Rain saves Australia in Champions Trophy washout

BIRMINGHAM: Rain came to the rescue for Australia as its Champions Trophy match against New Zealand was frustratingly abandoned as a no result at Edgbaston on Friday.

Set a victory target of 235 off 33 overs, the world champion was struggling at 53-3 after nine overs when the players went off the field for a third rain delay of the match.

They did not come back on and both teams collected a point in Group A.

The Australians can consider themselves fortunate as they were behind the run rate and lost explosive openers David Warner (18) and Aaron Finch (8), as well as Moises Henriques (18).

"I'd have preferred to be in New Zealand's position when we came off there," said Australia captain Steve Smith, who was 8 not out. "We still had a lot of work to do and they've got a quality bowling attack as well. So we perhaps got away with one there."

Kane Williamson's assured knock of exactly 100, after Luke Ronchi's 65 off 43 balls against the country he once represented, helped New Zealand post a competitive total of 291 all out in 45 overs.

"We can't control the weather," Williamson said, "although it is a little frustrating.

"We were playing some good cricket and it would have been good to see how the game unfolded."

New Zealand's innings was interrupted early on by a rain delay of nearly two hours, before the showers arrived as soon as paceman Josh Hazlewood skittled out the bottom order with three wickets in four balls in what proved to be the final over.

Hazlewood had career-best figures of 6-52 off nine overs, and the second best figures in trophy history.

The group game between the trans-Tasman rivals at Edgbaston in the 2013 Champions Trophy was washed out, too. Neither country reached the semifinals that year.

Tournament host England beat Bangladesh by eight wickets in Group A on Thursday and is top on two points.

Williamson underscored his status as one of the players to watch in this tournament, easing into his 97-ball innings before splattering Australia's much-feared pace attack around Edgbaston with an array of shots. The captain struck eight fours and three sixes by the time he was run out with 6.5 overs remaining — moments after reaching three figures — after deliberating with Neil Broom as they tried to nick a single.

That left the New Zealanders still well-placed on 254-4 but a late-innings flourish failed to materialize.

Broom (14), James Neesham (6) and Corey Anderson (8) went cheaply. Adam Milne was caught for 11 on the boundary after hitting two boundaries and Hazlewood enticed a nick off Trent Boult (0) to collect the final four wickets.

Earlier, Ronchi — born in New Zealand but raised in Australia, for whom he played seven limited-overs internationals in 2008-09 — provided some entertainment with three sixes and nine fours in a 43-ball salvo as a pinch-hitting opener.

The wicketkeeper, selected ahead of Tim Latham, struck 24 after the Black Caps won the toss and opted to bat, before showers arrived at the central England venue with New Zealand 67-1. Ronchi returned with more lusty blows amid the best atmosphere of the innings, completing his first ODI fifty in the last 37 innings dating to January and his 170 against Sri Lanka.

When Ronchi departed, caught at point by Glenn Maxwell, New Zealand was motoring along at 117-2 and would have expected to make 300.

"I thought it was probably one of the worst bowling displays that we've put on for a very long time," Smith said. "Let's hope it's rust and let's hope it's gone. Because that was pretty ordinary."

Australia came out to bat under overcast skies, and Warner was first to depart at 27-1 when he edged behind off Trent Boult.

Milne then removed Finch and Henriques, who both looked out of sorts.

Australia was eliminated without winning a game four years ago, and is already up against it.

"It's obviously not ideal for both sides to have a washout," Smith said. "For us now, it's just about making sure that we're playing each game like a final and winning the next two."

On Saturday, South Africa plays Sri Lanka.