It reached the final but Australia ensured their captain Aaron Finch retired from 50-over cricket with a series sweep over New Zealand as the hosts went on to win the third and final one-day international by 25 runs.
In his 146th and final ODI for his country, Finch’s side set the Black Caps 268 to win at the Cazalys Stadium in Cairns after Steve Smith anchored their innings with 105 runs off 131 balls, his 12th ODI century.
New Zealand chased valiantly, their openers flying out of the gates, their captain Kane Williamson steady at the crease and their middle order gunning them to death. But, as happened in the first two games, losing wickets at inopportune times cost the visitors dearly. Their openers fell within three overs of each other and when Tom Latham departed for 10, they had lost three for 28.
The dangerous Darryl Mitchell led Smith after a quick 16, and when Williamson was run out in a disastrous mix-up with Glenn Phillips, New Zealand were in trouble at 5 for 112. Their middle began to rally. Phillips and James Neesham put on their best partnership of the series (69 off 58), and after Neesham was caught at long-on for 36 off 34 balls, Phillips and Mitchell Sandner combined for a 51-run stand.
When Phillips was caught for 47, the Black Caps’ charge faded. They were bowled out for 242 off 49.5 overs to continue Australia’s record unbeaten ODI run since 2009.
Finch tempted the crowd before the final over by pretending to warm up for a bowl, but Mitchell Starc took the last two wickets to wrap up the series 3-0. While Finch was unable to produce a fairytale farewell innings – which was clean cut by Tim Southee for five – Australia’s total was the highest in this Chappell-Hadlee series.
The Black Caps took key early wickets again but lightning did not strike three times as Smith and Marnus Labuschagne’s 118-run partnership prevented the visitors from inflicting a third consecutive top-order collapse.
After Finch departed to a standing ovation, Australia were 2 for 19 from 10 overs before Smith and Labuschagne got to work. The pair lifted the bat on each other, for Smith his 28th ODI half-century and Labuschagne his fifth, before the latter departed after an errant shot by Lockie Ferguson.
Smith then became only the third Australian to score an ODI century this year, after Travis Head and Ben McDermott, before Santner ended his stay on 131 balls in the 45th over. Labuschagne, Alex Carey and Cameron Green added valuable runs to set the Black Caps a tough target.