Having thrashed the Aussies mercilessly at Eden Park, New Zealand went into the second match at Wellington as favourites, knowing well that another triumph would hand them the series. And, when they had the Australians down at 197 for 6 in a chase of 282, victory seemed very much in sight. However, Aussies are not a side that will give in easily. They are, after all, the world champions. And so, the visitors hung on courtesy a seventh-wicket partnership between all-rounders Mitchell Marsh and John Hastings, which was unbroken till the end, and played the pivotal role in Australia squaring the series.
When Marsh and Hastings joined forces, they were under immense pressure as New Zealand had claimed the upper hand with a number of wickets in quick succession. But, Marsh and Hastings showed impressive composure under pressure, and kept the New Zealand bowlers at bay, long enough for the visitors to clinch back in the upper hand in the match. Both Marsh and Hastings batted fluently, finding the boundary with ease, and also clearing them on one occasion each. And when not doing so, they ensured they ran well between the wickets, and kept the momentum of the chase intact.
Even as Marsh and Hastings batted with maturity, they were aided to a great extent by the fact that David Warner and Usman Khawaja gave them a rollicking start. The decision to recall the in-form Khawaja in place of Shaun Marsh paid off instantly as he raced to 50 at under a run-a-ball before falling to Mitchell Santner. Warner, on the other hand, went ballistic, and was on the verge of his hundred when he was trapped in front of the stumps, again by Santner, two short of a well-deserved ton. Warner’s wicket put New Zealand on top, but Marsh and Hastings ensured his hard work wasn’t in vain.
What transpired in between the opening partnership and the closing one would worry Australia though. After the first wicket stand was broken, Steven Smith, George Bailey and Glenn Maxwell all fell in single figure scores. This has been a pattern of sorts in recent matches for the Aussies where they have tasted defeats, especially against India. It has continued in the series against New Zealand as well. Maxwell’s form, in particular, would worry the Aussies, as his consistency has not risen to the level it should have by this point of time. Had it not been for the lower order, Australia would have gone down again.
New Zealand suffered a defeat in this game primarily because they couldn’t put up a score in excess of 300. Kane Williamson was the only batsman who crossed the half-century mark for the hosts in the game, and had it not been for Santner and Adam Milne’s cameos lower down the order, the Kiwis wouldn’t have even reached 280. The problem for New Zealand was that too many starts weren’t converted, be it from skipper Brendon McCullum, Martin Guptill and Grant Elliot. Australia’s decision to bring in leggie Adam Zampa also made life difficult for the New Zealand batsmen.
--By A Cricket Analyst