Australia floundered in their Twenty20 series opener against New Zealand, falling 53 runs short in their chase in Christchurch.
Devon Conway was the hero for the hosts, posting an unbeaten 99 off 59, narrowly missing the chance for a last-ball hundred as New Zealand posted 5-184. In reply, the visitors’ top order crumbled as Australia limped to 131 all out, starting the five-game series with a dispiriting loss.
Out-of-form skipper Aaron Finch (one), debutant Josh Philippe (two), Matthew Wade (12) and Glenn Maxwell (one) were all out caught in the opening five overs. Veteran bowlers Trent Boult (2-22) and Tim Southee (2-10) found movement through the air and ran a wrecking ball through Australia early, leaving them at 4-19.
Mitch Marsh (45) posted his top T20 score and Ashton Agar (23) found some success but there was no making up lost ground. Ish Sodhi cleaned up as Australia tried to make a fist of it, finishing with 4-28.
Finch’s side showed no signs of post-quarantine sluggishness, winning the toss and pegging New Zealand to 19-3 early. Daniel Sams claimed Martin Guptill and Kane Williamson on just his third T20 international outing, with Jhye Richardson bowling opener Tim Seifert.
As Conway entered, the Aussie hopes evaporated. The South-African born batsman steadied the ship, continuing fine domestic form by becoming the first Kiwi to score five straight T20 half-centuries.
He then took off, sharing a 74-run stand with Glenn Phillips (30) and a quickfire 47-run partnership with Jimmy Neesham (26). Conway enjoyed a couple of reprieves, dropped by Marcus Stoinis on the boundary before Wade missed the chance to run him out.
The 29-year-old finished the innings with a series of slogs, putting the 9093-strong crowd on their feet for the last ball only to finish one short of a century. The series now moves to Dunedin’s University of Otago Oval for a clash on Thursday afternoon.