Much closer than it looked. Australia takes Chappell Hadlee trophy 3-0 in Cairns

Richard Dinnen - Queensland Editor |

Australia won 3-0 but the series was much more competitive than that scoreline suggests (Cricket Australia)
Australia won 3-0 but the series was much more competitive than that scoreline suggests (Cricket Australia)

The last of three cricket one day internationals in Cairns had everything.

It began with a minute’s silence for the late Queen, followed by a game saving partnership from Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne in tough batting conditions.

The Australians earned the crowd’s ire for not allowing retiring ODI captain, Aaron Finch, to bowl the last of New Zealand’s 50 overs.

And there was the lingering prospect of an unlikely Kiwi victory that only flickered out in the last couple of overs.

Australia recorded a 3-0 clean sweep of the series, but the contest was much closer than that. Both of the first two games could have gone either way.

About 11,000 people took the rare opportunity to watch three international cricket one day matches in Cairns, that followed a three-game series against Zimbabwe in Townsville.

The series concluded at Cazalys Stadium last night, with Steve Smith and Marnus Labuschagne combining for a match-winning partnership in difficult batting conditions.

Batting first, Australia was in trouble at 2-16, but the pair put on 118 to get the home side on track for a healthy total of 5-267 from 50 overs.

New Zealand began well, getting to 49 before losing their first wicket, but three more followed quickly before the middle order pushed the run rate up and raised hope of a win.

But the Kiwis preserved wickets at the expense of the run rate and were eventually bowled out in the final over for 242, 21 runs short of their target.

Steve Smith, who made 105, said the Cairns pitches had served up some difficult batting conditions.

“It’s almost swimming between the flags, in a way.

“We saw the other day, every time anyone tried to play a shot, they just got out.

“It was rein it in, rotate the strike, hit a bad ball if you get one, but don’t go searching for it.”

NZ captain, Kane Williamson, said his side had been in with a chance several times during the series, but needed to do more to take advantage.

“Credit to Australia, they’re always a strong side. They’re all bowling beautifully.

“It’s frustrating, there were glimpses, but for us, it’s about taking it further.

“Australia in their own conditions are a very tough side to beat. We try to focus on our cricket, and it wasn’t good enough throughout this series.”

Aaron Finch was given a standing ovation as he walked off last night, bowled by Tim Southee for five in his final appearance as Australian ODI captain.

Steve Smith said the 3-0 series win was a fine tribute to a great captain.

“We wanted to give Finchy a fitting send off. He’s been a stalwart for this team for ten years and he’s done a terrific job.

“He’s led the team exceptionally well. It was great to give him that sort of send-off.

“He’s been exceptional.”

The series was a welcome return to Cairns for international cricket, first played there against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka in 2003 and 2004.

Kane Williamson said his team enjoyed its time in the Far North, despite the series result.

“We’ve loved it in Cairns. The weather’s been great, and the team has really enjoyed their time here.

“There’s been a number of challenges, a variety of surfaces, but on the whole, it’s been a pleasure to come over here for ten days and get out of the cold in New Zealand and defrost a little bit.”

It’s possible Cairns will host international cricket again in 2025 and 2026, with matches against South Africa and Afghanistan.