Twenty20 World Cup: Woeful White Ferns crushed by Australia in opener at Paarl

The White Ferns' Twenty20 World Cup campaign in South Africa is off to a nightmare start, after they were crushed by 97 runs by Australia in their opening match at Paarl.

Losing the toss and sent into bat, the world champions blasted their way to an intimidating total of 174/9 - their highest ever against New Zealand.

The White Ferns' pursuit couldn't have been scripted worse, losing captain Sophie Devine and Suzie Bates to golden ducks in Megan Schutt's opening over.

They were fatal blows from which the New Zealanders never recovered, as they plummeted to 76 all out in the 14th over - their lowest-ever score in the format. 

Amelia Kerr (21) was the only NZ batter to offer any resistance, although Berndaine Bezuindenhout (14) can feel aggrieved at the bizarre third-umpire decision that ruled Darcie Brown had dismissed her with a diving catch, when both the Australian and replays suggested the ball had bounced first.

New Zealand's Jess Kerr is bowled.
New Zealand's Jess Kerr is bowled. Photo credit: Getty Images

That umpiring travesty would have had little bearing on the result. The White Ferns were never in the contest and will now have to regroup for what shapes as a must-win contest with hosts South Africa on Tuesday.

"I thought we were really poor in all facets of the game," said Devine. "One hundred-and-seventy was always going to be a tough chase and the way we went about it, losing early wickets, was always going to be hard work.

"Really disappointing is the only way to sum it up. It's a really important thing to find the positives in this game, because it's such a quick turnaround."

Kerr was miserly with the ball, claiming 3/23 off her four overs, while Lea Tahuhu nabbed 3/37, including the key scalp of run-scoring machine Beth Mooney in the first over of the innings, courtesy of a spectacular diving catch at point by Eden Carson.

That moment was as good as it got for the Kiwis. Meg Lanning then joined Alyssa Healy at the crease and the pair immediately applied the accelerator, putting on a partnership of 70 off 54 balls to set a searing pace.

Lanning (41 off 33 balls) was eventually undone by a trademark wrong 'un from Kerr, but her departure did little to stem the tide. Ellyse Perry picked up right where her teammate left off, racing to a 50-run partnership off just 25 balls alongside Healy.

In the 16th over, Tahuhu enticed Healy into a false shot to end her masterful knock as the innings anchor at 55 off 38 balls.

The White Ferns will be encouraged by their ability to take regular wickets, somewhat mitigating the damage through the final few overs to avoid a score that threatened 190-plus.

Unfortunately for New Zealand, Schutt's early double strike ensured New Zealand's chase was essentially over before it ever got started.

Australia spinner Asleigh Gardner was named Player of the Match, recording career-best figures of 5/12.

Australia 173/9 (Healy 55,Meg Lanning 41, Perry 40; A. Kerr 3/23, Tahuhu 3/37) New Zealand 76 (Gardner 5/12, Schutt 2/8)

Australia win by 97 runs

Join us at 6am Tuesday for live updates of the T20 World Cup clash between NZ and South Africa