The answer to Life, Universe and beating Australia?
Last year, in the same Chappell Hadlee series, NZ had won almost both matches that involved chasing in excess of 300. They fell short by a heart rending 2 runs while chasing 322 in Wellington in the 2nd ODI. They made amends in the 3rd chasing a then record of 331 in Christchurch with an over to spare. I remember watching those chases and then excitedly explaining the details to everyone who asked. Or didn't. I thought I saw something special in those 2 back to back matches.
I was wrong. This time they went a notch higher. Higher targets, achieved with few balls to spare. In the first one you almost felt pity for Australia not to get the wicket of Ross Taylor early on, the way alsmot every run until his fifty came from the edge of his bat. He played very well after that and supported by McMillan, Fulton and McCullum NZ won with over an a half to spare. The six off McGrath that McCullum hit will remain in memory for a long time. Coming up to a bouncer and pulling with all his might, ball hittting the middle and disappearing way beyond.
The last ODI was even better. For the last few overs while Australia were batting, fours were a rarity. The way Hayden was nonchalantly hitting sixes, with a fractured toe, was unbelievable. Especially the one with one hand that went miles high in the stands. Putting the exams I had the next day on lower priority, I knew I just had to watch the NZ response. And you all know what happened. McMillan's innings and again the last part of McCullum's knock again with a winning six, though under much more pressure this time, was a joy to watch.
Which brings me to McCullum. Here are his contributions in the four matches I mentioned:
2006, ODI 2 : 48 of 33 balls, run out.
2006, ODI 3: 50 of 25 balls, not out.
2007, ODI 2: 22 of 15 balls, not out.
2007, ODI 3: 86 of 91 balls, not out.
Had he not been run out, and that was pretty unnecessary, NZ would have won that match too. Amazing consistency under pressure. No wonder he wears the jersey number 42.
Also these four matches point out to the size of grounds in NZ. It was certainly a huge factor in these amazing run chases.
The last time Australia lost 3-0 in the erstwhile Texaco trophy in '97, I remember what the mood was. Mark Taylor, the captain for the tour and the first two ODI'd had to drop himself in the third, something unprecedented. Steve Waugh captained in that match, Australia lost (by 6 wickets in all 3 matches!). But that phased Taylor out of the team and put Waugh in charge. We all know what happened then.
So are Australia on a shaky ground before the world cup? Results certainly point that way, although I think this well help off shake whatever complacency there would have been. They might just emerge a better outfit in the WC. Can't wait for that.
I watched the match and then slept to wake up in time for the Bayern vs. Real Champions league match. Real won 3-2 and it was 3.15 am by the time they did that. I had an exam at 9.30 am and hence this was another record for the least time spent on preparation of an exam. I slept in an hour, thank God it was only a humanities course.
As an afterthought, they have art appreciation, movie appreciation etc. courses as electives. Time to have a sport appreciation probably?