South African-born Devon Conway continues to impress in his debut season for New Zealand, saving his adopted country from the brink of disaster against traditional rivals Australia in their opening T20 encounter at Christchurch.
After New Zealand sent in to bat first, they teetered at 19/3 in the fourth over, before Conway and Glenn Phillips compiled a 74-run partnership that brought them back into the contest.
Openers Martin Guptill and Tim Seifert managed just one run between, and usually reliable skipper Kane Williamson was a rare failure, with 12 runs.
After Phillips' departure, Conway combined with all-rounders Jimmy Neesham and Mitch Santner to steer the home side to 184/5 in their 20 overs, falling one run short of his maiden international century.
With three balls remaining, he needed 12 runs for the milestone and erased half that requirement with one stroke over the boundary. The next ball also found the rope, albeit along the ground, leaving two required from the final ball.
Conway was unable to beat the field and ran a single, but refrained from chasing a second suicide run for his ton, finishing on 99 not out off 59 balls.
Phillips provided a glimpse of his destructive ability, pummelling 30 runs off 20 balls, including three sixes, while Neesham proved a willing ally later in the innings, with 26 runs off 15 balls.
Australia's run chase began in similar fashion to their rivals', as they lost their opening four wickets for just 19 runs in less than five overs. Veteran bowlers Tim Southee and Trent Boult found conditions conducive to their swing, as they tormented the Aussie top order.
Mitchell Marsh provided the lone ray of hope that the visitors might challenge their target of 185, smashing 45 runs off 33 balls, before he became the sixth victim at 98.
The rest of the batting line-up looked like an underdone roster that had just emerged from a two-week COVID-19 quarantine the night before - and they had.
Spinner Ish Sodhi claimed the scalps of Marcus Stoinis, Daniel Sams and Ashton Agar in the same over, and finally Kane Richardson, but could not complete his 'five-fer' with tailender Adam Zampa at his mercy.
The Aussies, ranked second in the world for the 20-over format, will be better for this outing and have a chance to bounce back at Dunedin's University Oval on Thursday.
New Zealand 184/5 (Conway 99no, Phillips 30, Neesham 26, Jhye Richardson 2/31)
Australia 131 (Marsh 45, Agar 23, Sodhi 4/28, Southee 2/10, Boult 2/22)
NZ win by 52 runs
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