Australia's middle-order masterclass tops New Zealand in opening T20

Australia survived an early scare at North Sydney Oval, before half-centuries from Meg Lanning (56 not out) and Rachael Haynes (69 not out) guided them to a six-wicket win over New Zealand in the first of three Twenty20 matches.

Chasing 163 to win, the Aussies showed their intent from the outset, Alyssa Healy smacking the first ball of their innings to the fence. They grabbed 13 off the first over, before Beth Mooney was caught in the deep off the bowling of Leigh Kasperek in the second.

Class act: Meg Lanning guides the ball away during her match-winning partnership with Rachael Haynes.

Class act: Meg Lanning guides the ball away during her match-winning partnership with Rachael Haynes.

Healy departed shortly after, trapped in front off Sophie Devine. Die-hard Collingwood fan Elyse Villani's day went from bad to worse, as she suffered the same fate just two balls later.

In the blink of an eye, Australia had lost three wickets for just nine runs, and were well and truly on the ropes.

That saw skipper Meg Lanning stride to the crease, with a mountain to climb – and the summit appeared to poke even further into the atmosphere when Ashleigh Gardner departed for seven not long after.

Rachael Haynes was the next woman up, and the two immediately set about steadying the ship with a mixture of power and finesse – their 50 partnership coming from just 41 deliveries.

From there the result seemed like a foregone conclusion. Apart from a couple of half chances in the 16th over, New Zealand never looked like regaining a foothold in the contest, despite an impressive showing of their own in the first innings.

Haynes was full of praise for her captain after the game.

"When you're walking out to bat and Meg's down the other end, you go out with a lot of confidence. She's such a free-flowing player, it makes it really easy for the player coming in just to find their way," she said.

"[Meg] plays with a lot of confidence, sometimes it's pretty amazing, some of the things she does, watching from the other end."

Haynes admitted that she was possibly in career best form, and that slowing down to appreciate her situation had made her a better player.

"I'm a lot more relaxed about the whole thing, to be honest. When I was younger I probably was a bit too intense and didn't take the time to enjoy it.

"I came to the ground today and I just thought it was awesome. There was heaps of people around, it was a really positive buzz and a great atmosphere."

Cricket's continuing bid to align itself with younger generations was evident at the boutique ground, with kiosks for the likes of Black Star Pastry and Gelato Messina interspersed behind the hill along with all the usual stadium fare.

But the 3026 fans in attendance hardly had the time to tuck into their watermelon cake or salted caramel ice cream before the home side had their first wicket.

The Australian bowlers kept it tight in the opening dozen deliveries before the breakthrough came in the third over, Suzie Bates being fooled by Ellyse Perry's first ball of the night – with the ball skidding rather than bouncing past her and into the stumps.

New Zealand may have lost Bates, ranked second in the world in the ICC T20 rankings, cheaply, but her fellow opener and world No.9 Devine was there to quickly fill the void, smashing a couple of boundaries off Perry and another off Megan Schutt, before a glorious six over mid-wicket in Delissa Kimmince's first over cleared the hill.

Momentum shift: Sophie Devine of New Zealand celebrates the wicket of Alyssa Healy.

Momentum shift: Sophie Devine of New Zealand celebrates the wicket of Alyssa Healy.

As the Kiwis cruised past 50, they finally lost a second wicket – in bizarre fashion. Debutant Georgia Wareham claimed her first scalp via a stumping, on a delivery that was called wide. Jess Watkin wandered too far and some quick glovework from Healy sent the 20-year-old on her way for 18 off 15 balls.

Devine's entertaining knock of 43 came to an end shortly after, but not without controversy – caught by Mooney off Gardner, although many around the ground met the third umpire's decision with jeers, replays suggesting the ball hit the ground first.

“I thought it bounced before, but I guess that’s cricket, isn’t it? Next one," said a nonplussed Devine as she left the pitch, having been miked up by Channel Seven during her innings.

New Zealand coach Haidee Tiffen was equally miffed.

"I was disappointed with the decision – from our point of view, we felt that it had bounced," Tiffen said.

"I will be speaking to the match referee after this, just to get some clarification … I think it did impact the match."

Haynes however, immediately came to the defence of her teammate.

"I was two metres from it. There's no doubt in my mind that it carried. I know it didn't look great front on TV, but I thought Beth definitely her hand under it."

New Zealand had accrued 73 at the halfway point, with skipper Amy Satterthwaite and keeper Katey Martin at the crease, knowing one of them would be needed to steer the Kiwis to a solid score after 20 overs.

Death rattle: Maddy Green of New Zealand is bowled by Australia's Megan Schutt.

Death rattle: Maddy Green of New Zealand is bowled by Australia’s Megan Schutt.

But there was to be no gritty partnership between the pair of veterans, Gardner getting the rival captain to hole out to Haynes at mid-on.

It was then left to Martin to steer New Zealand to the finish line, farming the strike in the final few overs before a late Bernadine Bezuidenhout cameo saw two consecutive Kimmince deliveries over the leg side boundary for six.

Martin brought up her 50 with two balls to go, a cover drive for four one delivery after smashing a six over mid-wicket. Those invaluable late fireworks saw the Kiwis post 5-162, but it wouldn't be enough.

The two sides will meet again on Monday.

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