Australia's World Cup preparation collapsed yesterday when New Zealand scored 350 for nine to win the third Chappell-Hadlee limited-overs cricket match by one wicket and the series 3-0.
Matthew Hayden made 181 not out, the highest score by an Australian batsman in one-day internationals, as Australia made 346 for five batting first. But New Zealand lifted itself from 41 for four to reach the target with three balls remaining.
Hayden batted for most of his unbeaten innings with a broken toe which added him to a growing Australian injury list ahead of the World Cup which already includes Brett Lee (sprained ankle), Andrew Symonds (torn bicep) and Michael Clarke (injured hip).
Hayden reached the eighth-highest total by a batsman in limited-overs internationals with 11 fours and 10 sixes but his effort was trumped by Craig McMillan, who scored a century from 67 balls, the fastest by a New Zealander in one-day internationals.
Australia has now been beaten twice by England in the finals of its own tri-series and three times by New Zealand in the Chappell-Hadlee series: by 10 wickets, five wickets and one wicket yesterday.
The 10-wicket loss was the heaviest in Australia's limited-overs history and New Zealand's last two wins involved two of the four largest successful run chases in one-day internationals, all of which Australia has lost.
Australia lost to South Africa in Johannesburg last year after scoring 434 for four -- then the highest total in the history of limited-overs cricket -- and have since lost three times to New Zealand after scoring more than 330.
Australia made 336 for four in Auckland on Sunday and lost by five wickets with eight balls to spare, lost in Christchurch last year in a similar run chase and were beaten yesterday after posting a third massive total.
In each case, the ineptitude of Australia's bowling attack was the key factor of the match and Australia now heads to the World Cup with its confidence in tatters and its No. 1 world ranking conceded to South Africa.
Hayden shared partnerships of 122 with Shane Watson (68) for Australia's first wicket, 88 with Brad Haddin (38) for the second, and other productive partnerships with Mike Hussey, Brad Hodge, Cameron White and Adam Voges as Australia scored at 6.92 runs per over.
Their position seemed impregnable, particularly when New Zealand lost Stephen Fleming for 9, Lou Vincent for 11, Ross Taylor for 11 and Scott Styris for 0 to slump to 41-4 after 9.1 overs.
But McMillan smashed 117 runs from 96 balls, Peter Fulton made 51 and Brendon McCullum steered New Zealand home with a brilliantly-managed innings of 96.
New Zealand whitewashed Australia in a limited-overs series for the first time and increased Australia's anxiety ahead of the World Cup.
"It's out of this world," McCullum said of the win.
McMillan's superb innings, and his partnerships of 75 with Fulton and 165 with McCullum turned the match in New Zealand's favor. They scored at more than seven runs per over through the first half of their innings and left themselves a run rate of less than a run and ball through the crucial closing overs.
McCullum managed the strike and took his 86 runs from 91 balls with five fours and two sixes. New Zealand entered the last over needing seven runs to win but McCullum smashed a six from Nathan Bracken's first ball to make the win academic.
He was helped late in the innings by Mark Gillespie, who hit 28 runs from 15 balls. Jeetan Patel, who was the last man in, didn't face a ball.
Hayden's 10 sixes were a record for an Australian batsman in a one-day match, surpassing Ricky Ponting's nine, and there were 33 sixes in the match, also a record in limited-overs internationals.
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