Australia has soared to No.2 in the Twenty20 world rankings after a 19-run win in the tri-series final against New Zealand on Wednesday.
Ranked seventh just last month – a position assistant coach and cricket legend Ricky Ponting said was “completely unacceptable” – a new-look Australian side sealed a superb series with a comfortable win in a rain-affected match in Auckland.
After a sublime effort with the ball restricted the Black Caps to 9-150, Australia was cruising at 3-121 in the 15th over when rain intervened.
It hung around, too, meaning the match was decided via the Duckworth-Lewis-Stern system, with Ashton Agar (3-27 off four overs) and D’Arcy Short (50 from 30 balls) the stars for Australia at the same Eden Park venue it chased down a victory target of 244 last week.
The win lifted Australia to second in the rankings – trailing first-placed Pakistan on decimal points.
The victory was soured, however, with batsman Chris Lynn dislocating his right shoulder diving for a ball in the field.
Lynn – who has battled shoulder problems all summer – did not return to the field and later appeared in a sling after being sent for scans.
The big-hitting batsman was the most expensive Aussie at January’s Indian Premier League auction, bought for $A1.86 million by the Kolkata Knight Riders.
That fee is paid on a pro-rata basis, though, meaning the Brisbane Heat star will miss out on a seriously large payday if he cannot compete in the Twenty20 tournament that runs through April and May.
Lynn will also miss out on money he would have made in the Pakistan Super League, where he was due to represent the Lahore Qalandars, who play their first match on Friday.
“I’m disappointed to not go to the Pakistan Super League as planned, but I’ll now focus on rehabilitation and working as hard as I can, with the hope to still take part in the Indian Premier League later this year,” Lynn said.
Australia did not need him in its run chase after captain David Warner and Short added 72 in eight overs for the first wicket.
The fast start looked to have snuffed out any hope New Zealand had of victory but Australia wobbled from there, losing 3-12 as Warner (25) and Ashton Agar (two) fell.
It was left to Victorian pair Glenn Maxwell (20 not out) and Aaron Finch (18 not out) to steady the ship, leaving the visitors well ahead when the match was called off.
“I’m over the moon … they [players] have been absolutely amazing,” Warner said afterwards.
“The last 18 to 24 months, people talk about us not taking it [Twenty20] too serious as a nation with resting guys here and there, but at the end of the day, we’ve got the best of our bunch here.
“They’ve come out of the BBL with super form … I couldn’t be happier and prouder of the guys.”
Warner reserved special praise for his bowlers, who executed their plans to go for just seven-and-a-half runs per over – a far cry from the 6-243 New Zealand made against them only five days earlier.
The Black Caps made a bright start again, with openers Martin Guptill (21) and Colin Munro (29) targeting the short, straight boundaries.
But from 0-48 they collapsed to 8-110 as Agar, Kane Richardson and Andrew Tye (2-30 each) impressed with their length and variations.
Late scrapping from Ross Taylor (43 not out) and Ish Sodhi (13) got New Zealand to a defendable total but it was blown out of the water in Australia’s batting powerplay as Short’s hot summer continued.
“We played really well right throughout the series … good consistent T20 cricket, which is what we were searching to do,” Maxwell, who was named player of the series, added.
Man of the match Ashton Agar said: “This has been the most enjoyable tour … we’re having a good time. It’s been fun. The boys gel really well.”
Five wins from as many matches says just that.