New Zealand have thwarted Australia’s hope of an epic comeback by taking out the fifth T20 international in Wellington to claim the series 3-2.
On a used pitch, New Zealand’s spinners constricted and restricted Australia to a modest total of 8-142, the lowest first innings total of the tour.
Australia’s spinners couldn’t mirror the impact of the hosts’ slow bowlers as the Black Caps chased down the target for the loss of just three wickets with 27 balls to spare.
The new-look opening combination of Martin Guptill and Devon Conway (36) did the damage, putting on 106 in front of fans for the first time since game two in Dunedin.
Guptill deposited leg-spinner Adam Zampa onto the ‘Cake Tin’ roof, an emphatic 91-metre hit that required a new ball in a 23-run over that propelled the right-hander to a second half-century of the series.
The veteran had been short of runs heading into the series but finished the series with scores of 0, 97, 43, 7 and 71 from 46 balls on Sunday.
Glenn Phillips (34no off 16) iced the game with two sixes in three balls in the 16th over to the welcome applause of an approving audience.
New Zealand’s innings was in stark contrast to that of Australia, which looked to have been played on a different pitch.
On the same wicket that was used for games three and four, New Zealand captain Kane Williamson deployed his spinners, with four slow bowlers sharing 12 overs; specialists Mitch Santner (0-21) and Ish Sodhi (3-24) bowled their allotment while part-timers Mark Chapman (1-9) and Phillips (0-21) bowled two each.
Only Matthew Wade, demoted to No.3 to allow Josh Philippe to open, scored a strike rate above 115, posting a 29-ball 44.
New Zealand made one change to their side, Kyle Jamieson going out for allrounder Chapman, and it was the new inclusion that claimed the big wicket of Glenn Maxwell, who swept his second ball down the throat of deep backward square.
Maxwell’s wicket reduced Australia to 3-77 in the 11th over and the Australians lost 6-70 in the last 10 overs overall.
While big-spinner Sodhi picked up three wickets to finish the series as its leading wicket-taker, ironically it was two full tosses that removed Marcus Stoinis and Ashton Agar in consecutive deliveries late in the innings.
Mitch Marsh, who came in at No.7 behind Agar, negotiated the hat-trick ball but couldn’t get away New Zealand’s excellent death bowling.
Guptill and Conway put the result beyond doubt early, bringing up the 50 inside the Powerplay against the unchanged Australia XI.
Meredith gave the tourists the faintest of hope when he removed Conway and Williamson in consecutive balls, but even he wasn’t spared from the Black Caps onslaught, taking 2-39 from his four overs.
Steve Smith clone Phillips ensured the Kiwis safely reached the target, finishing the match with a six off Zampa (0-43).
The result ends Australia’s run from 0-2 down in the series and makes it three T20I series losses in a row having lost to India 2-1 earlier in the summer and England 2-1 last September.
Meanwhile, New Zealand have won their past three T20 series, defeating the West Indies (2-0) and Pakistan (2-1) on home soil this season.
Without their Test stars, Australia pushed their full-strength trans-Tasman rivals over five matches and will be buoyed by the return to form of their skipper, who finished the campaign averaging 49.25 as his side’s leading runs-scorer, and the debut of rapid Tasmanian fast bowler Meredith.
While the tour was in part a fact-finding mission ahead of October’s T20 World Cup in India, Australia used just 12 players, with Meredith replacing allrounder Daniel Sams after two matches.
The likes of David Warner, Pat Cummins and Mitch Starc will all return for the World Cup in October, but with just a handful of T20s scheduled between now and then, there remain plenty of questions still to be answered.
Australia XI: Aaron Finch (c), Matthew Wade (wk), Josh Philippe, Glenn Maxwell, Marcus Stoinis, Mitchell Marsh, Ashton Agar, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Adam Zampa, Riley Meredith
New Zealand XI: Martin Guptill, Devon Conway, Kane Williamson (c), Glenn Phillips, Mark Chapman, Jimmy Neesham, Tim Seifert (wk), Mitchell Santner, Tim Southee, Ish Sodhi, Trent Boult
Qantas T20I tour of New Zealand 2021
Australia squad: Aaron Finch (c), Ashton Agar, Jason Behrendorff, Mitchell Marsh, Glenn Maxwell, Ben McDermott, Riley Meredith, Josh Philippe, Jhye Richardson, Kane Richardson, Daniel Sams, Tanveer Sangha, D’Arcy Short, Marcus Stoinis, Andrew Tye, Matthew Wade, Adam Zampa.
New Zealand squad: Kane Williamson (c), Hamish Bennett, Trent Boult, Mark Chapman, Devon Conway, Martin Guptill, Kyle Jamieson, Jimmy Neesham, Glenn Phillips, Mitchell Santner, Tim Seifert (wk), Ish Sodhi, Tim Southee.