Australia arrived in New Zealand fresh from their 0-3 drubbing by India in the T-20 Series. Earlier they handed India a 4-1 series defeat in 50-over fixtures. But they found the difference in the quality of opposition attack in the first match of the 3-game ODI series against New Zealand. In Auckland on February 03, 2016, Australia won the toss and thought of chasing the score just as they had done against India at home. In nearly similar victories against India at Perth, Brisbane and Melbourne, Australia chased down India’s 309, 308 and 295 to win the series. Like India, New Zealand also scored 307 at Auckland, where Steven Smith had asked the hosts to bat first. However, tables were turned on the Aussie aspirations, when they came on to chase 308. It was disaster from the beginning as Trent Boult and Matt Henry swallowed the top order and by 9th over, Australia were reduced to 41/6. There was no comeback from there as the entire team was bowled out for 148 in 25th over. If they could add 100 odd runs after Mitchell Marsh’s wicket, credit goes to Mathew Wade and James Faulkner, who stood amid the carnage and reduced the margin of defeat. Regardless, the 159-run loss will hurt the ODI world champions for a long time.
Martin Guptill came out with his skipper Brendon McCullum to open the New Zealand innings after the home side was asked by rival skipper Smith to bat first. Smith might have been fooled by a slow start as Josh Hazlewood yielded a single in the first over and Kane Richardson bowled a maiden next. But in the third over, McCullum went for broke and took 20 runs off 4 balls from Hazlewood. On cue, Guptill also joined the party and the two openers took the score to 79 in the 11th over before McCullum was bowled by Faulkner in trying to smash the bowler. But the big-hitting skipper had done his bit with a 29-ball 44 that included 5 fours and 3 sixes. Smith would have felt some relief when Kane Williamson departed early for a duck with the New Zealand score reading 81/2 in 13th over. Smith’s expectations were soon belied. With Guptill finding an ideal company in Henry Nicholls and the two of them forging out a 100-run third wicket stand, New Zealand were headed to a big score. Guptill fell in the 25th over in trying to steal a single but Maxwell’s direct throw found him short of the crease. By that time New Zealand had reached 181/3. Guptill’s 76-ball 90 contained 8 fours and 5 sixes. Though New Zealand slowed down a bit after Guptill’s departure, they were still helped by Grant Elliott, Mitchell Santer and Luke Ronchi. Nicholls made a useful 60 off 61 balls and New Zealand reached 307/8 in 50 overs.
Based on their ODI performance against India, chasing 308 was not a big deal for Australia. The difference was created by Trent Boult, Matt Henry and Adam Milne, all of whom were superior to India’s bowlers. Australia lost opener Shaun Marsh in second over, Smith in 6th over, other opener David Warner in 7th over and George Bailey in the 8th over. Then Maxwell and Mitchell Marsh fell for ducks in the 9th over and Smith’s team tottered at 41/6 before even the 10th over could be bowled. Trent Boult and Matt Henry shared the spoils equally taking three wickets each. A 79-run stand between Mathew Wade and James Faulkner provided a semblance of respectability to Australia, who looked like set on a course for a sub-100 total. Kane Richardson chipped in with 19 and Australian innings folded at 148 all out in the 25th over.
Losing by 159 runs in the opening fixture was a sad start to the 3-match series for Australia. That simply means Australia must win the next two games at Wellington and Hamilton to take the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy from New Zealand. At Auckland, New Zealand also scored their second biggest win against Australia after the 206-run assault at the Adelaide Oval in 1986, when Richard Hadlee and Ewen Chatfield had run through the Australian top order. Trent Boult and Matt Henry have repeated that act 30 years later.