Cricket: Late charge not enough

By David Leggat

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Australia stayed alive in the Chappell Hadlee series against New Zealand last night, but only after getting an unlikely, but substantial, late scare at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

Having been set an imposing 302 to win - which would have easily been a ground record for a successful ODI chase - New Zealand gave the chase a decent lash.

That was down to an outstanding maiden century by Grant Elliott, with 115 in just 124 balls. But the visitors fell short at 269, Australia winning by 32 runs with 15 balls unbowled.

The teams move to Adelaide today with New Zealand holding a 2-1 advantage, but those with a nervous disposition will have seen events last night in a gloomy light.

Going into the match, New Zealand were acutely aware that, the good work of Perth and Melbourne notwithstanding, momentum had to be maintained.

They had it; Australia sought to stop a bad dose of rot.

But Australia, having been sent in, attacked with relish on a hot afternoon and made sure they had a solid grip on the contest.

A 3-2 series win cannot be discounted and New Zealand will need to dig deep.

To compound matters, wicketkeeper Brendon McCullum is in doubt for tomorrow's fourth game in Adelaide.

He was struck a painful blow on his right shoulder standing up to fast-medium Kyle Mills in the 11th over. He received a pain-killing injection and will have the shoulder scanned today.

The team's medical staff did not know if there was any internal damage. Auckland gloveman Gareth Hopkins will join the squad in Adelaide today.

Depending on what the scans reveal, McCullum might play in Adelaide as a specialist batsman.

He came out last night at the fall of the seventh wicket and with the unflappable Elliott turned up the heat on Australia's bowlers before being ninth out in the 47th over after a bracing 36 off 27 balls.

Elliott was the master of the situation. He played and missed for a while, but displayed inventiveness and kept a cool head to be richly rewarded as he pushed New Zealand towards what would have been a historic series-clinching win.

He chipped cleverly into space and with smart strokeplay completed the first century by a New Zealander at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

It followed his match-winning unbeaten 61 in Melbourne two nights earlier.

Before Elliott and McCullum blasted 69 in eight overs to send the jitters through the Australian side, the only partnerships of note were 80 between Peter Fulton, who looked in improved touch, and Elliott for the third wicket - ended by a spectacular catch by Cameron White at short cover to remove Fulton - and 53 between Elliott and Neil Broom.

Broom's departure, finding long off with pinpoint precision, signalled a tumble, three wickets falling in 14 balls, and that seemed to be that until McCullum emerged to add a heroic touch to the denouement.

Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin seized the game early on for Australia, adding 135 for the first wicket, and their teammates made sure they capitalised.

Haddin's man of the match-winning 109 off 114 balls was the first ODI hundred by an Australian in 14 games. He chanced his arm and fortune favoured him with a couple of near misses and a drop in the deep by Fulton on 76.

New Zealand had got the initiative in the series chiefly through the work of their bowlers, backed up by smart, on-the-ball fielding. Last night neither element was much in evidence.

This was a bad day for the in-form Kyle Mills to have his worst outing in a while; Iain O'Brien went for almost seven an over; and even Dan Vettori was off his game yesterday.

Only Elliott and, to a degree, Tim Southee escaped some serious punishment.

SCOREBOARD

Australia
B Haddin run out 109
M Clarke c Guptill b Elliott 64
R Ponting c Mills b Elliott 16
D Hussey c McCullum b O'Brien 7
C White c Vettori b O'Brien 10
M Hussey c Taylor b Mills 51
C Ferguson lbw b Vettori 28
J Hopes b O'Brien 8
M Johnson c Patel b Mills 1
N Bracken not out 3
B Hilfenhaus not out 0
Extras (1b, 3w) 4

Total (for 9 wkts, 50 overs) 301

Fall: 135 (Clarke), 169 (Ponting), 187 (D Hussey), 200 (Haddin), 212 (White), 274 (Ferguson), 297 (Hopes), 297 (M Hussey), 299 (Johnson).

Bowling: K Mills 9-0-59-2, T Southee 10-0-52-0 (1w), D Vettori 10-0-52-1, I O'Brien 10-1-68-3 (1w), G Elliott 8-0-44-2 (1w), J Patel 3-0-25-0.

New Zealand
M Guptill c Ferguson b Bracken 6
P Fulton c White b Hopes 40
R Taylor lbw b Hilfenhaus 4
G Elliott c M Hussey b Hopes 115
N Broom c Hilfenhaus b White 15
K Mills c Bracken b D Hussey 2
D Vettori c Clarke b White 2
T Southee c Haddin b Johnson 17
B McCullum c Ponting b Hilfenhaus 36
J Patel b Bracken 9
I O'Brien not out 0
Extras (4b, 11lb, 8w) 23

Total (47.3 overs) 269

Fall: 12 (Guptill), 16 (Taylor), 96 (Fulton), 149 (Broom), 152 (Mills), 157 (Vettori), 183 (Southee), 252 (Elliott), 262 (McCullum), 269 (O'Brien).

Bowling: N Bracken 8.3-1-65-2 (1w), B Hilfenhaus 9-1-44-2 (1w), M Johnson 10-2-36-1 (2w), J Hopes 10-0-49-2, M Clarke 5-0-41-0 (4w), D Hussey 3-0-9-1, C White 2-0-10-2.

Result: Australia won by 32 runs.
Man of the match: Brad Haddin.

- NZ Herald

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