Not even an unseasonal southerly could keep the gallery from heartily cheering as the New Zealand WHITE FERNS took an unbeatable 2-0 Series lead against Australia in the second Twenty20 International at the Basin Reserve.
The chilly breeze, a thick cape of gloomy grey clouds and a quad twinge that had kept Sophie Devine confined to the sidelines were all rogue elements.
But another class performance with the ball, and a captain’s half century, ensured that, this time, the WHITE FERNS converted a 1-0 lead over the world champions to a Series celebration — with a match still in hand, which will be free entry at Pukekura Park this Friday as they now look to sweep the series.
As has been the general pattern in the trans-Tasman clashes, it wasn’t without drama at the death, as the result came down to the last over — the Australians hoping against hope to sensationally stop their rivals from ticking off another relatively low chase.
Suzie Bates had sent them in after winning her second toss on the trot, the opening attack of spinner Morna Nielsen and pace bowler Lea Tahuhu doing the business for her up front.
Nielsen zeroed in on the important early wicket of powerhouse Australian captain Meg Lanning — who found herself bowled for just four runs in the third over — before adding the other opener to her bag, Elyse Villani caught by Tahuhu.
Nielsen would bowl unbroken for 2-12 to help load pressure on Australia early and stop any chance of them getting off to a flyer, and Tahuhu likewise did her bit by enticing a nick behind from Alex Blackwell, taking a searing 1-13.
Alyssa Healy thumped her first six down the ground as she urgently tried to right the board for Australia. She had smacked 23 off 19 balls, but would be out next ball after picking out young Thamsyn Newton, one of two changes to the side that had cleaned up on Sunday.
Spinner Leigh Kasperek had struck, and would follow up her outstanding effort in the first match with another three wickets, creating a fistful of chances with her drift en route to 3-26 — also striking twice in the space of three balls in the final over to push the Australians to six down and, more importantly, keep Perry from taking much toll at the finish.
From an awful position of 13/3 after six overs, Australia had desperately needed someone to stand up, and the experienced Perry had answered that SOS — underpinning the remainder of the innings with her unbeaten 52 off 47 balls, and surviving both the molten early pressure and the odd chance that blew through cold fingers in the tempestuous conditions.
Even with Perry getting away, a target of 116 should not have daunted the New Zealanders, and openers Bates and Rachel Priest helped ease any lingering tension by solidly stroking a 50-run stand in reply.
Player of the Year and player of the match Bates went to the rope twice in the opening over, and the comparison score after six was 30/0 > 13/3.
Her half century would go up at better than run-a-ball pace (three fours, two sixes).
While partner Priest was not her productive self, it was an important occupation as she supported her captain and felt her way back into touch. They took 13 off Kristen Beams' first over, the eighth, before the local keeper-batsman holed out midway through the chase.
One strike suddenly became two as Sara McGlashan departed lbw in the same over, but Amy Satterthwaite restored the calm — a steady third-wicket stand of 47 runs all but pushing Australia out of the reckoning as the equation trickled down to 26 required from the final five overs.
But Australia did not stop fighting, removing both Satterthwaite (34 off 33) and Bates at the death to ask fresh batsmen to find the winning run against them with just four balls remaining.
In the end, a leg bye was all it took to finish off a sweet win for the New Zealanders over the world number ones, an important confidence booster heading towards the imminent World Twenty20.
The WHITE FERNS now head to New Plymouth’s Pukekura Park looking for a Series sweep on Friday. Entry is free, 4pm the start time in the last home international match of the New Zealand 2015/16 season before both sides head to India.