Hampered by a hat-trick from Trent Boult, Australia fired back a riposte of its own in the form of 10 wickets shared between five bowlers and, of course, afive-wicket haul from Mitchell Starc to crush its trans-Tasmanrivals by 86 runs.
It was the quick’s second five-for of the tournament and the third of his World Cup career. He is the only man to have ever taken three.
With a match left to play, Australia sits on top of the World Cup ladder and while it may still lose that spot to India, it will head into the semi-finals confident it has the ability and the knowhow to beat any potential takers.
For just the second time this tournament, Australia endured a rough start with the bat, losing its three highest scores – and the tournament’s top two – within the first 12 overs.
Aaron Finch was the first to perish. Dropped on zero by Martin Guptill, the Australian captain failed to cash in, falling lbw to Trent Boult for eight.
He was soon followed back to the pavilion by opening partner David Warner, undone by a fast short ball from Lockie Ferguson for 16.
Steve Smith (5) came out and as always looked busy, only to fall to a remarkable grab from Guptill off the bowling of Ferguson. Having connected sweetly with a pull shot off his hips, the right-hander was left stunned by Guptill reacting quickly enough to safely pouch the ball as it passed him.
Three for 46 soon became 5-92, with neither Marcus Stoinis (21) nor Glenn Maxwell (1) managing to truly stop the rot, and with Usman Khawaja looking shaky a full-blooded collapse looked on the cards.
Fortunately for the defending champions, Khawaja had the wherewithal to cash in on two dropped catches – one before he had scored a run – and put on a 107-run stand with the dynamic Alex Carey. Coming out to bat at No.7, Carey hit 11 boundaries on his way to 71 off 72 and looked the most fluent of anyone with the bat on a worn Lord’s pitch.
Having come out with a target of 180 looking optimistic, by the time Carey departed 250 seemed feasible. Khawaja ensured the Australians did not finish too far off, making 88 off 129 as Australia finished its 50 overs at 9-243 after electing to bat. It might not have been an eye-catching innings from Khawaja, but on a difficult pitch that undid the rest of Australia’s top-order, it was exactly what was needed.
The No.3 was the first man out to a Trent Boult hat-trick in the final over of the innings. Having bowled Khawaja with a searing yorker, the left-arm quick did the same against Mitchell Starc before trapping Jason Behrendorff in front with another toe crusher.
It was quite the finish from Boult and with it momentum seemed to be back with New Zealand.
In the first 10 overs of the chase, the Australians took that momentum away and before the 40th the match was done as a contest.
A match after taking his first ever ODI five-wicket haul, Jason Behrendorff was entrusted with bowling nine of the first 21 overs and he made the most of them. With the Kiwis making a curiously cautious start, he was a touch fortunate to produce the first breakthrough when he had Henry Nicholls caught down the legside for eight in the 10th over. In the 14th he trapped Martin Guptill in front for 20 and from thereon in, New Zealand shut up shop against the left-hander.
Unfortunately for New Zealand, Behrendorff is not Australia’s most dangerous left-hander. That mantle belongs to Starc, and the tournament’s leading wicket-taker was once again too hot to handle.
He out-thought New Zealand’s main man to reduce Kane Williamson for 40, having him caught behind with a cutter and from there the Black Caps were rudderless.
Before Starc completed his five-for Ross Taylor holed out to Pat Cummins for 30, Nathan Lyon opened his World Cup wicket account by removing Jimmy Neesham (9) and Smith took his first ODI wicket since 2014 thanks to the generosity of Colin de Grandhomme.
Smith had a fair claim to Starc’s second wicket too, diving spectacularly to his right to hold onto a one-hander at cover to remove Tom Latham for 14.
With the tail exposed, Starc did what Starc does, knocking over Ish Sodhi (5) and Ferguson (0) before bouncing out all-rounder Mitch Santner (12) to finish the game.