Skipper Brendon McCullum played his last ODI and under his leadership New Zealand has transform into a side that plays an aggressive brand of cricket. His approach seemed to rub off on the whole team, with sharp decision-making on the field. The world champions Australia came into the ODIs brimming with confidence on the back of a 4-1 series win over India.
Matches between Australia and New Zealand have been exciting over the years and the 2015-16 series proved to be no less. We take a look at what transpired in the three-match series:
Boult, Henry flatten the mighty Aussies
Put in to bat, New Zealand openers Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum tore through the bowling in cavalier fashion in keeping with their bold style. Newcomer Henry Nicholls contributed a valuable 61 as the champions stifled the hosts' middle-order. A few lusty hits by all-rounder Mitchell Santner took them to 307, well short of the 350 that seemed possible.
Buoyed by their comeback, the Australians felt they had a good chance of chasing it down on the smaller ground. Instead, the fast bowling duo of Trent Boult and Matt Henry scythed through the batting, reducing Australia to 41 for six after nine overs. The tourists never recovered from that shock, crashing to a 159-run defeat and their shortest completed ODI innings!
The Aussies strikes back through Marsh, Warner
This time, New Zealand opted to bat first and were off to their usual blitzkrieg. They couldn't sustain it as the middle-order, barring Kane Williamson, folded up to leave the hosts at 205 for seven going into the slog overs. Once again, the impressive Santner and Adam Milne propelled the Black Caps to a fighting 283.
This time, David Warner and Usman Khawaja racked up 122 runs for the opening wicket off just 98 deliveries. Khawaja's dismissal sparked a collapse and Warner missed out a century by getting out for a 79-ball 98. Santner and Henry lead the fightback for the Kiwis. However, Mitchell Marsh had no intention of giving up and followed up his two wickets with an unbeaten 69, ably supported by John Hastings to keep Aussie hopes alive in the series.
Inspired Kiwis do it for their beloved Baz
Steve Smith won the toss and decided to field, something that McCullum also wanted to do. Another swashbuckling start, but Baz, as the home skipper is fondly called, fell for a 27-ball 47. There was no fairy-tale knock but he did ended up crossing the 200 sixes mark in ODIs and the Kiwis looked set for a huge total at 223 for four in the 41st over with a well-set Grant Elliott and Corey Anderson at the crease. However, New Zealand inexplicably lost their last six wickets for just 23 runs and were bowled out for 246! Aussie bowlers had fought back brilliantly with Marsh scalping three to spark the collapse.
A good start by the openers threatened to ruin Baz's moment, but Warner didn't last long and Khawaja's dismissal for 44 affected the Aussie momentum. Then came the turning point, leg-spinner Ish Sodhi, playing his first game in the series in place of the injured Santner, dismissed Smith and Maxwell in the same over to tilt the scales in New Zealand's favour.
Marsh fought hard and felt hard done by a controversial, but correct decision where the umpires decided to refer a half-hearted appeal by Matt Henry. After that, Australia crashed to 191 as Henry and Anderson picked up five wickets. New Zealand attack too was under-strength and it was the fighting spirit that prevailed. Led for the final time in limited-overs cricket by one of the most enthralling players, New Zealand gave Brendon McCullum a fitting farewell.