Last time around, there was something about Headingley but this time around, there is really something about this rivalry - Australia and New Zealand. It isn’t a rivalry like England-Australia or India-Pakistan but the classics and close games it has produced is unparalleled.
It is February 28, 2015, we are here at Eden Park in Auckland, where the odds are yet again heavily stacked against the hosts, who have now been trapped amidst a brilliant spell. The weather is pleasant, chilly but the situation has led to a lot of nervy faces, New Zealand are in a bit of bother, out of the blue. At one end, there is Kiwi’s last hope - Kane Williamson but on the other hand, there is Trent Boult, their No.11. Anything is possible - a six for a win, a draw, and even a loss. But how did we get here, in the first place, with a target of just 152?
The rivalry between the two teams was certainly not very expletive but under the captaincy of Brendon McCullum and George Bailey - the game was expected to be very tactical. Even though they had just played three games in the tournament, the perception that surrounded the Kiwi team was one full of aggression.
Three wins out of their first three games, they had set the tournament on fire with their batting approach, their bowling attack and with the 12th man behind them, everything seemingly was amplified. But their frailties with a small run-chase was already established in the tournament, with their three-wicket win over Scotland, chasing 143.
On the other hand, Australia had just played one game in the entire tournament, by the time New Zealand had already four against their name. However, one thing that certainly was clear from their encounter against England, they weren’t messing things around, and more certainly, their bowling had several heroes now - three Mitchells’ and a certain Josh Hazlewood, who bowled immaculately. However, come to their second game and rain had its say, which really put them under a lot of pressure going into the New Zealand clash.
Now, even if you take all these things around the fixture out of the picture, the venue - Eden Park - has always been known to produce thrillers. At the venue, just a year before the World Cup, there was Ravindra Jadeja yielding his sword and tieing the game for the visitors. If you go even further back, there was Darren Sammy, who took West Indies home by just two wickets. So if you combine that with the rivalry, it makes it even more daunting and incredibly close - the Trans Tasman rivalry at Eden Park.
Having won the toss, Australia were always expected to put up a big score and such was their start, in all honesty, at 80/1. The crowd had gone silent but not yet pin-drop, for the fact that they were aware of their bowling arsenal. Trent Boult was at that time, a magician, who could even pull out a rabbit, if it may be needed in that situation, and Australia knew that they didn’t believe in a lot of magic. In the span of four overs, they lost four wickets, went from being in a dominant position to a gruesome one, at 96/5.
In 17 deliveries, exactly SEVENTEEN, Australia lost five wickets! Not just that, post those turbulent times, they had a mountain to climb. If not for Brad Haddin’s 43, they wouldn’t have had a total to fight. In the end, with a combination of Haddin’s knock and Pat Cummins’ defensive ability, they got to 151. The fans, who were worried about their team at one stage, were exuberant now and the Australians, vice-versa. A game of see-saw, a cricket-match, one and the same.
New Zealand took a similar approach, similar route, all or nothing - when Brendon McCullum and Martin Guptill took the chopper-route. At the end of the seventh over, after just 42 deliveries, they were 72/1, with McCullum on 50 off just 21 deliveries, now that certainly had already the fans in a celebratory mood - some even started leaving, expecting a tea finish. But once Cummins was introduced into the bowling attack, it spiced up the contest to a new level - he dismissed McCullum and put a smile on the visitors.
One brought another and heading into the break, they were 79/3, at the half-way stage of their run-chase and Australia, as they smelled their sandwiches and food had also started smelling blood and victory. The ball was suddenly swinging, the speed suddenly at a very dangerous pace, and Australians, at a different vigour. Middle stump uprooted, Australians ecstatic - just six more wickets and the runs were suddenly beyond reach. Suddenly, white-ball turned red for the Kiwi batsmen as they seemingly put on a partnership. But Corey Anderson’s counter-attack tilted the game and it was just a formality now.
As their rivalry has been, as the brand of cricket that McCullum has played, it is never over till the time they shake hands and the shoulders meet. With 22 runs from 31 overs, Australia had mentally given up but physically, they were still out there, grabbing every chance that came their way. Anderson gave away his wicket and that kick-started the game. In just 18 deliveries, New Zealand lost four, trying to compete with Australia’s tally. And when it looked like they would lose the fifth one as well, Starc’s over was done.
This was it, the pressure was on Kane Williamson, to live up to the expectations of the entire Kiwi-nation and at the other end was Pat Cummins, the architect behind the start of this crazy evening collapse from the Kiwis. Would it be the Kiwis who would walk back happy or the Kangaroos, who would hop on their remarkable success? Six runs, one wicket, 27 overs, Pat Cummins vs Kane Williamson!
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