hero from Wellington, was unable to repeat his nerveless display and his final over went for 20 runs. McCullum and Vettori both sent him for sixes in what should have been the penultimate over to grab New Zealand's 27th win in the 100 matches between the countries.
The home side suffered an early problem when they lost the Supersub Stephen Fleming for 0 and the dismissals of Vincent and Nathan Astle, who both went in Clark's first spell, were also costly. However, Hamish Marshall and Styris, who thumped 12 fours and two sixes, gave the innings a much-needed boost with an energetic partnership and the high tempo remained as Styris brought up his third one-day century from 94 balls.
While McCullum's flourishes at the finish will remain the defining moments of the match, Michael Hussey showed similar batting greed with a jaw-dropping display at the end of the first innings. Australia had dropped to 259 for 7 with the loss of Michael Clarke and Cameron White to Chris Martin, but Hussey usually either found the boundary or cleared it in the final ten overs, which earned 125 runs. It did not matter where the New Zealanders bowled as Hussey, who hit seven fours and five sixes, raced from 32 to 88 in 18 deliveries.
Maintaining his fabulous record of being dismissed only four times, Hussey ensured his average, which started the day at 129.00, actually increased to 151. He lifted Chris Cairns for two sixes in a row to bring up his half-century and probably needed only one more over to reach a century with an exhibition of power hitting that would have made McCullum or Andrew Symonds proud.
A stand of 82 between Hussey and Clarke, who posted his second consecutive fifty, set up the total after Ricky Ponting dragged Australia from the early trouble of 7 for 2 with a 67-ball 75. The first of many stunning turnarounds was led by Ponting and Brad Hodge (59 from 83), and the change was best seen through Ponting, who played, missed and struggled over 5 runs in 24 balls before switching clothes to reach his fifty off 48 deliveries.
Vettori was again the best bowler with 2 for 37 off ten, his wickets of Ponting and Symonds coming in the 21st over, and he made free-flowing scoring difficult. However, while Styris was again frugal Vettori was let down by his closing bowlers and the allrounders Cairns (0 for 61 from six overs) and Jacob Oram (0 for 69 off eight). Their generosity did not matter in the end and actually helped make sure of a satisfying world record.
Adam Gilchrist lbw Mills 0 (0 for 1)
Neither forward nor back and deceived by an inswinger
Simon Katich c Styris b Martin 2 (7 for 2)
Tricked by vicious late swing and clever low catch at second slip
Ricky Ponting lbw Vettori 75 (122 for 3)
Played back to faster arm ball
Andrew Symonds c Mills b Vettori 1 (124 for 4)
Danced down pitch in an attempt to drive over infield but caught at mid-off
Brad Hodge c Mills b Styris 59 (177 for 5)
Pulled to man on square-leg boundary
Michael Clarke c Mills b Martin 71 (259 for 6)
Drove wide, wide ball to deep point
Cameron White c Vettori b Martin (259 for 7)
Wonderful left-handed diving catch at cover
Stephen Fleming c Gilchrist b Bracken 0 (12 for 1)
Flashed at a wide outswinger
Nathan Astle c White b Clark 14 (50 for 2)
Drove at a ball on the up and edged to first slip
Lou Vincent c Hussey b Clark 39 (61 for 3)
Skied a wild shot as he attempted to keep up with the run-rate
Hamish Marshall b White 27 (149 for 4)
Didn't pick wrong un, which bounced from pad to stump
Craig McMillan c Gilchrist b Symonds 11 (179 for 5)
Wanted to glide through vacant slip region
Chris Cairns c Gilchrist b Lewis 6 (194 for 6)
Disappointed to slash at a wide ball
Jacob Oram b Clarke 42 (257 for 7)
Gave himself room to drive through offside and played on
Scott Styris c Symonds b Clark 101 (258 for 8)
Miscued to cover
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo