Australia controlled their way to a 19-run victory against New Zealand under the Duckworth-Lewis method, as rain spoilt the denouement to the Twenty20 tri-series final at Eden Park.
On the third use of the drop-in surface, spinners Ish Sodhi and Mitchell Santner brought pep to what looked like a stroll of a chase.
However, they could not match the impact of left-arm orthodox tweaker Ashton Agar who took three for 27 in a man-of-the-match performance to restrict the hosts to 150 for nine.
He deceived Kane Williamson as the New Zealand captain tried to force the pace in the eighth over; that was followed two balls later by Mark Chapman lbw attempting to sweep. In his following over, Agar lured Colin de Grandhomme into a swing towards cow corner. Glenn Maxwell was there to milk the catch, much to the crowd’s angst.
The 72-run opening platform set by D’Arcy Short and David Warner in nine overs set Australia on the path to triumph after a stellar bowling display. When Short mistimed a steepler to Mark Chapman at long-on off Colin Munro, New Zealand pounced. They took three wickets for 12 in 16 balls, but dislodging the visitors’ momentum was beyond their capability.
Australia punctured New Zealand hopes at regular intervals after the hosts chose to bat.
Three pairs of wickets meant the Black Caps had as much chance of accelerating as a mobility scooter at a retirement village. If Ross Taylor hadn’t eked out 43 off 38 balls, they would barely have escaped first gear.
It was Noah’s Ark time as they went two-by-two into a slump. Their vessel broke up under a flood of 47 Australian dot balls, led by Kane Richardson with 12.
As the sun dipped behind the Waitakere Ranges, so did New Zealand hopes of rekindling the batting bravado which took them to 243 for six last Friday.
The opening pair fell within six balls, straddling the fifth and sixth overs.
Martin Guptill slapped a Billy Stanlake ball to Warner at mid-off to leave them 48 for one. The Australian captain’s fist pump looked like he could’ve split concrete blocks under the tutelage of Mr Miyagi.
Colin Munro went next. After hammering Richardson for six over long-on he attempted another straight loft and found Agar at mid-on. If Richardson had donned a few gold chains and ripped open a couple more shirt buttons his reaction would’ve won Stars In Their Eyes as Dennis Lillee.
De Grandhomme’s exit in the 10th was coupled with Santner getting a first ball touch through to wicketkeeper Alex Carey off Andrew Tye. That left the hosts at 93 for six.
A 38-run ninth-wicket partnership from 36 balls offered some solace as Sodhi provided Taylor with stability.
New Zealand were entitled to back themselves to set a total, but Australia were too clinical to give them much leeway for expression.