The Hussey brothers ensured the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy would be decided by Friday's final match in Brisbane after they helped Australia to a six-wicket win that levelled the series 2-2. For the first time in the series New Zealand batted first and they posted a moderate 244, which on a good pitch was not enough against an Australian batting order starting to find form.
The game was to some degree overshadowed by the Victorian bushfire appeal that surrounded it, with contributions from players, sponsors, spectators and administrators totalling just over $6 million. But while Australia had failed to beat South Africa at the same venue on Australia Day, this time they did get over the line at Adelaide on another special, if more sombre, occasion.
Fittingly Michael Hussey brought up the win with a six over long-on, adding another $5000 to the tally after the Commonwealth Bank pledged that amount for every six in the game. It confirmed the win with ten balls to spare but much of the hard work was done by Australia's bowlers, who did well to restrict New Zealand to a middling total.
However, there were a couple of jitters in the Australian camp when Brad Haddin, fresh from a century in Sydney on Sunday and looking good once again, was run out for 43 thanks to an awful call from David Hussey. It left Australia at 3 for 101 in the 25th over and the match was very much in the balance.
The onus was then on the out-of-form Hussey to repay his side with a big innings and he delivered. He struck his highest one-day international score of 79 and combined in a 115-run partnership with his older brother that made sure the required run-rate was never too much more than six.
Importantly Australia made sensible use of the batting Powerplay, which they took with nine overs to go and a further 55 runs required. David Hussey punched the ball confidently through the off-side gaps and although he fell during the five-over period, bowled by an Iain O'Brien yorker, Australia were by then in control and took 37 runs from the Powerplay.
In his first ODI at his home venue, Callum Ferguson calmly helped Michael Hussey pick off the remaining runs and they got home with ease. Michael Hussey's unbeaten 75 was yet another superb innings - he entered the game with a lowest score of 49 from his past four efforts - and he made New Zealand pay for putting him down twice.
The first was a terribly hard chance when he was on 3 and pulled Daniel Vettori viciously to midwicket, where Martin Guptill just got his fingertips to the ball. But the second opportunity was particularly frustrating for New Zealand as Hussey pulled Grant Elliott hard and flat into the deep, where Craig Cumming spilled what he should have taken. It was not a good return to ODIs after a near four-year absence for Cumming, who had earlier made a duck.
He was not the only one of the New Zealanders who struggled with the bat and they were unsure of the right tempo in setting a target. Chasing is their preferred method and in the past two years they have won nine ODIs batting first compared to 19 batting second. Only a late spike from Ross Taylor and Kyle Mills pushed them to a respectable score after they had stumbled to 6 for 173 in the 42nd over.
Mills added $5000 to the bushfire appeal when his enormous hook off Mitchell Johnson went out of the ground. But it was Taylor who was in charge of the recovery mission and his 76 from 71 balls continued his impressive series.
He was eventually caught top-edging a pull off Johnson, who finished with 3 for 51, and Taylor was one of four New Zealand specialist batsmen who lost their wickets to top-edged hooks and pulls. The extra pace and bounce surprised them and Johnson used it to get rid of Guptill (45) and Elliott (26), while Neil Broom also skied one off Ben Hilfenhaus.
James Hopes was again dangerous with 2 for 37 and Michael Clarke proved an economical spin option. He also removed Brendon McCullum, who passed a late fitness test on his right shoulder and played an uncharacteristically cautious innings of 33 from 55 balls.
Like most of his team-mates, McCullum seemed unsure of how quickly he needed to score batting first and there seems little doubt that at the Gabba on Friday, New Zealand will be keen to chase if given the chance. The Chappell-Hadlee Trophy could depend on it.