Australia were rescued by rain in their Champions Trophy opener against New Zealand as Kane Williamson’s hundred and three quickfire wickets went in vain at Edgbaston.
Australia were chasing a revised target 235 in 33 overs and had stumbled unsteadily to 53 for three – 25 short of the Duckworth/Lewis par after nine overs – when the worst showers of the day brought the curtain down just as it had done on the same ground, in the same competition, at the same stage four years ago.
That was tough on the Black Caps and particularly skipper Williamson, who hit 100 from 96 balls in a total of 291 all out.
England, who won their Group A opener against Bangladesh, will now face both sides in the coming days from a position of strength.
Williamson’s ninth one-day century, and first in the trans-Tasman derby, was an innings of poise and precision in a match characterised by frenetic batting. That Australia’s Josh Hazlewood ended up with a career-best six for 52 was more down to a late-order implosion by New Zealand, who lost seven for for 37, than any magical seam bowling.
After choosing to bat first, New Zealand reached 67 for one in 9.3 overs before the first rain delay of the day.
That was enough time for Hazlewood to pick off the dangerous Martin Guptill but Luke Ronchi led a charmed life, clearing in-fielders by an inch or two on a couple of occasions and reprieved by messy fielding when he looked certain to be run out for 17. He made the most of his luck, rollicking along to a 33-ball half-century – his first in 37 innings – in a colourful blend of misses, mis-hits, clean connections and canny improvisations.
Ronchi did most of the damage as Pat Cummins’ first five overs disappeared for 52, before he fell to John Hastings.
Williamson announced himself with a domineering early pull but settled into his default mode of classy accumulation. Ross Taylor proved an apt foil and the pair shared a third-wicket stand of 99.
Williamson cruised past 50 but Taylor fell four short, skying a Hastings slower ball to cover. Things went downhill for Hastings thereafter, with his last two overs costing 26 as Williamson hit a flurry of boundaries. The last of those, deftly flipped over the wicketkeeper, brought him to 99 and a dashed single sealed the ton before he was run out two balls later. From there it was over to Hazlewood, who profited from several ugly shots. Neil Broom, Jimmy Neesham, Adam Milne and Mitchell Santner picked out catchers as they looked to add late impetus and, after surviving a hat-trick ball, Trent Boult nicked the next to complete the collapse.
More poor weather saw a further 13 overs shaved from the chase and left Australia’s openers skittish against the new balls. With the vagaries of D/L and more bad weather on the way it was a tricky situation and, two balls after a wonderful uppercut six off Tim Southee, David Warner nicked Boult.
Aaron Finch never found his timing and chewed up 18 deliveries before spooning Milne to short-midwicket. The pace bowler sent down four further dot balls in his first over to ensure Steve Smith and Moises Henriques started their partnership on the back foot.
Milne’s second visit was just as busy, Henriques pulling a four, edging one past slip then chipping back to the bowler.
The rain had started to come again and the players were trudging off before Glenn Maxwell reached the middle.