SYLHET - It was billed as a battle of the heavyweights, but the match barely lived up to the high standards the two teams have set for themselves over the years. The ICC Women’s World Twenty20 game between Australia and New Zealand was reduced to a scrap midway through, but Suzie Bates, the New Zealand captain, played her slow bowling options to perfection as Australia, the defending champion, was outclassed by seven runs in the Group A opener at the Sylhet Divisional Stadium on Sunday.

Upward of 8,000 people turned up to witness the tournament opener on a sparkling day and had their money’s worth as the seesaw battle entered the last over with both sides in with a shot: Australia needed 10 runs, but had just two wickets in hand. Sarah Coyte, who had bowled admirably to return figures of 2 for 8 in her four overs earlier, had been dismissed in the previous over, and Frances Mackay stole the honours with the wicket of Holly Ferling after Rene Farrell had been run out to seal the deal.

Spin and slow bowling was the order of the day on a pitch that demanded application from the batters. New Zealand posted 128 for 8 after being sent in to bat on the back of Nicola Brown's cameo of 31. Mackay chipped in with 25 quickfire runs at the top, but New Zealand seemed to have dug itself into a hole. Bates was the first to go when she failed to read Jess Jonassen's arm-ball that caught her plumb in front of middle stump in the second over. The loss of an early wicket didn't prevent Sara McGlashan from playing her natural game as she smashed Ferling twice over the infield in her first over. But her 'live by the sword and die by it' mantra also accounted for her downfall.

At 27 for 2 in the sixth over, the heat was on New Zealand. Erin Osborne, the offspinner, choked runs superbly in the middle overs, but the pressure was released courtesy some inventive batting by Mackay. Unafraid to step out or walk across to play the paddle, she set the tempo on a surface where stroke making wasn't particularly easy. At various stages, New Zealand looked in danger of posting a total far below what it eventually did, but Katie Perkins came to the rescue by scoring a 36-ball 31 to steer them to a fighting total, with Katy Martin making a vital 15.

BRIEF SCORES: New Zealand Women 128 for 8 (Perkins 31, Browne 29, Jonassen 2-22, Coyte 2-8) beat Australia Women 121 (Healy 41, Blackwell 31, Huddleston 2-23) by 7 runs.