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Kiwis fall just short in Australia

February 16, 2009

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New Zealand [Images] were an inch short in getting the Chappell-Hadlee cup back. Rain played the spoilsport and handed the trophy back to Aussies.

The Kiwis did not have experienced campaigners in all corners but did well to take a 2-0 lead, only to see the hosts squaring it. In the latter part, the Kiwis lost the plot and the series which they had won two years back.

The Australians started the series as favorites, but a stirring show from the visitors made their life knottier in the first two games. The wounded Kangaroos came back strongly at Sydney and Adelaide and took the series to the decider at Brisbane.

The series was undecided due to rain but was enough for the Ausseis to retain the trophy, which helped them finishing the summer on a satisfying note after having suffered humiliating defeats from India and South Africa [Images].

The first ODI at WACA [Images] went down till the last ball and was a low-scoring thriller. Australia [Images] made New Zealand work hard for what seemed like a paltry 181 but thanks to Mills, who bowled exceptionally well to keep Aussies under 200 and scored a very important 26 to guide New Zeeland in drawing the first blood.

At the MCG, Clark and Hussey batted well but failed to stretch the score beyond 225. Nevertheless, it was a competitive target on a slow pitch. After a steady innings from McCullum and Taylor, Grant Elliott along with Neil Broom got New Zealand home with a 50-run partnership from 44 balls.

That was Australia's fifth consecutive loss in ODIs, which made them bring back their regular captain for an important game at SCG, where Aussies rode on Haddin's ton and kept the series alive. 

At Adelaide, the Hussey brothers made sure that the series went to Brisbane with everything to play for. But the weather gods had other ideas and trimmed the game at Gabba [Images] to a virtual 20-20.

Though the Kiwis were a nose ahead at Brisbane, a wicket could have turned the game to either side, but a no-result to the game meant the same for the series, which must have been agonizing for both the captains.

Johannesburg-born Elliott top-scored for New Zealand in the series and looks like a long-term prospect. Apart from Taylor and young Guptill, no Kiwi batsman scored consistently.  The latter scored at brisk rate in the final game and kept New Zealand in the hunt despite watching the fall of wickets from the other end.

The 22-year-old has a bright future ahead. He started his international career on a high and scored a ton on a dream debut against West Indians a month back.

Fulton and Broom had string of low scores and failed to cement their places as Jacob Oram [Images] is fit and raring to go. O'Brien bowled beautifully along with his new ball partner Mills and pocketed 19 of 27 Australian wickets among them.

Australia enjoyed the success of their keeper-batsman Haddin, who opened the innings in latter half of the series after Warner failed to give good starts in the first two ODIs. Mike Hussey [Images] played couple of important knocks and was rightly adjudged the man-of-the-series for his tally of 259 runs.

A lightly-built, stylish right-handed batsman Callum Ferguson had a good debut series and scored a fifty which included seven hits to the fence in the rain-hit final match. Hopes bowled a very tight line and didn't give any opportunity to rival batsmen to score off his bowling. He is a kind of bowler who can be very effective in middle overs and has the ability to get breakthroughs when partnerships get going.

Labeled as an all-rounder, both areas still need some burnish, especially batting, to survive in the international arena. His bowling has variety and his ability to bowl tight overs has regularly picked up wickets and saved runs.

Ponting had had a poor series with the bat, but did well as a captain. He had to cut his break short and joined the team for the third ODI to provide the helping hand to his struggling team which lost first two matches.

He is trying out so many combinations to make a winning bunch. Changing openers in virtually every game is becoming his modus operandi. Injuries and inconsistent form of many players didn't help his cause of fielding the same eleven.

He must have had the same curry twice but not the same team, in the last 18 matches. Ponting needs to count his blessings and needs to put his best foot forward. The drawn series was a swallow that did not make the Australian summer, though they won the Test series against their Trans-Tasman rivals.

It was very heartening to see the Aussie players visit those affected by the Victorian bushfires and help lift their spirits.

 Ponting and his men did their bit for the affected people. It was very emotional to see Siddle collecting money from people on ground.

New Zeeland are up against an in-form India and their bowling will be the key again as the conditions and pitches suit their bowlers more than their Indian counterparts.

With the South Africa series on the threshold, Ponting needs to put his thinking cap on. Inexperienced bowling looks a weak link for Australia as they have some seasoned batsmen in Ponting, Hussey and Clark. Australia, with their pride and top spot at stake, will play out of their skins, though it is easier said than done.

Once again, the 'battle of legitimacy' is on the cards.

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