Dharamsala, The Gulf Observer: A rampant Black Caps blitzed Australia to post their highest score batting second in ODI history. Somehow, their task of reaching the World Cup semifinals became much tougher.
New Zealand were earlier this morning pipped by five runs in a titanic duel in Dharamsala, falling barely short in a breathtaking chase of their rivals’ 388.
After copping what had appeared a knockout blow, the Black Caps staggered to their feet and landed several punches of their own, primarily through another superb century from Rachin Ravindra.
The 23-year-old already introduced himself in India by blowing away England in the opening game, proving almost as destructive against Australia while scoring 118 from 89 balls and giving his side hope.
Jimmy Neesham (58 off 39) carried that hope into the final over but was run out from the penultimate ball, his side forced to settle for 383-9 — the fourth-highest total by any team chasing in an ODI.
It wasn’t enough, as Australia had just enough runs on the board to place one foot in the final four, though they remained below their beaten opponents on net run rate. New Zealand have a trickier closing schedule, facing frontrunners South Africa before finishing with clashes against fellow semifinal contenders Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
If they bat in the fashion they managed in this match, they can topple any foe. The bowling and fielding, however, require a bit of work.
Travis Head returned from injury to lash a 59-ball ton in his maiden World Cup appearance, joining David Warner to plunder 175 runs in 117 deliveries and set Australia on course for their highest total in 142 ODIs against New Zealand.
In a jarring 10-over start, a loose Black Caps attack shipped 22 boundaries and 118 runs, rocked by an all-out assault from Australia on a pitch clearly more suited to batting than Tom Latham had anticipated.
The skipper must have been second guessing both his call to bowl and decision to keep handing the ball to Matt Henry, the ordinarily reliable seamer ceding 44 from his first three overs, including consecutive free-hit sixes.
Latham quickly cut his losses — but a bowling change made little difference. Warner twice carved sixes from Lockie Ferguson’s 19-run introduction while Mitchell Santner came to the crease and immediately went for 15.
Both batters were in irrepressible touch, employing power and flair to reap boundaries all over the ground. Everything New Zealand tried — short ball, defensive spin, pure pace — ended in the same result.
Even with Australia taking risks, the Black Caps were creating no chances — until Head was given extra lives on 70 and 75 as Santner and Glenn Phillips shelled sharp catches.
The latter would soon atone to finally end the carnage. Phillips’ arm remained golden as he removed Warner (81 off 65), Head (109 off 67) and Steve Smith, bowling 10 successive overs while returning career-best figures of 3-37.
Despite Daryl Mitchell spilling a simple chance at fine leg, New Zealand completed a perfectly acceptable middle 30-over period by going at 5.8 while taking five wickets. Unfortunately for their prospects, the final 10 resembled the first, conceding 96 runs to undo some of the progress.
After Glenn Maxwell (41 off 24) lit the fireworks with a 104-metre six off Santner — the biggest of the tournament — a bad drop from Ravindra sparked a shocking 47th over.
Pat Cummins hit Neesham for three sixes as part of a 27-run haul, before Trent Boult picked up three wickets in the penultimate over. A shake of the head from the veteran was more indicative of how the innings had gone.
The mood improved to start the second, Devon Conway and Will Young compiling 46 in five overs. But the pair fell somewhat short of their opening counterparts, dismissed by a double-strike from Josh Hazlewood.
Mitchell arrived with necessary intent and cracked a few emphatic cover drives, taking 42 balls to collect his half-century before holing out. But New Zealand kept the required rate achievable, reaching 141-3 at the halfway mark as Ravindra seized control.
The allrounder passed 50 with a pulled six off Mitchell Starc and, after Latham and Phillips departed without offering sufficient support, repeated the feat to record his second ton.
Ravindra was fortunate to escape next ball as Maxwell let slip a caught-and-bowled chance, leaving the Black Caps within 97 heading into the final 10.
Needing to match Australia’s late flurry, Ravindra was undone by Cummins and handed responsibility to Neesham. His power hitting left New Zealand seeking 19 from the last over before Starc assisted with five wides to make it nine from three balls.
But with Boult elevated above Lockie Ferguson — earlier forced off with pain in his Achilles — the batters attempted one two too many and Neesham was easily caught short to end the drama.