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Rampant Australia hammer New Zealand in World Cup opener

Australia make a winning start to their T20 World Cup defence with a 97-run victory over New Zealand; Alyssa Healy (50 off 38) set the tone with the bat as they set New Zealand 174 runs; In response, the White Ferns were bowled out for just 76, with Ash Gardner taking five wickets.

PAARL, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 11: Megan Schutt of Australia celebrates the wicket of Sophie Devine of New Zealand during the ICC Women's T20 World Cup group A match between Australia and New Zealand at Boland Park on February 11, 2023 in Paarl, South Africa. (Photo by Jan Kruger-ICC/ICC via Getty Images)
Image: Megan Schutt took two wickets in the first over

Australia comfortably beat New Zealand as they began their defence of the T20 World Cup with a 97-run win over New Zealand.

Thanks to good knocks from Alyssa Healy (55 off 38) and Meg Lanning (41 off 33) Australia set New Zealand 174 to win, and the White Ferns were bowled out for just 76 runs, with Ash Gardner finishing with career best figures of 5-12.

After being put into bat, Australia got off to the worst possible start, losing opener Beth Mooney for a duck in the first over courtesy of a great diving catch by Eden Carson off the bowling of Lea Tahuhu.

But the holders recovered well, and Healy shared a 70-run second-wicket partnership with captain Lanning.

Australia vs New Zealand - score summary

Australia 173-9 from 20 overs: (Healy 55 off 38), (Lanning 41 off 33), (Perry 40 off 22); Tahuhu (3-37), A Kerr (3-23)

New Zealand 76 all out from 20 overs: (A Kerr 21 off 30); Gardner 5-12, Schutt 2-8

New Zealand fought back, with the impressive Amelia Kerr (3-23) and Tahuhu (3-37) taking two wickets in two overs.

Those wickets didn't stop a relentless Healy, who shared a 50-run partnership with Ellyse Perry (40) as Australia looked like they would hit 180+.

With five overs left, Australia looked to accelerate and, in doing so, lost five wickets and fell from 148-4 to 167-9.

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The damage had already been done, and New Zealand were set 174 runs to win. In response, they got off to the worst possible start, losing both openers to ducks in the first over.

Suzie Bates was bowled first ball by Megan Schutt (2-8) and the seamer struck again when she trapped captain Sophie Devine lbw.

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Australia took firm control of the match when Bernadine Bezuidenhout (14 off 10) was caught by Darcie Brown in the final over off the powerplay.

Poor running between the wickets from Madeline Green (9 off 8) and Kerr, left New Zealand four down with just 50 runs on the board and when Ash Gardner bowled Kerr (21 off 30) New Zealand had a mountain to climb.

The White Ferns could never recover and were eventually bowled out for just 76 runs after just 14 overs, with Gardner taking the last four wickets.

Amelia Kerr top scored for New Zealand but only Bezuidenhout (14 off 10) and Jess Kerr (10 off 10) reached double figures in a dismal run chase.

Schutt (2-8), Brown (1-11) and Perry (1-4) supported Gardner, who took a career-best 5-12. The result is Australia biggest win in T20s, while the loss is New Zealand's biggest in this format.

New Zealand seam bowler Lea Tahuhu (Getty Images)
Image: Lea Tahuhu was the pick of the bowlers for New Zealand, taking three wickets

Gardner: Game set up by the batters

Player of the Match, Ash Gardner...

"That was set up by our batters. They allowed us a bit more freedom and flexibility with the ball. I was lucky to take the wickets in the end.

"I have worked a lot on my wrist position to get up and over the ball and try and turn it. For me, it's more about my length, taking advantage of the length I can bowl as someone quite tall."

Devine: Really disappointing day

New Zealand captain, Sophie Devine...

"I thought we were poor in all facets but we have to find the positives in a tournament like this.

Australia batted really well and I thought Lea Tahuhu and Amelia Kerr were outstanding with the ball for us.

A target of 174 was going to be tough but we lost early wickets and it was really disappointing. That is the only way to sum it up."

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Lanning: Hopefully we can kick on

Australia skipper, Meg Lanning...

"We came into today knowing it was going to be a challenge with conditions so to be able to adapt really quickly with the bat and then take early wickets, especially Bates and Devine, [was great]. Hopefully we can kick on and continue to get better."

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What's next?

New Zealand will stay in Boland Park, Paarl next, where they face South Africa Monday at 5pm. Australia turn their attention to Bangladesh at St George's Park, Gquberha on Tuesday at 5pm.

India begin their campaign on Sunday against Pakistan (1pm) before Sri Lanka, who stunned hosts South Africa on Friday night, look to make it two wins from two when they meet Bangladesh (5pm).

Watch every T20 World Cup match live on Sky Sports.

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