The Black Caps and Australia World Cup group stage match may have only counted for two points, but there was some real point-scoring by both teams.
Aside from that, the mere fact Australia was playing New Zealand was novel, having only happened once since the previous World Cup.
Prior to the game a lot of the discussion had been about the short dimensions of Eden Park. Australia were so enamoured of the short boundaries, they became preoccupied with trying to score fours and sixes. Yet it doesn’t really matter how big a ground is, the 22 yards in the middle is the key.
Both teams will be happy with their respective bowling units, and it is incredible how similar the teams are. Both teams’ strike bowler (Mitchell Johnson and Tim Southee) had poor games. In Adam Milne and Pat Cummins, both captains had a young tearaway who can bowl 145-plus kilometres an hour to call upon.
The left-arm swing bowlers were obviously the best on the park, and the choice of man of the match going to Trent Boult over Mitchell Starc must only have been based on being on the winning team (and maybe surviving two balls at the end). Watching genuine left-arm swing bowling was a treat. Both lefties are among the world’s best, Starc reminiscent of Wasim Akram in his pomp, seemingly able to bowl an inswinging yorker at will.
Australia only bowled 23 overs in the game, so Glenn Maxwell wasn’t required, however for New Zealand Daniel Vettori put on an absolute masterclass. Vettori was under some pressure prior to the World Cup, with many questioning his value at 36 years of age. While his batting and fielding has regressed, with 290 games experience, Vettori’s left arm is worth its weight in gold to the Black Caps. His introduction led to David Warner going from hitting each ball like it was a football to treating it like a grenade.
Both batting line-ups left a lot to be desired. Australia’s downfall seemed a mixture of a lack of respect, an intent to use power no matter what, and some quality bowling from Boult and Vettori. Once again Shane Watson looked a million dollars getting to 29, but tried to take Vettori on over the longest boundary at Eden Park, which is a respectable 70-odd metres.
With Afghanistan up next, a number of batsmen will be looking for a long time in the middle to get ready for a huge game against Sri Lanka on March 8.
In some respects New Zealand will take even less from the encounter. Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson aside, there was some serious lack of application. Martin Guptill looked good and then holed out to mid-off. Ross Taylor seems to be almost uninterested in batting, perhaps struggling with not being the alpha male as McCullum and Williamson have taken the limelight.
The most perplexing was Corey Anderson. He scored 26 unconvincing runs, determined it would seem to try and put Glenn Maxwell in row ZZ over midwicket.
Both teams now move on, New Zealand’s biggest challenge keeping on top of their game, and not allowing boredom to enter their minds, with only Bangladesh and Afghanistan to come before the quarter finals.
One thing this game did prove is that ODIs are still riveting even when it’s a chase of 150 and not 300. It may only have been a group stage match but clearly both teams wanted to win it, and only supporters from other nations would complain if a rematch takes place on March 29 in Melbourne.