Australia yesterday crushed New Zealand by 71 runs in the first one-day international (ODI) at an empty Sydney Cricket Ground.
After New Zealand earlier kept the home side to 258-7, Australia’s bowling attack dominated New Zealand’s batsmen to dismiss the visitors for 187 in the 41st over.
Cricket Australia barred spectators from the match in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the strange sight of players acknowledging milestones to empty grandstands.
It was also revealed that Australia fast bowler Kane Richardson was in quarantine early in the day and had been tested for the virus after feeling unwell.
However, he was subsequently cleared of the virus and returned to the ground to rejoin his teammates.
Australia captain Aaron Finch won the toss and chose to bat, with the home side at one stage looking at a score in excess of 300, following a superb opening partnership from Finch and David Warner.
However, once Warner (67) and Finch (60) were dismissed, Australia’s innings lost momentum and New Zealand clawed their way back into the game.
New Zealand must have given themselves a good chance of taking a 1-0 lead in the three-match series, but some superb bowling by Australia in the first 10 overs meant that the visitors were always behind in the run chase.
None of the New Zealand batsmen was able to dominate and wickets fell at regular intervals as Australia took control.
Test spearhead Pat Cummins was the pick of the bowlers with 3-25, while all-rounder Mitchell Marsh claimed 3-29.
Adam Zampa and Josh Hazlewood both picked up two wickets in an impressive team display.
Earlier, New Zealand spinners Mitchell Santner and Ish Sodhi reined Australia in after Finch and Warner’s bright start.
Warner brought up a chanceless half-century, but soon began to struggle when New Zealand’s fastest bowler, Lockie Ferguson, came round the wicket, and he eventually fell when he was beaten by pace and sliced a Ferguson thunderbolt to mid-on.
Santner struck next when Finch got a faint edge to ’keeper Tom Latham to leave Australia 145-2.
He then rocked the home side when he bowled Steve Smith (14) with the addition of only one run.
Leg-spinner Sodhi was expensive early, but he adjusted his length and claimed the next three wickets to give New Zealand hope of chasing down Australia’s total.
The second match is to take place on Sunday, also at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
ENGLAND VS SRI LANKA
England’s cricket team yesterday abruptly pulled out of a tour of Sri Lanka over the “unprecedented” crisis caused by the pandemic.
A practice match in Colombo was halted as the team announced that they would be flying back to London, and the first of two Test matches due to start on March 19 has been indefinitely postponed.
“At this time, the physical and mental well-being of our players and support teams is paramount,” an England and Wales Cricket Board statement announcing the end of the tour said.
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