Steve Smith said Australia’s players had wanted to give departing ODI skipper Aaron Finch a fitting send off – and they did just that with a 3-0 series sweep over New Zealand to retain the Chappell-Hadlee trophy in Cairns.
It came down to the final over but the Aussies ensured Finch retired from 50-over cricket triumphantly at Cazalys Stadium in Cairns on Sunday as the hosts held on to win the third and final international by 25 runs.
In his 146th and last ODI for his country, Finch’s side set the Black Caps 268 to win after Smith had anchored their innings with 105 off 131 balls, his 12th ODI century.
New Zealand chased bravely, their openers flying out the gates, skipper Kane Williamson steady at the crease and their middle order firing until the death.
But it all fell apart for the third consecutive game and they still remain winless in ODIs on Australian soil stretching back to 2009.
Following his series-leading knock, Smith said his departing captain’s ODI career got the team performance it deserved.
“He’s been a stalwart for this team for 10 years and he’s done a terrific job and he’s led the team exceptionally well,” Smith said.
“It was a great finish and nice to sweep the series three-nil and send Finchy off that way.”
Just like it had in the first two games, the loss of wickets at inopportune times cost the visitors dearly.
Their openers fell within three overs of each other, and when Tom Latham departed for 10 they’d lost 3-28.
The dangerous Daryl Mitchell top-edged to Smith after a brisk 16, and when Williamson was run out in a horror mix-up with Glenn Phillips, New Zealand were in trouble at 5-112.
“We needed to apply pressure for longer and basically throughout the series we weren’t clinical enough in that and credit to Australia,” Williamson said.
“Frustrating. For us there were glimpses, but it is about taking it further and putting out more collective performances.”
Glenn Phillips and Jimmy Neesham put together their best partnership of the series, but when Neesham departed their chase wilted. Ultimately, the Black Caps were dismissed for 242 off 49.5 overs.
Finch teased the crowd before the final over by pretending to warm up for a bowl, but Mitchell Starc nabbed the last two wickets to complete the 3-0 series whitewash.
Australia were initially dawdling at 2-19 from 10 overs when Finch and Josh Inglis fell early.
But Smith and Marnus Labuschagne got to work, the pair raising the bat within an over of each other. It was Smith’s 28th ODI half-century and Labuschagne’s fifth.
Smith then became just the third Australian to score an ODI century this year, after Travis Head and Ben McDermott, before Mitchell Santner ended his 131-ball stay in the 45th over.
Labuschagne (52 off 78), Alex Carey (42no off 43) and Cameron Green (25no off 12) added valuable runs to set the Black Caps their stiff target.