Agence France Presse

Wellington, March 1:

World champions Australia underscored their overwhelming dominance of the one-day game by thrashing second-ranked New Zealand by seven wickets with 16 overs to spare at Basin Reserve here on Tuesday. After dismissing New Zealand for 233 on the penultimate ball of their 50 overs, Australian stand-in captain Adam Gilchrist led a rollicking response that saw the tourists reach the target in the 34th over for the loss of just three wickets. Gilchrist and Simon Katich opened with a 78-run partnership in 60 balls, and destroyed the morale of New Zealand’s bowling attack as Australia cruised through the fourth one-day match to stay on course for a 5-0 clean sweep. It was a timely return to form for Gilchrist who had been out of sorts earlier in the first three matches, as he smacked 54 from 37 balls including eight fours and a six.

Not to be outdone, Damien Martyn hit an unbeaten 65 from 78 balls, and Andrew Symonds had three sixes and four fours in his 48 off 37 balls. The rout came after New Zealand had made their best start of the series with an 84-run opening stand by Nathan Astle and Stephen Fleming. Batting first for the first time in the series after Gilchrist won the toss, Fleming and Astle raced along at five an over in the highest opening stand against Australia by any side in the past 12 months. After opening stands of 13, four and seven in the series to date, Astle and Fleming relished the good pitch and were largely untroubled by pace duo Brett Lee and Glenn McGrath. Fleming was hit on the arm early on by Lee but then took charge, hitting his 37 off 52 balls including a hooked six off Jason Gillespie.

Gillespie, though, broke the partnership in the 17th over when Fleming hit him to Lee at mid on. Lee was earlier withdrawn after conceding 20 runs off four wicketless overs. Astle, who charged McGrath to hit consecutive boundaries down the ground, tried it once too often to Australia’s fourth paceman Michael Kasprowicz and edged a catch to wicketkeeper Gilchrist.

Astle also scored 37 off 61 balls, including six fours. But once New Zealand were reduced to 90 for two, after both openers fell within 14 balls of each other, Australia gained control and never relinquished it.

Hamish Marshall (23) and Craig McMillan (35) put on 41 for the fourth wicket, and Chris Cairns later chipped in with a meaty 36, but there was little other sign of resistance.

Australia omitted captain Ricky Ponting with a minor thigh strain and spinner Brad Hogg, meaning all four of their pacemen played. Lee, McGrath and Gillespie took two wickets each while perhaps the best was Michael Kasprowicz who took 1-34 off eight overs. Debutante James Hopes took a tidy 1-38 off 10 overs.