Mitchell Starc looks at Corey Anderson on the ground

Kneel before me: Mitchell Starc turned an easy target into a nearly impossible one, and in the process got his best ODI figures


20 Greatest ODIs: No. 16

It's Starc vs Boult, but Kane wins it in the end

The left-arm quicks created havoc on a docile Eden Park pitch until a calm young batter took matters into his own hands

Andrew Fidel Fernando  |  

New Zealand vs Australia, Pool A, Auckland, 2015 World Cup

New Zealand won by one wicket

It was pure left-arm insanity. In a World Cup mostly dominated by the bat, Eden Park produced a low-scoring thriller for the ages, a baying full house in. There was nothing in the pitch, really. No seam movement, no uncomfortable bounce. What the game did have, however, was Trent Boult and Mitchell Starc in glorious rhythm.

Boult took 5 for 27, Starc 6 for 28. Starc saw out two deliveries from a white-hot Boult, but had his middle stump go cartwheeling on the third one. When the situation was reversed, Boult had to survive only two from Starc before the over ended, and Kane Williamson regained the strike. It was on these kinds of margins that the match was decided.

But we're getting ahead of ourselves. In the early stages of either innings, there was no indication of the spectacular collapses that were to come. Australia, winning the toss and batting first, motored to 30 before losing Aaron Finch. At one point they were 80 for 1 in the 13th over, seemingly having set the foundation for a total in excess of 300, given the mammoth scores seen elsewhere in the tournament.

And then they tumbled like a Kung Fu movie extra down a stairwell. Eighty for 2, 80 for 3, 95 for 4. And then Boult steps in. He gets Glenn Maxwell playing onto his stumps, Mitchell Marsh in similar fashion, Michael Clarke chipping to short cover, Mitchell Johnson lunging and pushing one to Williamson as well, the fielder having to go low to the ground this time. When Boult takes Starc's middle stump out, Australia have nosedived to 106 for 9.

By now New Zealand have established a reputation for doing this to oppositions. Only eight days before, they had decked England for 123 in Wellington. There is no greater pleasure for New Zealand crowds than to watch Australia crash and burn. The chant goes up all around Eden Park. "You're worse than England!" Brad Haddin hits 43 and pushes Australia to 151, but this does little to dampen the triumphant atmosphere.

The name's Kane, there's ice in my veins

The name's Kane, there's ice in my veins © Getty Images

And for most of the chase, New Zealand are pelting towards the target without any major worries. Brendon McCullum brendonmccullums 50 off 24, seven fours, three sixes, running down the pitch to the fast bowlers… You know? The usual.

The Starc double strike in the ninth over, when he knocks out Ross Taylor's off stump and Grant Elliott's middle, beating them with both swing and extreme pace, quietens the crowd a bit. But even at 79 for 4, anything other than a New Zealand victory seems mad. When Williamson and Corey Anderson put on 52 together, and New Zealand are 20 runs short, with six wickets in hand with more than 30 overs to play with, it's pretty much sealed, right?

Not for Starc. Maxwell gets Anderson, and Starc, with 3 for 25 after seven overs, sends a vicious bouncer at Luke Ronchi and gets him caught behind next over. Pat Cummins dismisses Daniel Vettori to give Australia a serious glimpse at victory, and next over, Starc takes them to the brink. He swings one into Adam Milne's pads, the ball richocheting into the stumps. Tim Southee, facing an almost identical delivery, just fuller, and further towards off stump, doesn't get a deflection at all before the ball makes a mess of the stumps. New Zealand only need six to win by this stage. Starc is making it seem like 60.

No. 11 Boult is at the crease and Starc has two balls left in the over. The first is a swinging delivery in towards middle and leg. Boult gets his bat down almost studiously. The second is a full ball wide of off stump. He's got his instructions. See this one out. Hand it over to Kane. So he lets it go.

Williamson was then only just developing a reputation as a nerveless match-winner, but New Zealand fans will remember this shot for decades to come. Cummins goes for a yorker but overpitches slightly. Williamson makes room and blasts him back over his head, right into the sightscreen.

Not for the last time in this tournament, Eden Park explodes in joy, their favourite antagonists vanquished; that Starc had made it such a thriller only making the win even more delectable.

Andrew Fidel Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's Sri Lanka correspondent. @afidelf