New Zealand on Saturday became the first team to enter the Cricket World Cup quarterfinals, clinching a nerve-wrecking one-wicket triumph over four-time champions Australia after dismissing them for their second lowest tournament total in a pool A thriller.
In a low-scoring match that went right down to the wire, the nervous Kiwis huffed and puffed to victory after man of the match pacer Trent Boult’s career-best five-wicket haul had helped bowl out the Aussies for 151 in 32.2 overs at a packed Eden Park.
Chasing the modest target, New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum, playing through a swollen arm after being hit by a Mitchell Johnson bouncer, whacked a 24-ball 50 to lay the foundation of the victory.
However, what seemed like an easy chase was almost turned on its head by Aussie pacer Mitchell Starc, who scalped the second best bowling figures in the World Cup with a haul of 6/28 in nine overs. But that was not enough as New Zealand eventually crossed the finishing line in 23.1 overs.
The Black Caps made things difficult for themselves owing to a mid-innings collapse but Kane Williamson (45 not out; 42b, 5X4, 1X6) kept his cool amid chaos to complete the win with a six off Pat Cummins.
This was New Zealand’s fourth successive win in the event and ensured them a place in the last-eight by consolidating their position at the top of the points table. The team is chasing its first World Cup title.
Australia, who chose to bat after winning the toss, lost eight wickets for mere 26 runs, their worst mid-innings collapse ever, before a last-wicket stand of 45 between Brad Haddin (43) and Pat Cummins (7 not out) lent some respectability to the scorecard.
Nine down for 108 at one stage, the Aussies were in danger of being bowled out for their lowest World Cup total, which currently stands at 129 (against India in 1983), before the 37-year-old Haddin saved them a few blushes.
Boult finished his 10 overs, including three maidens, with five wickets which cost a mere 27 runs, prompting the packed stadium to give a standing ovation to the 25-year-old for his effort. Boult’s haul was outshone by Starc figuratively but was not enough to alter the result.
Statistically, Starc’s figures currently stand just behind New Zealand’s Tim Southee, who returned 7/33 against England earlier in this edition.