WELLINGTON: Captain Aaron Finch carried his bat for 79 from 55 balls to propel Australia to a 50-run win over New Zealand in the fourth Twenty20 and level the five-match series 2-2 on Friday.
With Finch’s impetus, Australia made 156-6 batting first before New Zealand foundered on a slow pitch, bowled out for 106 in 18.5 overs.
Finch won the toss and decided Australia would bat first on the same pitch where it had beaten New Zealand by 64 runs in the previous match, and which he said “looks hard and at its best for batting.”
It was anything but. The wicket at the Wellington stadium — empty of spectators for the second match in a row — was sticky and the slow bowlers wreaked havoc in both innings.
After Finch, Marcus Stoinis’s 19 and Glenn Maxwell’s 18 were the next-best scores in an innings which looked inadequate and unlikely to test New Zealand.
Leg spinner Ish Sodhi took 3-32 and left-armer Mitchell Santner 1-16.
Finch reached one of the slowest of his 14 T20 half centuries from 47 balls without hitting a six and Australia struggled to 100 from 15 overs. But he made amends by hitting three sixes and 26 runs from the last over by Kyle Jamieson to lift his side to a competitive total.
On 35, Finch overtook David Warner (2,265) to become Australia’s leading run scorer in Twenty20s.
"I think just hanging in there towards the end helped me out,” Finch said. “I had visions of ending up something like 50 off 60 balls and looking a right fool.
“But I was lucky to get some momentum towards the end of the innings. I think I was trying to hit it a bit too hard before that.
“We lost a couple of wickets along the way and couldn’t load up from the 15th or 16th over, so we just had to take it as deep as we could and it was nice to get a few out of the middle near the end.”
New Zealand couldn’t gain any momentum in its reply, losing wickets at regular intervals and lacking a contribution to match Finch’s.
Jamieson’s 30 from 18 balls, batting at No. 9 in a lost cause, was the best effort. Opener Tim Seifert made 19 and Devon Conway 17.
Seifert and Santner dragged balls onto their stumps, Glenn Phillips (1) was run out in a mix-up with Conway and the remainder of the batsmen were out to catches close to, or in front, of the wicket. That reflected the slow pace of the pitch.
Australia had the confidence to use three spinners and they shared six wickets for 49 runs. Ashton Agar took 2-11, following his 6-30 in the third match, Maxwell claimed 2-14 and Adam Zampa picked up 2-24.
Paceman Kane Richardson took 3-19 from 2.5 overs.