At Eden Park last year, Australia and New Zealand featured in a contest that went from being a one-sided one to a thriller in a matter of minutes. There was no such excitement in the first ODI at the same venue as the Aussies and Kiwis resumed their rivalry. The hosts were dominant right from the word go, and gave the world champions a clear indication that things are not going to be too easy for them. Australia had it all easy against India in the one-dayers at home. But, New Zealand are a very tough proposition for any opponent at home. The Aussies found out that the challenge is no easier for them even if they may have won the World Cup less than a year back.
With the kind of dominance New Zealand displayed at Auckland, they exposed Australia's frailties, particularly in the batting department. Australia had easily chased down 300 plus scores at home against India. But, when asked to do the same against the Kiwis at Auckland, they floundered miserably. The fact that they lost six wickets for merely 41 runs inside the first ten overs cost them the match. James Faulkner and Matthew Wade proved that it wasn't impossible to bat on a somewhat slowish surface, but by then the match was well beyond the visitors' grasp. The 159-run defeat for Australia was a clear indication of how poorly they batted.
Australia should be extremely disappointed with their batting effort at Auckland. When none of your top six get into 20s, you know you have not done well. In Australia's case, only two batsmen got into double figures and two of them fell for ducks. Shaun Marsh has done well in the limited opportunities that he has been provided. But, with the vociferously in-form Usman Khawaja knocking on the doors, a rare failure for Marsh may be enough for him to be forced to sit out. While the top and middle order can be excused since they had a rare off-day, the same cannot be said about Glenn Maxwell, who tasted his third failure in a row.
Australia's bowling on the day was also poor. It was that way in the India series as well. But there, they were constantly bailed out by batsmen. Things were different at Auckland as the bowlers were punished again. The Aussies are clearly missing the services of the retired Mitchell Johnson and the injured Mitchell Starc. The inexperience in the bowling was exposed again. Josh Hazelwood and Kane Richardson went for plenty once again. Faulkner went for runs against India, and things were the same at Auckland. John Hastings and Mitchell Marsh were the only ones who impressed.
New Zealand only reiterated how good they are at home with a bossing effort. Martin Guptill has struggled against Australia in the past, but the form he is in helped him to tide over the tough memories. Australia's rookie bowlers did help. Yet again, Brendon McCullum got them off to a smashing start even as Henry Nicholls carried on with the impressive start he has made to his career. In the bowling, Trent Boult and Matt Henry combined brilliantly to dismantle the Aussie top and middle order, in the process ensuring Tim Southee wasn't missed. Australia will find it tough to fight back from the Auckland embarrassment. But, they are world champions, and should be expected to come back hard.
-- By A Cricket Analyst