Coming into the Chappell-Hadlee series, Australia were under enormous pressure. For a team which generally seeks to stamp its authority right from the word go, their recent performances have been extremely lackluster. When they donned the whites in Sri Lanka, they were humbled 3-0. Though the limited overs brought about a change in fortunes, they were in for a rude surprise in their next assignment against a high-quality Proteas side. South Africa, in their own backyard, blanked the Kangaroos 5-0 in the ODIs and then travelled Down Under to beat them 2-1 in the tests. The senior cricketers were misfiring and Steven Smith was feeling the heat. The Baggy Greens needed to reinvent themselves and firmly flex their muscle and this victory at Canberra, which gives them the series, is a step in regaining their much-acclaimed aura.
The Kiwis came into the match knowing that a loss would take the Chappell-Hadlee trophy away from them. Williamson called it right and chose to field, hoping that his bowlers would do a much better job than last time. However, David Warner continued his rich vein of form in ODIs and danced his way to a superlative century. In the company of his captain, who was again in the runs with a quick 72, he put on 145 runs to take the stuffing out of the Kiwis’ attack. One would excuse Williamson if he had thought that his side had a chance to come back into the game after he latched on to Warner’s offering of de Grandhomme but Travis Head (57 of 32) and Mitchell Marsh (76* of 40) plundered runs at will to take their team to an imposing 378/5.
In reply, New Zealand knew that Martin Guptill had to fire if they were to even come close to their Trans-Tasman rival’s score. The Kiwi opener threatened briefly but Pat Cummins got the better of him. Williamson and Neesham struck solid half-centuries but they were always significantly behind the asking rate. Hazlewood prized out Neesham and Cummins removed the Kiwi skipper to leave the visitors stuttering at 232-6. Starc (2-52) then combined with Cummins (4-41) to clean up the lower order and give the Aussies a much-required series win with a game to spare. New Zealand will be playing for pride in the last game at Melbourne.