Black Caps falls to Australia in T20 warm-up
New Zealand's morale would've been enhanced, despite losing to Australia by three runs in their World Twenty20 tournament warm-up clash in Bangladesh this morning.
Chasing 201 to win, the Black Caps finished on 197 for nine, having needed nine runs off the last over to win the match at Fatullah.
Warm-up games can't be taken too seriously, especially in the circumstances that prevailed tonight in which Australia's two opening batsmen retired.
But the Aussies are the absolute favourites to win this tournament and pushing them to the brink would have heartened the Black Caps, following a six-wicket loss to Pakistan in their previous warm-up match.
Australia's total could've been anything, as openers David Warner and Aaron Finch started in blistering form.
The pair only batted eight overs, but did plenty of damage in that time. Warner made 65 off 26 balls and Finch a comparatively sedate 47 from 22 as Australia raced to 113. Had they not wandered off to give others a bat, then they could've gone on to a massive score.
With them gone there was soon a legitimate wicket for the Black Caps, when Anton Devcich trapped Glenn Maxwell lbw for two to reduce Australia to 117 for "three.''
Their innings never hit the same heights as it had earlier, as Devcich, Kyle Mills and Corey Anderson managed to exert some control.
Mills and Trent Boult took the new ball, with the opening bowlers from the previous game - Tim Southee and Mitchell McClenaghan - not in New Zealand's XI. Mills finished with the outstanding figures of two for 21 off his four overs, while Devcich took one for 15 from three overs and Anderson one for 23 off three.
Boult's none for 36 off four overs was reasonable, but some of the other figures were less flattering. Kane Williamson's solitary over went for 24 and Roneel Hira disappeared for 44 off two.
New Zealand's early response was terrific. Williamson went for 17, but with 10-an-over required, the Black Caps swung from the hip.
Martin Guptill and Brendon McCullum were soon going at more than the required run rate, until the skipper was caught off young legspinner James Muirhead. McCullum had made 37 from 18 and was soon joined back in the pavilion by Guptill, when Muirhead removed him for 62 off 34. It was a welcome return to form for Guptill and augurs well for the rest of the tournament.
In terms of this match, his knock set a platform for everyone else to have a good dart at overhauling what was a massive total. Corey Anderson (29 from 17) and Luke Ronchi (21 off 15) got them to the brink of victory, but no-one could quite seal it.
New Zealand open their campaign-proper in the early hours of Sunday morning, when they meet England at Chittagong. That's a critical encounter for the Black Caps and a loss would make it hugely difficult for them to progress from the group stage and into a semifinal.