Cricket: Shock series win in our grasp

By David Leggat

The banner held up by New Zealand fans over in the boisterous corner of the Melbourne Cricket Ground last night proclaimed "Even We're Better than You".

And their confidence was well placed as New Zealand took a 2-0 lead in the best-of-five Chappell Hadlee ODI series with a thoroughly convincing six-wicket win.

They needed 226 and got there with seven balls to spare. They were ahead of Australia on comparative run rates right through the innings and were steered home by Grant Elliott's second ODI half century, a composed, intelligent 61 off 75 balls, including the winning boundary, and supported with some rumbunctious strokes from Neil Broom, who finished on 25.

It was New Zealand's fourth win in 20 ODIs at the giant concrete bowl - and third in the last five matches - and eases their foot gently down on ailing Australia's throat.

Now they go to the Sydney Cricket Ground tomorrow with the prospect of clinching the series with two games to spare. Australian captain Ricky Ponting will be missing again; the Aussies are in a fug, short on confidence with players several steps down in class from the great era earlier in this decade.

There were contributions early in the chase from Brendon McCullum, who worked hard only to gift his wicket away with an uppish drive to cover on 43, Peter Fulton and Ross Taylor, who added an important 72 in 86 balls with Elliott, before firing his wicket with a dreadful shot on 47.

But it was Elliott's night. His other ODI 50 had been his first innings for New Zealand at Bristol last year.

Last night he justified the selectors' faith in him. His unfussy innings was just the ticket on a night when cool heads were required.

New Zealand captain Dan Vettori's decision to field was vindicated by a tidy display from his bowlers, who restricted Australia to 225 for five.

Australia's batting was muted, with no sign of the strong streak of self-belief that had been a hallmark of their years of dominance of the world game.

From 63 for three, it took a disciplined, workmanlike stand of 133 for the fourth wicket between senior batsman Mike Hussey and stand-in captain Michael Clarke to put the meat into the Australian innings.

It was an interesting day for Clarke. It began with his face flashed across a Melbourne newspaper with details of a dressing room scrap with teammate Simon Katich after their win over the South Africans in Sydney last month.

But Clarke showed his mettle in the middle before suffering a painful blow on the toe by an Iain O'Brien yorker, then being bowled in the same over for 98.

Australia are in ordinary shape at the top of their order.

David Warner, having come in with a blaze in a Twenty20 match against South Africa, has been worked over, and worked out, by New Zealand. He appears a busted flush.

Makeshift No 3 Brad Haddin, with Glovegate on his CV and passed in at the Indian Premier League auction last night, spent half an hour over 12.

And after David Hussey was run out by Vettori's fine direct hit from mid off it was left to Clarke, filling in as opener, and Mike Hussey to revive things.

It took until the 39th over for the pair to lift the run rate up to four an over as New Zealand's bowlers held their nerve and finished steadily to ensure no late blowout.

SCOREBOARD

Australia
* D Warner c Vettori b Mills - 2
* M Clarke b O'Brien - 98
* B Haddin c McCullum b Southee - 12
* D Hussey run out - 10
* M Hussey c Vettori b O'Brien - 75
* C White not out - 17
* C Ferguson not out - 6
* Extras (2lb, 3w)- 5

* Total (for 5 wkts) - 225
* Fall: 4, 35, 63, 196, 206.

* Bowling: K Mills 10-1-37-1 (1w), T Southee 10-0-57-1, I O'Brien 10-0-48-2 (2w), D Vettori 10-0-35-0, J Patel 8-0-38-0, G Elliott 2-0-8-0.

New Zealand
* B McCullum c M Hussey b Hopes - 43
* M Guptill c White b Bracken - 8
* P Fulton c Haddin b Hopes - 21
* R Taylor c Haddin b Johnson - 47
* G Elliott not out - 61
* C Broom not out - 26
* Extras (8lb, 12w) - 20

* Total (4wkts; 48.5 overs) - 226
* Fall: 21, 62, 104, 176.

* Bowling: N Bracken 9-1-34-1 (1w), B Hilfenhaus 9.5-1-58-0 (1w), M Johnson 10-0-43-1 (1w), M Clarke 5-0-21-0 (1w), J Hopes 10-1-30-2 (1w), C White 3-0-18-0, D Hussey 2-0-14- 0 (1w).

- NZ Herald

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