After being put into bat and finding themselves 19/3, it seemed like New Zealand were in huge trouble at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch. Australia had their set of plans and executed them superbly at the start of the match to dismiss New Zealand’s top three. But thereon, the hosts came back strongly, mainly thanks to an excellent unbeaten 99 from Devon Conway, to put up a total of 184/5, following which a clinical bowling display saw them secure a 53-run win in the first T20I.
EARLY TROUBLES FOR NEW ZEALAND
As mentioned above, it was a less than impressive start from New Zealand early in the match. Martin Guptill hasn't been in great form lately and his poor run continued here as he was dismissed for a three-ball duck. It seemed like a tactic from Daniel Sams to bowl a wide line to Guptill and it worked as the New Zealand opener went after a delivery outside the off-stump, only to offer a simple catch to Ashton Agar in the point region.
Despite Sams' early success, he was immediately replaced in the bowling attack by Jhye Richardson and the move worked, with the right-arm pacer bowling a superb yorker to get the wicket of Tim Seifert. Things went from bad to worse for the hosts soon after, when Sams returned and got the big wicket of Kane Williamson for 12. At the time, the Blackcaps had lost three wickets with less than 20 runs on the board.
CONWAY STARS WITH THE BAT
After those early dismissals, the need of the hour for New Zealand was a fruitful partnership and they managed to get that with Conway and Glenn Phillips adding 74 runs for the fourth wicket. Phillips, though, would have been disappointed to have been dismissed for 30 after getting a start. It was Marcus Stoinis with the wicket in his first over.
Conway, meanwhile, played an extraordinary knock. Coming into this match, the left-handed batsman had been in sensational form and he went on to bring up his fifth consecutive 50+ T20 score. Considering that he came into bat when the score read 11/2, this was a terrific effort from Conway.
Conway and Neesham added 47 from 27 deliveries for the fifth wicket which gave the New Zealand innings the impetus it needed. Jhye Richardson broke the stand for the visitors, getting James Neesham caught behind for a 15-ball 26. But that didn’t slow down Conway who was playing a blinder at the other end.
As many as 33 runs came off the final two overs of the innings. Conway was unbeaten on 88 with three deliveries left – while he managed to hit a six and a four off the next two balls, only a single was possible on the last delivery. This was Conway's third successive unbeaten score in the 90s in T20 cricket. Surely, a hundred isn't far away!
CLINICAL BOWLING PERFORMANCE FROM NEW ZEALAND
In reply, Australia were in all sorts of trouble after losing four wickets in the Powerplay. Aaron Finch was well below his best during the recent Big Bash League and things didn't get any better for the Australian skipper on this occasion as he was dismissed by Tim Southee for one in the first over of the innings.
Southee and Trent Boult were magnificent with the new ball, getting the ball to swing and that caused a lot of trouble for the Australian batsmen. Debutant Josh Philippe, Matthew Wade and Glenn Maxwell all had to head back to the pavilion as Southee and Boult accounted for two wickets apiece early on in the innings.
It was always going to be a tall task for Australia after they had lost those wickets in the first six overs. And so, it proved as they succumbed to a 53-run defeat. Mitchell Marsh played a fine innings, scoring 45 from 33 balls, but he needed to do much more if Australia were to stand a chance.
Ish Sodhi was excellent in the middle overs for New Zealand, taking four wickets which more or less sealed the game for the Kiwis. Five of the top eight Australian batsmen were dismissed for single-digit scores. Ashton Agar made a 13-ball 23, but while that was an impressive cameo, it was far from enough.
Kyle Jamieson and Mitchell Santner also chipped in with a wicket apiece for the home team.
Australia were eventually bowled out for 131, with New Zealand securing a 1-0 series lead. Unsurprisingly, Conway was named the Player of the Match for his splendid knock.