New Zealand’s Midas touch at this World Twenty20 continued in Dharamsala, where they took their tournament record to two wins from two matches with an eight-run victory over Australia. Having spun India out in Nagpur, New Zealand made one change to their side, bringing in the fast bowler Mitchell McClenaghan to replace the spinner Nathan McCullum. McClenaghan duly took 3 for 17 and played a significant role in derailing Australia’s innings.
Kane Williamson won the toss and chose to bat on a dry surface that both captains expected would become slower as the match wore on, and New Zealand’s 142 for 8 proved adequate. They picked up wickets often enough throughout Australia’s innings to prevent Steven Smith’s men from gaining enough momentum, and Australia were left needing 19 off the last over, which was bowled by Corey Anderson.
James Faulkner was at the crease but holed out to deep midwicket from the first delivery. Australia’s finisher was finished, and so were their hopes of winning the match.
Usman Khawaja, selected to open alongside Shane Watson, gave Australia an encouraging start and was picking gaps at will, but his run-out on 38 from 27 balls was a turning point. Adam Milne’s throw from the deep to the bowler Grant Elliott caught the diving Khawaja just short, and Australia were 62 for 3 in the ninth over, their momentum rapidly deserting them. The rest of the batsmen struggled to get in on the slow pitch.
Mitchell Santner’s first two overs had been outstanding, continuing his form from the win over India. Just as he had Rohit Sharma, Santner deceived Smith with a beautiful delivery that dropped and turned past the edge as Smith danced down the crease. Luke Ronchi completed the stumping, Smith was gone for 6, and Santner soon added the wicket of David Warner to his collection as well.
McClenaghan had picked up the first wicket, with Watson caught off a slower ball for 13, and he returned later to remove Mitchell Marsh and Agar. Marsh had struck a couple of sixes to give Australia hope but once he and Glenn Maxwell, who played so many reverse shots he seemed at times to be a proper if out-of-touch left-hander, departed, New Zealand were firmly in control.
They had seemed to be in complete control early in their own innings, at 58 for 0 from six overs. New Zealand’s left-arm spinner was Santner but his Australian counterpart was the one delivering gifts. Agar, with all of one match and two overs behind him in his T20 international career, bowled the third over and was understandably nervous. So much so that his first two balls were full tosses that Martin Guptill duly smashed for six.
Another six to end Agar’s over left him with figures of 0 for 18 from six balls, and he was not asked to bowl another one for the rest of the innings. In fact, Smith’s use of his spinners was rather curious all round. Australia chose all the spinners in their squad, from A to Z, but the rest of the alphabet did all the work. After Agar, Adam Zampa bowled one over of legspin and cost just three runs, but like Agar was not called upon again.
Smith got three overs out of Maxwell but mostly relied on his fast and medium options. They were effective enough, helping to restrict New Zealand to 142 for 8 after Guptill got them away to a flying start. Guptill raced to 39 from 27 deliveries but was the first man to fall, holing out to deep midwicket off Faulkner’s bowling. Faulkner picked up two wickets, as did Maxwell, but Watson and Marsh also kept things tight.
New Zealand’s batsmen kept making starts only to get caught going for the big shot. Williamson skied one for 24. Anderson slogged down the ground for 3. Colin Munro, tied down by Marsh, pulled to deep midwicket for 23 to end an entertaining innings that featured effective reverse hitting. Ross Taylor was taken at deep midwicket for 11, as was Ronchi for 6. Had Australia been on a fishing trawler they could hardly have hoped for more catches in the deep.
But New Zealand had enough runs in the end and with two wins from two matches, and games against Pakistan and Bangladesh to come, they ended the night terrifically placed to reach the semi-finals. Australia, like India, have some thinking to do.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale