New Zealand XI 3 for 283 (Young 130) beat Australian XI 6 for 277 (Smith 89*, Khawaja 56, Maxwell 52) by seven wickets
An increasingly confident innings from Steven Smith and the return to action of Mitchell Starc provided the good news for Australia, but it was a distinctly mixed day as they were comfortably beaten by the New Zealand XI who secured a seven-wicket victory in Brisbane on the back of Will Young’s 130.
Pace bowler Jhye Richardson was also ruled out of the World Cup and David Warner fell for a duck on his return to opening the batting before the visitors, without ten of their main squad, reached their target of 278 with 16 balls to spare. It followed the Australians’ batting collapse in the opening match when they scrambled to a one-wicket win.
Smith’s 89 not out off 77 balls, coming at No. 5, was his highest score in a 50-over match – albeit an unofficial one – for more than two years since an unbeaten 108 against Pakistan in January 2017. Glenn Maxwell, with a crisp 52 off 44 balls, and Usman Khawaja also made half-centuries.
The uncapped Young, who faces up to nine months on the sidelines due to upcoming shoulder surgery, was the star of the chase reaching his century off 110 balls. He added 133 for the second wicket with George Worker, after Starc had struck third ball to castle Hamish Rutherford, then put on 130 for the third with captain Tom Latham who made an unbeaten 69.
Starc, playing his first competitive match since the final Test against Sri Lanka in February, bowled with impressive pace – clocking 148kph during his first spell – and returned to spear a rapid yorker through Worker. He was limited to two short spells after the lengthy time on the sidelines, finishing with for 2 for 14 from five overs, but looks primed to lead Australia’s attack at the World Cup.
However, in the absence of the rested Pat Cummins and Adam Zampa, the rest of the attack was somewhat pedestrian. Kane Richardson, who has replaced Jhye for the World Cup, went wicketless for the second match running, neither Sean Abbott or Michael Neser, who are both part of the A squad could make an impact, and Nathan Lyon was milked for 54 from his ten. Without Jhye and Josh Hazlewood, a lot appears to rest on Starc and Cummins.
The Australians batted first by agreement having bowled in the opening match when there was a toss. It was tough going early on against excellent new-ball spells from Hamish Bennett and Doug Bracewell. Warner drove Bracewell to cover in the second over and captain Aaron Finch was caught behind as the Australians managed 2 for 29 in the first ten overs.
Khawaja, who was dropped on 6 at square leg, and Shaun Marsh rebuilt and steadily increased the tempo before Marsh was caught behind. Khawaja went to his half-century off 64 balls but his innings was then cut short by a stinging catch at short midwicket by Jimmy Neesham who grabbed onto a powerful pull shot.
Smith and Maxwell then added a brisk stand of 81 for the fifth wicket which was dominated by the latter as Smith continued to find his feet. When Maxwell fell after threatening to really cut loose in the final ten overs, Smith took charge of the closing stages, tallying four sixes including increasingly inventive strokeplay as he plundered 39 off his last 17 deliveries. The innings was warmly applauded in what is becoming a successful week for him.
However, overall the Australians have been short of their best in the first two matches of the week and will be keen for a dominant finish before getting on the plane on Friday night.