Serene Smith Sets Up Large Australia Win

A sublime 164 from Australian captain Steve Smith set up a 68-run win for the Aussies in the first ODI with New Zealand. Smith’s knock helped Australia to post a substantial total of 324, after they won the toss and elected to bat.

There were no real shocks in the Australia line-up, except for the exclusion of all-rounder Glenn Maxwell. The main reason for this is likely to be the nature of Maxwell’s behaviour inside of the Australia squad. Smith told the press that he was not happy with comments Maxwell made about their wicket-keeper Matthew Wade. Travis Head was selected instead.

New Zealand experimented more with their side, giving a debut to fast-bowler Lockie Ferguson. Ferguson made his name on the domestic circuit due to his incredible pace and accuracy. While his pace showed in the game, hitting the 90mph mark regularly, he was slightly wayward, perhaps due to nerves. Also, the 30-year-old all-rounder Colin de Grandhomme was selected for just the second time in his career.

It was set up to be an entertaining clash and it certainly didn’t disappoint the fans at Sydney.

Australian Innings

Australia had the worst possible start, losing opener Aaron Finch in the first over. He attempted to play an expansive drive to all ball wide of off stump, but ended up chopping onto his stumps. When David Warner also departed on the last ball of the 10th over, bowled by Ferguson in his first over, it was down to the skipper Steve Smith to anchor the innings. Several mistakes were made by the New Zealand bowling attack, as they opted to bowl relatively short to him. Smith, who excels at pulling, thrived and happily dispatched them to the boundary.

However, it was not all plain sailing for Smith. Indeed, New Zealand keeper BJ Watling dropped him early on in his innings. Admittedly it was a tough chance to take, but it was still a decent opportunity.

Smith didn’t receive any significant support from the middle order, except for his partnership with Travis Head. George Bailey only managed 17 and Mitchell Marsh just one run, Australia found themselves in a precarious position of 92-4. It was the 127 run stand between Head and Smith that ensured Australia posted a competitive score. With Maxwell missing out, Head was presented with a vital chance in the middle order. Head seized the opportunity, scoring his 2nd ODI half-century. This pair played a perfectly balanced stand, clearly accelerating at the right times.

Head also had his share of luck. New Zealand were left ruing their poor fielding, with Matt Henry putting down a simple chance with Head on just 7. It could have been a completely different game had those chances gone their way, but as Smith crossed 150 the game was already lost. Smith eventually fell on 164, after being dropped again on 152. His innings was the highest ever individual ODI score at the Sydney ground and it came at over a run-a-ball.

An impressive cameo of 38 from vocal keeper Matthew Wade propelled Australia following the dismissal of Head and took Australia to a large total of 324. Trent Boult’s 2-51 was the pick of the New Zealand bowling attack who had a tough day. This was always going to be a daunting target, but was definitely not without of the reach of a determined New Zealand side.

New Zealand’s Response

Just like Australia, New Zealand got off to an awful start. Tom Latham chopped on in the second over, after Josh Hazlewood managed to get the ball to nip back slightly. Talented captain Kane Williamson also fell early on 9 after managing a thick edge off the impressive Hazlewood again. Yet a 92 run stand between James Neesham and opener Martin Guptill brought New Zealand back into the game. However, the dismissal of Neesham at the hands of Mitchell Starc triggered a middle-order collapse. They slumped from 126-2 to 187-6. A special mention must go once again to Steve Smith, who took a fantastic catch to dismiss Watling. Smith, at backward point, dived and produced a phenomenal catch after Watling’s aggressive cut was slightly too uppish.

The collapse culminated with Guptill pulling an Adam Zampa long-hop down the throat of deep mid-wicket. Guptill fell for an impressive 114. Recently he had come under heavy criticism for his poor form, but produced a sparkling conditions under tough conditions. During this knock, Guptill became the fastest New Zealand played to score 5,000 ODI runs and the tenth fastest of all time. However, his failure to kick on and convert his hundred into a large score meant that New Zealand pulled up short.

Some lower-order resistance from Colin Munro took New Zealand to the score of 256, but they failed to bat out the overs, dismissed in just over 44 overs. All of Australia’s five bowlers picked up at least a wicket, with Hazlewood being the stand-out performer with a magnificent 3-49.

Next Match

These two sides next meet at Canberra on Tuesday. Steve Smith expressed his delight in the perforce of Travis Head, and it is therefore likely that he will retain his place in the side. This could mean that Australia will be unchanged for the second ODI.

New Zealand, however, have several questions to answer. A determined comeback from the Australian bowlers exposed a weak New Zealand middle order, which will be a huge concern to selectors. Unfortunately, the New Zealand squad is very limited in size with their only possible option being Henry Nicholls. His inclusion at Canberra would not be surprising as New Zealand will attempt to bounce back and level the three match series.