51/49

Just watched an unexpectedly good game of cricket. Australia were scheduled to play NZ in Auckland. New Zealand have been flying and been much hyped. Australia smashed England in their opening match, but their second match against Bangladesh was abandoned without a ball bowled. This match is always big given our close proximity and apparent relationship – though typically of little brother countries, NZ loves to hate Oz, and get very excited at the prospect of beating us. That was on the cards today.

I went into the match wary, but thinking Australia should win. I think we’re a fundamentally better team, but New Zealand momentum and home crowd, and the fact that Australia haven’t played a competitive match did create doubt.

As it turns out, there was good reason for the doubt. Oz batted first and got off to a flyer, but it wasn’t convincing to me. Then they collapsed in a heap before a late rally edged them just over the 150 mark – theoretically not nearly enough.

I thought the Australian batsmen played with muddled minds, and without that decisive edge. Part of that was rustiness, and the rest of it was excellent bowling.

Before the match I thought Australia only had to post a decent score to win. Given Australia’s bowling attack I had tipped before the match that New Zealand would be bowled all out for 170 – more than enough for their needs.

As it turns out I was pretty right, except that Oz didn’t post even a half decent score. Long story short, New Zealand got the runs with 9 wickets down. Had we got 170 we’d have won with a few runs to spare. Starc was outstanding and in the end it could easily have been a miracle win, but not to be.

As an Aussie I’m not too disconcerted, though I’d preferred to have won. All I ask from games like that is that we fight we out. We did that, in spades, as mostly we do when the heat is on. Ticker counts.

The batting was disappointing, but not a great concern. They’ll be better for the run, and having run it so close will go away with some pride intact. This batting team is too good to fail too often, and in a way it’s good to have the bad performance out of the way. They’ll be well focused after that.

As for the bowling, Johnson had an off day, but will be better. Starc was outstanding, as he’s made a habit of lately. The team fought hard. Our batting is great, generally, but it’s our bowling (and fielding) that’s real scary I think. I don’t see us losing if we post 280+ batting, and will keep many teams to much less than that. South Africa remains the real threat, not New Zealand.

New Zealand won and can crow about that and are top of the table. They’re happy, but I don’t think we’ll lose to them again. They nearly lost the unloseable game, and they know it. We won’t be as bad next time.

It hurts losing to New Zealand, but the pain passes quickly. They love to hate us, as I said, and create a hostile environment when they take on Oz in any sport – but underneath it all they’re a humble and respectful people. Hard not to like them.

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