The circumstances surrounding their return to Australia were vastly different, but for the Black Caps, it was like they had never been away.

Two months after their test tour of Australia mercifully ended in Sydney, with a bunch of ill players sidelined as a 3-0 series thumping was confirmed, the Black Caps returned to the scene of the crime to begin their three-match ODI series, only to become hapless victims once again.

Playing in front of an empty Sydney Cricket Ground after fans were banned from attending due to concerns over the coronavirus; the Black Caps would have been glad there were no witnesses to their batting performance, as they crumbled to 187 all out, and a 71-run defeat.

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It was a bizarre experience — the toss was taken without commentators, with the captains interviewed by the SpiderCam, and Aaron Finch and Kane Williamson acting in shock horror when they accidentally shook hands, as custom.

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Aaron Finch and Kane Williamson share a joke after accidentally shaking hands. Photo / Getty
Aaron Finch and Kane Williamson share a joke after accidentally shaking hands. Photo / Getty

Australia's first innings saw three players bring up their 50 to cheers from the players balcony which reverberated around the ground, while the four sixes struck required New Zealand fielders to climb into the stands to fetch the ball.

The New Zealand players were also instructed by their medical officer not to use saliva to polish the ball, and with both teams sporting throwback uniforms, the nature of the clash followed suit.

Trent Boult's early returns — 7-0-17-0 — certainly wouldn't have been out of place in previous one-day eras, and the Black Caps' fightback to restrict Australia to 258-7 also seemed a slight relic of lower-scoring times.

At 124-0 after 24 overs, Australia seemed poised to unleash, even though the slow pitch did give the New Zealand bowlers assistance. Mitchell Santner made the most of it, with a stunning spell producing returns of 2-34 from his full allotment, while fellow spinner Ish Sodhi took some key middle order scalps to finish with 3-51 from eight.

Mitchell Santner celebrates after taking the wicket of Steve Smith. Photo / Photosport
Mitchell Santner celebrates after taking the wicket of Steve Smith. Photo / Photosport

However, Australia still got strong contributions from David Warner (67), Finch (60) and Marnus Labuschagne (56), and as chaseable as their total looked, it looked far less so once New Zealand's top order had stumbled and bumbled.

When Henry Nicholls departed in the 10th over, the Black Caps had just 28 on the board, and when Williamson followed in the 20th, they had mustered just 64. That was largely due to Martin Guptill's struggles, with the usually fluent opener limping to 40 from 73 balls, and just when his slow scoring demanded he see the innings through, he slashed a cut shot straight to backward point.

In between, Ross Taylor's attempts to up the run rate had only resulted in a dance down the pitch and a slapped shot straight to mid-on, and when Jimmy Neesham was dismissed shortly afterwards, the Black Caps had reached the halfway point at a hopeless 96-5.

Josh Hazlewood celebrates taking the wicket of Henry Nicholls. Photo / Getty
Josh Hazlewood celebrates taking the wicket of Henry Nicholls. Photo / Getty

Credit the excellent Australian bowlers, and note the difficulty of scoring on the pitch which only got slower as the match progressed, but the disparity in class provoked memories of the test series.

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Much like over the summer, the New Zealand top order had no answer to the Australian seamers, with Josh Hazlewood (2-37) and Pat Cummins (3-25 from eight overs) particularly impressive, while Mitch Marsh picked up three wickets, and spinner Adam Zampa two.

A partnership between Tom Latham (38 from 40 balls) and Colin de Grandhomme (25 from 26) provided a glimmer, but both were caught in the deep to ensure the Black Caps' nine-year wait for a victory in Australia will extend, at least until Sunday.