A century partnership between Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne lifted Australia from a precarious early position to reach 267-5 from their 50 overs in the third one-day international against New Zealand on Sunday.
Smith scored his first ODI century in nearly two years and Labuschgane made a half-century as the hosts recovered from losing two early wickets, including captain Aaron Finch cheaply in the veteran opener’s final ODI before retiring.
Trailing 2-0 in the three-game series at Cairns in northern Queensland state, skipper Kane Williamson won the toss and sent the home team in to bat, and like the first two games the tourist bowlers made early breakthroughs to have Australia at 16-2 in the 6th over.
Smith and Labuschagne then combined for a 122-run stand that steadied the innings and another solid contribution from Alex Carey (42 not out) and a late quickfire cameo by Cameron Green lifted the target well beyond 250.
Trent Boult continued Australia’s top-order woes in the fourth over, dismissing Josh Inglis for 10 caught behind. Inglis was brought into the team after David Warner was released from the squad to rest ahead of an upcoming heavy workload.
Finch, playing his final game after announcing his retirement from international ODIs, survived a close leg before an appeal from Tim Southee in the 4th over. The reprieve was only momentary as Finch was dismissed in the next Southee over, with the seamer finding a large gap between Finch’s bat and pad to bowl the veteran opener for five.
The 35-year-old was given a standing ovation by the modest crowd at Cazaly Stadium as he walked off for the final time in ODIs. Finch will continue to captain Australia’s Twenty20 side and will lead it in defense of its world title when the T20 World Cup is played in October and November in Australia.
Finch’s wicket brought Labuschagne to the crease and the Queensland-state native set about steadying the Australia innings with Smith before becoming more expansive in the middle overs.
Labuschagne got to his half-century off 75 balls, with two boundaries, before skewing a shot off paceman Lockie Ferguson that Boult easily claimed in the deep to have Australia at 134-3.
Smith continued his faultless innings and brought up his 12th ODI century off 127 balls with a clip to fine leg off Southee in the 44th over. It was Smith first ODI century since November 2020 when he made successive hundreds against India at the Sydney Cricket Ground.
Glenn Maxwell made 14 off eight balls before trying to clear the fielder at fine leg and falling short.
Green, back in the side after being rested for Thursday’s second game, made an unbeaten 25 and added 40 runs from 21 balls with Carey to see Australia speed past 250 in the final overs.