Travis Head's blazing hundred and game awareness in crunch moments helped Australia negate a marvellous century by Rachin Ravindra and register a thrilling five-run victory over New Zealand in the World Cup match in Dharamsala on Saturday.
Head’s destructive 109 off 67 balls and his opening partner David Warner’s 81 off 65 during their 175-run alliance upfront gelled well with some late-order biffing as the Aussies overcame a middle-order meltdown to post 388 all out, after being put in to bat.
Ravindra then scored a sparkling 116 off 89 balls and James Neesham a manic 39-ball 58, but the Kiwis could only manage 383 and suffered their second successive defeat in the tournament.
The cumulative score of 771 posted by the two teams is highest aggregate total in a World Cup game, surpassing the 754 collectively notched by South Africa (428) and Sri Lanka (326) in New Delhi on October 7, in this tournament.
With this win Australia have eight points from six matches, the same as New Zealand, and are firmly entrenched at No. 4.
But that position did not come without its moments of anxiety. Ravindra gave them the biggest of them all with an innings that belied his tender age of 23.
The left-hander does not have a big frame, but what he does have is immense timing that allows him to send the ball miles into the stands when required.
Pat Cummins will vouch for that. Ravindra picked up a length ball outside the off-stump from the pacer to cart it over the covers for a six. It was a stunner.
His batting is easy on the eyes as well – good enough back-lift and a flowing follow-through make him a good addition to the elegant left-handers' club.
But those technicalities aside, his temperament too should be patted as he batted without even an iota of pressure against a set of battle-hardened Aussies.
The Wellington lad, who was dropped on 100 by Glenn Maxwell off his own bowling, also pieced together good stands with fellow-opener Devon Conway (61), 96 with Darryl Mitchell (54) for the third wicket and 54 with Tom Latham (21) for the fourth.
Ravindra reached his hundred off 77 balls with a fine six off Maxwell over deep mid-wicket. It was his second hundred in this World Cup after the one in the tournament opener against England at Ahmedabad.
He also joined Kane Williamson, Martin Guptill and Glenn Turner as the only Kiwi batters to score two hundreds in the World Cup.
But all that ended when he gave a catch to Maxwell in the deep off Cummins.
Neesham did try his best to take Black Caps home with a breezy fifty but some limb-forgetting fielding by the Aussies on a dodgy HPCA stadium outfield in the last few overs denied the Kiwis a remarkable win.
Australia, especially Marnus Labuschagne, were quite exceptional in that phase and they even had to field with five fielders inside the ring in the final over for slow over-rate.
But they summoned every ounce of experience and athleticism to emerge on the right side of the result.
Earlier, Head, who replaced Cameron Green in the playing 11, and Warner garnered 175 runs in a mere 19.1 overs during a thundering opening alliance.
Head was over-aggressive in his partnership with Warner, taking on New Zealand’s bowlers with disdain, and it was tough to imagine that this was actually his first match of the tournament.
The left-hander replaced Mitchell Marsh, who came in at No. 3, at pole position and never really made Australia feel the absence of the big-hitting 'Bison'.
Fortune also favoured Head while cruising to his fourth ODI hundred. He was dropped by Mitchell Santner off his own bowling when was on 70. The Aussies were 143 for no loss then.
Five runs later, Glenn Phillips at cover allowed the ball whizz through his hands as Head tried to clatter spinner Rachin Ravindra.
But those blips apart, Head and Warner were super smooth at the crease, pulling, cutting and driving at will to make runs around the field.
It has also to be said that the Kiwis bowlers, normally a frugal unit under Trent Boult, could not hit the right lines on this day and their fielders too remained butterfingered, dropping as many as five catches.
New Zealand were also not helped by the absence of pacer Lockie Ferguson, who conceded 38 runs in three overs, as he left the field with pain in his right Achilles.
The two left-handed batters exploited those lapses and slices of fortune to the hilt. In fact, Warner reached his fifty off 28 balls and Head his half-century off 25.
It was also the second occasion in ODIs when both the openers recorded 50s inside 30 balls.
The Aussie pair of Head and Marsh had done it against India earlier this March at Visakhapatnam in the second ODI.
With the openers in overdrive 118 runs cascaded in the first Power Play, which contained a total of 10 sixes – six by Warner and four by Head.
But the breaks came in after Warner's dismissal, caught by spinner Phillips off his own bowling.
The spin trio of Phillips, Santner and Ravindra stifled the Australian middle-order as the pitch too seemed to have tempered down a bit at this juncture.
Phillips cleaned up Head with a quicker one, while Marsh, Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne also fell to the gang of slow men as the Aussies lost four wickets for 74 runs in that period.
The five-time champions needed some momentum from 274 for 5, and Glenn Maxwell (41 off 24 balls), Josh Inglis (38 off 28 balls) and captain Pat Cummins (37 off 14 balls) provided that.
Maxwell and Inglis milked 62 runs between 44.4 and 47th over.