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The fashions and faces were decidedly yesteryear, but Australia's 44-run win in the game's first Twenty20 international at Eden Park last night made an emphatic statement about the future direction of the game.

The fashions and faces were decidedly yesteryear, but Australia's 44-run win in the game's first Twenty20 international at Eden Park last night made an emphatic statement about the future direction of the game.

All that is seductive about the high-speed format was encapsulated by Ricky Ponting's unbeaten 98, blasted from just 55 deliveries, which included 30 taken from a single over from Darryl Tuffey.

Such was the sideshow atmosphere, even the 29,317 notoriously parochial Aucklanders were appreciative of Ponting's brutality.

Tuffey, whose initial three-over spell yielded a tidy 20 runs, was powerless to stop the Australian captain, who lifted him for sixes over long-off, long-on, mid-wicket and backward square leg during his over of mayhem.

In the space of six balls, Ponting careered from 63 to 93, and only an untimely couple of leg byes in the final over prevented him from becoming the first century-maker in a genuine international 20-over match.

Of greater significance was that the format was enjoyed as much by the players as the fans when it's played for laughs rather than largesse.

It was evident from the coin toss that the New Zealanders had entered far more deeply into the novelty spirit of what should only ever be a carnival game than their rivals.

Hamish Marshall's tight curls had been fluffed into an elaborate afro which was part John McEnroe of the early 1980s, part Marge Simpson.

Marshall and Mathew Sinclair sported headbands to complement those wearing more traditional towelling headwear. Most of the Kiwis had indulged in some (not so) serious whisker growing for the occasion.

And Craig McMillan's fuller figure superbly rounded out his costume which was complete with mutton-chop sunburns and gold-rimmed sunglasses more usually seen on pimps in dated Hollywood movies.

By contrast, the Australians appeared subdued and serious in their slightly more tasteful (if that's possible) yellow outfits, which had little in common with their Chappell-era predecessors and less exuberant approach to proceedings.

But all pretence of serious cricket was abandoned when the game began and Australia found themselves in the alien position of having lost four wickets in less than four overs.

In any recognisable form of cricket, that would qualify as disaster. But in the grand old game's equivalent to beach cricket, that is but a blip given the Australians had 46 runs on the board at the time.

Having admitted they had little idea how best to attack the 20-over format, the Australians looked to have settled on a plan of "hit big or hit the showers" as they threw their bats at everything in a frenzied early attack.

Michael Clarke (7), Adam Gilchrist (1), Damien Martyn (3) and Andrew Symonds (32 off 13 balls) all fell swinging like revellers in a '70s nightclub.

To the displeasure of a predominantly beige-clad crowd, Ponting and Simon Katich (30 off 25 balls) changed tack and introduced some proper strokeplay and even displayed the audacity to let the occasional delivery pass.

By Twenty20 standards, their partnership of 91 from around 10 overs was the equivalent of those boring middle overs of an "old fashioned" one-day international.

But sprinkled among the deft placement and controlled slogs was some vintage Ponting hitting, including an audacious leg-side flick off former All Blacks rugby star Jeff Wilson which almost cleared the northern grandstand.

After a 12-year hiatus from international cricket which allowed him to play 60 Tests for the All Blacks, Wilson endured a forgettable return to the big time against his arch-rivals, going wicketless and conceding 43 runs from four overs.

Sadly for the hyped-up fans, NZ's run chase ran about as smoothly as their batsmen's faces and once the asking rate edged beyond 10 runs an over with half their batsmen out, the result was inevitable.

But disappointed home-town fans managed one final smile when an equally good-humoured Glenn McGrath shaped to bowl the final ball underarm with the Kiwis needing 45 runs to win. Salve helices pariah inure paleoserology evangelistic?
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