RESULT: BLACKCAPS 142/8 defeated Australia 134/9 by eight runs.
Summary: A trans-Tasman battle which lived up to its billing. 142/8 from the BLACKCAPS played 134/9 from Australia in a match which hung in the balance for the majority, amid the beautiful scenery of Dharamshala.
It was a doubly successful few hours overnight with the WHITE FERNS simultaneously beating Ireland to keep New Zealand unbeaten on all fronts.
Under sunny skies BLACKCAPS captain Kane Williamson once again won the toss and elected to bat on a sluggish looking pitch. Williamson (24 off 20) and his trusty partner Martin Guptill (39 off 27) laid a good foundation, taking 54 from the opening six over power play. Australia fought back well with the ball through the middle and it required some clever late batting by Grant Elliott (27 off 20) to get the total up to 142 which felt about par.
In reply, Australia also flew out of the blocks led by the classy Usman Khawaja, but his 38 off 27 at the top would be as good as it got for the old enemy. The Kiwi spinners tied Australia down in the middle, who consistently lost wickets right the way through the chase, finishing eight runs short after requiring 19 to win from the final over.
Key moment: After getting off to a flyer the Australian innings began to slow post the power play and following the wicket of captain Steve Smith, the game was back in the balance. Usman Khawaja was cruising at 38 off 27 when he decided to take on the speed and arm of Adam Milne. Flying along the boundary rope from wide long off, Milne rounded the ball, picked it up one handed and fizzed a low bounce throw into Grant Elliott at the stumps who found the little leftie short of his ground. It was the moment the pendulum firmly swung towards the BLACKCAPS as the Aussie danger man was forced to trudge off with his side’s innings lurching at 62 for three. A fine piece of fielding from one of the best athletes going around.
Shot of the match: A creation from Colin Munro which you'll find in no cricket handbook ever. The BLACKCAPS number three set up to demonstrate his well renowned reverse sweep, but was thrown a curveball when Maxwell darted one way outside his off stump and seemingly out of reach. Still in position to reverse sweep, Munro then changed his shot to play a late reverse cut. Improvisation at its best. Brought four runs and an exasperated look from Maxwell — equally pleasing.
Ball of the match: This ball brought the most animated reaction out of ' Mr Cool’ Mitchell Santner that we've seen yet. Smith looked to skip forward to Santner, but couldn't combat the dip and spin and continued his walk down the pitch and back to the dressing room as Luke Ronchi removed the bails. A brilliant piece of spin bowling against one of the better players of spin.
In the field: As we've already covered off Milne's brilliance... Always in the game, Maxwell got his skates on around the long-on boundary and made a tough running catch look simple. Considering it saved six runs, brought an end to a destructive Guptill and was Australia's opening wicket, it certainly had some importance about it.
Quirk: You don't expect to see much snow on the mountains in India, but then you don't play too many matches on the doorstep of the Himalayas. In Dharamsala you do. Bring a beanie, but it's worth it — as picturesque a ground as you'll find.
Next up: A trip to Mohali to face a dangerous Pakistan side. Shahid Afridi’s men steamrolled the plucky Bangladesh in their opening game by 55 runs and shape as another different challenge on a different pitch. Victory here would seal a prized spot in the semi-finals. Now doesn’t that sound nice!