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Ash Gardner takes 5-12 as Australia humbles New Zealand in T20 World Cup win

Ash Gardner's spin bowling routed New Zealand at the T20 World Cup in South Africa.

Ash Gardner's spin bowling routed New Zealand at the T20 World Cup in South Africa. Photo: AAP

Ashleigh Gardner’s career-best 5-12, Alyssa Healy’s 38-ball 55 and a double-wicket opening over from Megan Schutt have sparked Australia’s resounding 97-run win over New Zealand in their T20 World Cup opener.

Gardner’s maiden international five-for helped skittle the opposition for just 76 runs inside 14 overs as the reigning champions successfully defended 173 on a two-paced surface in Paarl, South Africa on Sunday.

“That’s, honestly, probably my second five-for of my whole career,” Player of the Match Gardner said.

“So, to do it on the international stage… I think about probably two or three years ago, I didn’t bowl a lot in this format.

“And I’m really trying to take that with two hands and every opportunity I get, I try to put my team in a winning position but ultimately just try and bowl my best ball over and over again.

“Today I was lucky enough to take five wickets and it’s certainly something that I’ll cherish forever and something I am super proud of.”

Earlier, Healy made an impressive return from a calf injury that had kept her out of the XI since the fourth T20I in India mid-December as she dominated the Kiwi attack.

Australia’s vice-captain found able support in Meg Lanning and Ellyse Perry, who struck 41 off 33 and a 22-ball 40, respectively.

Any fears after losing opener Beth Mooney in the first over – thanks to a spectacular catch by Eden Carson at point – were allayed in quick time.

Lanning and Healy took Australia to 1-47 in the PowerPlay en route to a 70-run, second-wicket stand.

That ended when a googly from leg-spinner Amelia Kerr (3-24) thwarted Lanning’s trademark cut, producing a rare scream of frustration from Australia’s captain as the ball skidded on and rammed into the top of off stump.

No.5 Perry then put together a rapid fourth-wicket 50 stand with Healy, who reached her 13th T20I half-century off just 35 balls, with a flick into the midwicket region.

By the end of the 15th over, Australia had 3-126 on the board.

Reintroduced into the attack for her third spell, Leah Tahuhu (3-37) had Healy hole out at long-on soon after.

Perry continued the offensive, with Australia reaching 150 in the 17th over a ball after Grace Harris (14) fell short of her ground at the non-striker’s end in a botched second run.

Kerr then dented Australia’s death-overs momentum with a double-wicket 18th over, trapping Perry lbw before having Jess Jonassen caught for a duck.

New Zealand’s chase was rendered lifeless from the outset as medium-pacer Schutt removed big guns Suzie Bates (bowled) and Sophie Devine (lbw) for a duck apiece in the first over.

Gardner, the last of the seven bowlers Lanning deployed on the night, then dictated the proceedings to rout New Zealand with her three overs.

The 25-year-old off-spinner ran through the middle and lower order, starting when she bowled top-scorer Kerr (21) in the ninth over.

“We spoke about at the halfway point: Just to keep the stumps in play.

“You see balls either bouncing quite high or staying quite low,” Gardner said.

“So, that was our simple mindset.”

Her delectable change of trajectory on a surface that was used in the England vs West Indies fixture earlier in Saturday’s double header, ensured Australia’s title defence began with huge momentum.

-AAP

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