Black Caps pipped in final ball thriller

Mitch Marsh celebrates after Tim David hit the winning runs off the final ball of the T20I...
Mitch Marsh celebrates after Tim David hit the winning runs off the final ball of the T20I against the Black Caps in Wellington last night. Photo: Getty Images
The Black Caps will hope a trip home has Devon Conway feeling more comfortable at the crease.

The opening batter collected 63 much-needed runs as the Black Caps posted 215-3 in the first T20 against Australia in Wellington, before the tourists completed their third-highest chase to earn a six-wicket win.

Needing 16 from Tim Southee’s final over and four off the last ball, Tim David (31no off 10) smeared the boundary he required under the despairing dive of Glenn Phillips, somewhat spoiling Conway’s night.

The 32-year-old has spent four months battling for form, unable to snap his slump while facing a second-string South African attack across four innings earlier this month.

But ahead of an imposing two-test date with Australia’s best, Conway boosted his confidence against those same formidable bowlers on Wednesday night.

It was hardly a vintage knock. Miscues were as common as boundaries in a 46-ball innings that produced what eventually proved an insufficient strike rate.

More pertinently, though, Conway found the middle with enough frequency to suggest his impeccable timing and elegant touch would soon return in full.

After Finn Allen (32 off 17) made his customary fast start, Conway was joined in the middle by what’s becoming a comfort blanket in Rachin Ravindra.

The Wellington teammates have ample experience batting together and Ravindra was at the opposite end when Conway recorded his last score of note, an unbeaten 152 against England to light up the ODI World Cup.

The pair on that occasion blew away the defending champions with a 273-run stand. This 113-run partnership wasn’t quite as impressive — and the stakes weren’t quite so high — but it was still pleasing for both batters.

Conway’s early runs came with fortune, slicing barely wide of the field and top-edging for six. On another night, the ball could have gone to hand, concerns over his form compounding.

But luck has rarely been on Conway’s side in recent outings — coach Gary Stead last week pointed to a few nice drives off the Proteas before the opener fell on the final ball of the day.

Conway soon added a couple of shots of class against Australia, carving through point to the fence before pulling visiting test captain Pat Cummins over the rope. That helped the hosts race to 68-1 to end the powerplay, before Allen’s wicket precipitated a 32-ball boundary drought that Conway ended with a slog-swept six.

Ravindra, too, was uneven to start, having received a hero’s welcome in the first of his 50 internationals to be played in the city of his birth. Scratching to 14 from 16, the next 19 deliveries Ravindra faced reaped 54 runs, regularly dropping to one knee before sending the ball high into the stands.

The 24-year-old presented six catching opportunities to the crowd. He smashed three alone from Adam Zampa’s 15th over, before finally finding a boundary-rider to depart for 68 off 35.

Conway followed after mis-hitting the next ball, having reached a half-century for the first time in 21 innings — and in his first in Wellington since scoring 78 against Sri Lanka last March.

Defending their second-highest T20 score at Sky Stadium, Southee snagged a fine over-the-shoulder catch to remove Travis Head before Mitchell Santner (2-42) took immediate revenge after David Warner had cracked him for consecutive sixes.

Australia reached 110-2 at the halfway mark with Glenn Maxwell in imposing touch, until the pace of Lockie Ferguson (1-23) proved too much for the dangerman.

Unfortunately for the hosts, another big hitter was on the way to join Mitch Marsh (72no off 44) in the middle, with Tim David scoring three straight boundaries to take 19 off Adam Milne in the penultimate over before dispatching Southee in the last to finish the job.