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ADELAIDE - Captain Daniel Vettori has put the onus on his senior players to haul a young New Zealand cricket team out of the doldrums with one more chance for an historic one-day international series win in Australia.
Having raced to a 2-0 lead in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy, a weary New Zealand side with several niggly injuries now have to turn around back-to-back losses in the series decider in Brisbane on Friday.
Chasing New Zealand's sub-par total of 244 for eight on a dream Adelaide Oval pitch, Australia won by six wickets with 10 balls to spare last night thanks to 79 from David Hussey and 75 not out from his brother Michael.
There was emotion in the Australian performance after the devastating bushfires in Victoria, and a staggering A$6 ($7.64) million was raised from the match through corporate pledges, donations and ticket sales.
While New Zealand vice-captain Brendon McCullum played through the pain of a shoulder injury, Vettori picked up a minor hamstring strain last night but insisted it wouldn't hamper him.
"I don't think anyone would have guessed 2-2 before we started, so this is an exciting time for a very young team," Vettori said.
"To come to Australia and have a chance of winning the series is something you should always dream about and now we've got that opportunity. It's up to mainly the senior guys to step up and lift their performance.
"Hopefully that'll lift the confidence of the group as opposed to the last two performances. We can look back on Perth and Melbourne and see the things we did really well and hopefully put them in place for Brisbane. If we don't then we know we'll get rolled over."
Never have New Zealand won an ODI series or tournament in Australia, and their only success across the Tasman was a 2-1 test series win in 1985-86.
Vettori said the excitement of that opportunity would be talked up, rather than played down.
Yesterday McCullum was only confirmed in the side at the last minute, and played a measured 33 off 55 balls before he was bowled charging at spinner Michael Clarke.
Vettori meanwhile conceded 54 off 10 wicketless overs as Australia's batsmen attacked and prospered.
New Zealand needed some early bowling magic, knowing they hadn't performed with the bat. Vettori targeted 280 having won the toss, and hoped to apply pressure on a slowing pitch.
Senior paceman Kyle Mills was excellent but couldn't break through in an opening seven-over spell of none for 16, while Tim Southee, Iain O'Brien and Grant Elliott all went at worse than five per over.
When David Hussey blundered and Craig Cumming, in for spinner Jeetan Patel, ran out Brad Haddin for 43, New Zealand sniffed a chance at 101 for three in the 25th.
But Cumming turned villain when he dropped an in-form Michael Hussey on the mid-wicket boundary on 44 off Elliott, and the brothers added a match-winning 115.
"We had a dropped catch there which may have swung it our way. One of the most important things when you come to Australia is you take all your catches," Vettori said.
"That's what we did well in the first two games and that's what we've got to do well in the last one."
New Zealand's innings spluttered into gear and only Ross Taylor's 76 off 71 balls had them threatening 250. All of the top-seven were dismissed by loose shots.
Australian captain Ricky Ponting, who failed again when he slogged out on 15, always backed his batsmen.
"The wicket was as good as you'd play on anywhere around the country so we felt if we could get off to a reasonable start we'd be able to chase the runs down."
Ponting also said the pacey Brisbane surface, "one of the best one-day wickets in the world", would suit his team better than New Zealand as they eye a series-clincher.