Australia have lost the second T20 against New Zealand by just four runs, some incredible late-order hitting from Marcus Stoinis and Daniel Sams not enough to get the side home.
Set a mammoth 220 to win after Martin Guptil (97 off 50), Kane Williamson (53 off 35) and Jimmy Neesham (45 off 16) teed off for the Black Caps, Australia suffered a catastrophic collapse during the middle overs to fall to 6-113 after 13 overs.
Mitchell Santner, in his fourth and final over of the innings, had the set Josh Philippe (45 off 32) caught in the deep on the off-side, then claimed the wickets of Ashton Agar and Mitchell Marsh in consecutive deliveries to leave Australia’s run-chase in tatters.
However, Stoinis (78 off 37) and Sams (41 off 15) combined for a superb partnership to bring the tourists to the verge of an unlikely victory, only for Neesham, bowling for the first time in the game, to dismiss both batsmen in the final over to seal the win for New Zealand.
The duo combined for 92 runs off just 37 balls, with Ish Sodhi, Kyle Jamieson and Tim Southee all harshly dealt with by the pair. A brilliant 18th over by Trent Boult which went for just six runs halted Sams’ and Stoinis’s momentum, but consecutive boundaries by Stoinis off Southee the following over left Australia needing a very gettable 15 runs off the last six balls.
Unfortunately for the visitors, the first of those, a thigh-high full-toss by Neesham, was mis-hit by Sams and caught on the boundary by Glenn Phillips. Two dot balls followed, and while Stoinis was able to hit the fourth ball of the over for six, he fell trying to repeat the trick on the penultimate ball, skying one in the slot to Southee.
In New Zealand’s innings, Martin Guptill dispelled any criticism of his form with a brutal 97 at the top of the order. Clearly enjoying the tiny dimensions of Dunedin’s University Oval, the opener belted eight sixes.
His partnership with Williamson yielded 131 runs, and when he departed after trying to clear the rope to reach a century, Neesham came in, promoted up the order to great effect. The all-rounder hit each of his first three balls for six, and finished with three more maximums by the time he left the field with an unbeaten 45.
While the efforts of Stoinis and Sams will go some way to papering over the issues in the Australian top order, there are still headaches aplenty for stand-in coach Andrew McDonald.
Aaron Finch’s form continues to be a major concern. The captain looked decidedly scratchy in excellent batting conditions before departing for a 14-ball 12, further extending his long run without an innings of note.
The decision to bat Mitchell Marsh at number seven below Ashton Agar was also a strange one. While it ultimately didn’t make a massive difference, with both players dismissed for golden ducks, Marsh had top-scored for Australia in the first T20 batting at number four, and likely would have benefitted from some additional time to get set in the small confines of University Oval.
There’s now a break in the series for the best part of a week, with Game 3 to be played next Wednesday in Wellington.
New Zealand 7-219 (20) (Guptill 97, Williamson 53, Neesham 45; K Richardson 3-43, J Richardson 1-39) def Australia 8-215 (20) (Stoinis 78, Philippe 45, Sams 41; Santner 4-31, Neesham 2-10) by four runs