Australia 5 for 343 (Hayden 117, Ponting 111) beat New Zealand 5 for 335 (Oram 101*, Vincent 66) by 8 runs
Scorecard and ball-by-ball commentary
Jacob Oram gave Australia some serious jitters but they successfully defended their huge 5 for 343 that was set up by punishing Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting centuries. Twice in the past 13 months Australia lost games after scoring more than 330, but despite Oram's brilliant unbeaten century, which was interrupted by a half-hour rain delay with eight overs left, they recorded an eight-run success.
Oram smashed six sixes in a 71-ball hundred, the fastest by a New Zealander, and he combined with Brendon McCullum in a 137-run stand at more than a run-and-a-half a ball. While they were always behind, the batsmen produced enough fireworks to spark a batch of local nerves.
When Lou Vincent and Craig McMillan fell within eight runs of each other near the middle of the innings the target was quickly becoming out of reach, but Oram refused to believe it was over. He kept New Zealand supporters on edge with a brutal 101 from 72 balls and his highlights included consecutive sixes from Michael Clarke.
"I was swinging as hard as I could," Oram said at the finish. With McCullum (46 off 39) as his partner, Oram reduced the required rate to 11 an over from the final eight overs after an unfortunate rain break for New Zealand. They were unable to regain their momentum immediately on their return and it proved costly despite the stunning late surge.
Vincent replaced the retired Nathan Astle and gave New Zealand a chance with an attractive 66 from 82 balls, but when he departed in the 26th over the target was 202 at more than eight an over. Bright efforts came from Stephen Fleming (28), Peter Fulton (23) and Ross Taylor (39), but nobody was able to assist Vincent for long enough at the beginning to stay close to the required rate.
It was a tough day for the visitors after their bowlers were severely punished during a stifling afternoon. Hayden and Ponting, who was unhappy with his side's second innings, battled extreme heat to post hundreds and a 200-run partnership as Australia reached a ground-record score. Ponting was flawless in an outstanding 111 from 122 deliveries while Hayden benefited from three dropped catches in a well-timed innings.
In baking temperatures hovering around 40C, Ponting refused to make a mistake until he failed to clear the boundary off Craig McMillan and was caught at deep midwicket with Australia at a comfortable 4 for 275. While he cooled down, Australia applied more heat with 68 from the final 5.5 overs. Andrew Symonds lashed a 13-ball 24 while Michael Hussey (29 off 16 with three sixes) and Cameron White (20 from 12) joined the late explosions.
Ponting had demanded more from his batsmen after some sluggish efforts over the past couple of weeks and he steered his side in a thoughtful display. After Hayden departed at 2 for 228, he assumed even more responsibility and raised his century with a single to deep-backward square-leg. It was his 21st ODI hundred and set New Zealand a massive task to increase their one-point lead over England.
While Hayden's sweat sprayed from his helmet whenever he pushed it against his forehead, Ponting was much more comfortable after arriving when Adam Gilchrist departed in the fifth over. The only times the two batsmen were really troubled was when Daniel Vettori and Jeetan Patel operated in tandem in the early stages.
Fleming called on Vettori in the 11th over and delayed using his second powerplay until the 21st over, the tactic slowing Australia's pace. However, they lifted the rate when the fast men returned and Ponting remained in control throughout. He was more precise than Hayden, striking eight fours and a fine straight six off Vettori, and he picked up a stream of singles to rotate the strike.
Hayden, who was missed on 0, 4 and 79, made the most of his reprieves, although his first fifty was ugly as he struggled to find his rhythm. However, things slowly turned his way and he really started to flex as his sixth ODI hundred approached. Hayden's fifty came from 67 balls, but he needed only another 37 to reach three figures for the first time in almost two years.
By the closing stages he was swinging like he did in his prime and his 117 from 111 deliveries probably sealed his World Cup place after a testing start to the CB Series. Vettori finally got a reward for a fine performance when Hayden charged down the pitch and was bowled.
While his team-mates were getting punished, Vettori was the only one to give up less than a run a ball. His fine return of 1 for 34 off ten almost made up for his dropping of Hayden on zero. While New Zealand, who rested Shane Bond and James Franklin for Tuesday's crucial encounter with England, roasted in the field, the Australians just managed to maintain their unbeaten record.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo