All-round Frances Mackay shines as New Zealand hold their nerve to level series 1-1

Frances Mackay in action. © Getty

All-round performance from Frances Mackay and some nervy batting in the end by Hannah Rowe and Maddy Green helped New Zealand beat Australia by four wickets in a thrilling last-ball finish at McLean Park in Napier on Tuesday(March 30). With this win, New Zealand leveled the three-match T20I series 1-1, and the series decider will be played on Thursday(April 1).

Chasing a total similar to their score in the first T20I, New Zealand had Mackay open the batting in the absence of Sophie Devine. Countering Megan Schutt and debutant Darcie Brown, Hayley Jensen, and Mackay tried to keep the required run-rate within reach. The former, however, struggled to put bat on the ball and get her timing right.

Bowling in international cricket after a year, Ellyse Perry got rid of Jensen in the first over for three runs from 12 balls. Mackay, on the other hand, consistently shuffled across trying to score on the leg side, unsettling the rhythm of the bowlers. When they went wide outside off-stump, Mackay was happy to slash them over the point-gully region.

Australia skipper Meg Lanning was prompt with her bowling changes as she brought in Nicola Carey to break the partnership between Mackay and Satterthwaite. The latter fell, trying to flick Carey over the mid-wicket boundary for six runs from as many balls.

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They were struggling at 27 for two after the power play. Amelia Kerr, who joined Mackay in the middle, took a couple of overs to settle in before accelerating. Mackay smashed Georgia Wareham over deep midwicket and followed it up with a slog-sweep against Brown in the same region for a four and a massive six.

Brown came back strongly, as she dismissed Mackay in her final delivery in the match, four runs short of her half-century. Once again, Katey Martin was promoted ahead of Green despite the latter’s exploits in the first T20I. The wicketkeeper-batter struggled to maintain the momentum built by Mackay, and Amelia had to take the onus on herself to get the necessary boundaries.

While she flicked Wareham towards the deep mid-wicket boundary, Martin got out trying to hit her over the top. With four overs to go, the hosts needed 33 runs to level the series. Brooke Halliday, too, did not last long as she was dismissed by Schutt in the very next over. The veteran seamer followed it up with a brilliant yorker to remove Amelia for a 33-ball 36.

With 21 runs required from the last two overs, Rowe smashed two crucial boundaries to square-leg and deep mid-wicket off Schutt. The equation reduced nine off six, and Green hit Carey to the extra-cover boundary off the first delivery. Three runs were required in the final delivery, and an inside-edge from Green to the fine-leg boundary helped New Zealand get across the line. Schutt picked up two wickets for 24 runs in her four overs.

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After put into bat, Australia were off to a steady start, with Beth Mooney and Alyssa Healy surviving some nervy moments early on in the innings. Jess Kerr continued to trouble the Australian openers and eventually succeeded when she dismissed Healy for another low score. The aggressive wicketkeeper-batter struggled to get herself going and got out to a brilliant catch from Martin. She made four runs from 11 balls.

Joined by Lanning, Mooney tried to rebuild. The duo took the time initially before slowly picking up boundaries. The southpaw was the aggressor in the partnership as she kept the scoreboard moving by using her feet to rotate the strike. Lanning joined the party as she smashed Rowe down the ground for a massive six.

Just when it looked like they were taking charge of the innings, Lanning got run out courtesy of the mix-up between the wickets. The White Ferns fielding was top-notch that the Australian skipper’s full-length dive did not come in aid to save her.

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Haynes, who walked in at number five, took her time while Mooney, on the other end, anchored the innings and brought up her tenth T20I half-century in 43 balls. With the wicket seemingly on the slower side, both the left-handers had to resort to unusual scoring areas to get those crucial boundaries.

With Haynes getting out in the penultimate over, Ashleigh Gardner had ten balls to make an impact. She scored just three runs before Mackay got rid of the aggressive allrounder. Some tight bowling from New Zealand made sure that Australia finished 129 for 4 in 20 overs. Mooney remained unbeaten till the end with 61 runs from 54 balls. Mackay was the pick of the bowler with two for 20 in her four overs.

Brief Scores: Australia 129/4 in 20 overs (Beth Mooney 61; Frances Mackay 2/20) lost to New Zealand 131/6 in 20 overs (Frances Mackay 46, Megan Schutt 2/24) by six wickets. POTM: Frances Mackay

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