Devon Conway’s unbeaten 99 sets up crushing opening victory for New Zealand

New Zealand 184 for 5 (Conway 99*, Phillips 30, J Richardson 2-31) beat Australia 131 (Marsh 45, Sodhi 4-28, Southee 2-10, Boult 2-22) by 53 runs

New Zealand utterly humiliated Australia’s BBL XI in the opening T20I on the 10th anniversary of the Christchurch earthquake, hammering the tourists by 53 runs at Hagley Oval, the biggest ever margin of victory for them over their rivals across the Tasman in the shortest format of the international game.

Devon Conway was calmness and poise personified to maintain his outstanding start to representing New Zealand, compiling an unbeaten 99 to lift his side to 184 for 5 after the Australians had made the swifter start to claim three wickets inside the first four overs. Australia’s early success gave way to rather more pedestrian bowling and fielding during the back half of the innings.

Chasing at least 20 runs more than they should have been, Aaron Finch’s team were never a chance after being left completely bereft by the swinging new ball in the hands of Tim Southee and Trent Boult. Together, they reduced the Australians to 19 for 4, leaving the wrist spinner Ish Sodhi with a mop-up operation that handed him his best figures in T20Is. The crowd of 9093 cannot have expected quite as much of a mis-match, as the gulf between the BBL and true international quality was underlined.

Sams, Jhye Richardson nail the Powerplay

Fewer than 24 hours after emerging from two weeks of quarantine with limited training, the Australia pace attack might have been expected to start uncertainly and then build into their work. Instead, Daniel Sams and Jhye Richardson – in his first T20I since early 2019 – produced strong opening spells to put the hosts in early trouble. With Adam Zampa handed the second over of the innings to keep New Zealand from getting consistent pace on the ball, Sams coaxed Martin Guptill into slicing behind point in the opening over of the series.

When Richardson angled and swung a yorker right into the base of Tim Seifert’s off stump, and then Kane Williamson was pouched behind the stumps when trying to pull a ball from Sam that was tight to his body, the tourists appeared to have put together the sort of Powerplay that would decide the contest. T20I history suggested that Australia almost never lose when claiming three wickets in the opening six overs, on this occasion the product of tight bowling that did well to jam the New Zealand top order bats with very little room to free their arms.

Conway gem holds hosts together

Out of a tally of 34 for 3 from the opening six overs, Conway had already looked a class apart in fashioning 16 from 12 balls with a boundary and a six. What followed as the early threat of the new ball wore off and the Australians’ early discipline was replaced by something not a million miles from complacency was the strongest indication yet that Conway would, like so many of his other relocated former South African countrymen, likely make a significant mark on the international game.

In terms of shot production, selection and concentration he was more than a match for an attack that was at the top end of BBL standard, and with help from Glenn Phillips, Jimmy Neesham and Mitchell Santner, Conway built stands worth 74 (50 balls), 47 (27) and finally 44 from 19 balls at the death. New Zealand’s final 13 overs tallied 146, a superb recovery that Conway had helmed as though already a seasoned international performer. He resembled, among others, a latter-day Mike Hussey.

The game was decided when New Zealand took four early wickets  Getty Images

Southee, Boult swing through Australia

Very seldom in the BBL is the swinging ball a factor for any more than an over or two at most: Brisbane Heat’s Xavier Bartlett, one of the better exponents of the skill in Australian domestic ranks, was a specialist first-over bowler then subbed out for most of the tournament. So for a touring top order thinking mostly in terms of big hitting, the sight of Southee and Boult curling the ball around corners was about as foreign to their mindsets and techniques as Pete Sampras at Roland Garros.

It was not entirely surprising, if no less galling for Australia’s planners, to see the touring top order fold with alarming speed. Finch, still out of sorts, sliced his first ball to gully; debutant Josh Philippe miscued a pull shot; Matthew Wade showed scant respect to Boult’s away swing with predictable consequences, and Glenn Maxwell’s flat feet left him virtually guaranteed to edge Southee into a well-stocked New Zealand slips cordon. Mitchell Marsh and Marcus Stoinis tried to remember how best to leave the ball outside off stump, but at 19 for 4, the remainder of the innings was more or less academic.

Sodhi finishes the tourists off

When Sodhi entered the attack, after Marsh and Stoinis had made some semblance of a recovery via some loose stuff from Kyle Jamieson, Mark Waugh suggested on the Fox Cricket commentary that now was a chance to accelerate. If Waugh’s attitude was anything like that of the Australians, then the outcome was the most likely of a team underestimating Sodhi, who has long proven his value to New Zealand’s T20I lineup.

Gaining plenty of bounce and just enough turn with subtle variation, Sodhi was gifted his first wicket when Stoinis shovelled a short ball straight back to him. But the remainder of his spell was much too beguiling for an Australia lower order facing a required rate well above 11 per over and straining for the boundary: figures of 4 for 28 were a new international best, punctuated too by 13 dot balls. The final overs were those desultory passages of a contest long since decided in favour of New Zealand.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

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