By his own admission, Adam Zampa bowled poorly on Thursday evening.
The Australian leg-spinner said he was “a little bit off” during the second ODI against New Zealand in Cairns, but still walked away with a maiden five-wicket haul in the 50-over format.
Zampa has been Australia’s premier white-ball spinner since 2016, but the 30-year-old finally claimed that elusive five-fa at Cazalys Stadium, finishing with figures of 5/35 from nine overs as the hosts claimed a comprehensive 113-run victory over the Blacks Caps.
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He becomes just the fourth Australian spinner to take five wickets in a men’s ODI, joining Brad Hogg, Michael Clarke and the late Shane Warne.
However, the humble tweaker acknowledged it wasn’t his finest performance in Australian colours. Far from it.
“I bowled terribly,” Zampa told reporters in the post-match press conference.
“Well, I wouldn‘t say terribly.
“Getting wickets in ODI cricket is always really tough, especially for the spin bowlers.
“I felt a little bit off and probably wasn‘t quite at my best.
“I reaped the rewards of the guys who bowled before me.
“To have them three down, and for me to come on and have them under a little bit of scoreboard pressure made my job a little bit easier.”
Zampa’s first victim was New Zealand captain Kane Williamson, who inexplicably missed a juicy full toss that typically would have been smacked over the mid-wicket boundary.
The Kookaburra drifted past the willow and struck Williamson on the back thigh, with umpire Rod Tucker quickly raising the dreaded finger.
The Black Caps skipper, who was 17 off 58 balls at the time, tentatively called for a review only for Hawkeye replays to confirm the ball would have landed at the base of leg stump.
It was the fourth time Zampa had removed the New Zealand batter in international cricket across formats.
The bizarre moment was almost identical to Graeme Swann’s infamous dismissal of former Australian opener Chris Rogers during the 2013 Ashes series in England.
And the Victorian coach hasn’t forgotten about the blunder, tweeting on Thursday evening: “It happens.”
“Well, they say that spinners can bowl a bit of crap and get wickets,” Zampa laughed after the match.
“(It was a) big, big surprise.
“When that crap comes out of your hand and you see it go down, you start walking back to your mark knowing you‘ve got an extra six runs against your name. But yeah, that happens.”
But not all of Zampa’s wickets came from “crap” deliveries – he removed Kiwi seamer Tim Southee with a beautifully-executed wrong-un that snuck through the gate and clipped the top of off stump.
Zampa’s heroics weren’t limited to his bowling either; he scored 16 with the bat as Australia limped towards a team total of 9/195 in the first innings.
The Aussies were in dire straits at 8/117 when Zampa came to the crease, but he combined with Player of the Match Mitchell Starc for a crucial 31-run partnership for the ninth wicket.
And two days earlier, Zampa had joined forces with young all-rounder Cameron Green to help Australia secure an unlikely victory in the series opener, scoring an unbeaten 13.
“I‘ve always enjoyed batting but I don’t like the ball coming up my head fast,” Zampa confessed.
“So I stick away from the nets.
“When you‘re batting at 10 in ODI cricket, sometimes you have to come in and slog from ball one which isn’t quite my strength. I don’t have the power.
“If we get out and it‘s 150 (all out) I think it’s a different ballgame.
“But our discipline with the ball and the fact they were still chasing somewhere around 200 made a bit of a difference in the game.”
Zampa will be a pivotal figure at next year’s World Cup in India; no Australian has taken more ODI wickets than him since his international debut in 2016.
To his surprise, we was recently named Player of the Series after taking six wickets at 18.33 against Zimbabwe last week.
“I think I’ve got my game to a point where I know my action, I know what I need to perform, so I feel like the ball’s coming out well,” Zampa told CODE Sports this week.
“Our conversations are around how we want to be playing our cricket, in particular looking to that one-day World Cup next year. We’ve had an up and down little couple of years in ODI cricket, we’ve tried to give guys games to add depth.”
The Blacks Caps were rolled for their sixth-lowest total in ODIs on Thursday, crawling to 82 in 33 overs to hand Australia an unassailable 2-0 lead in the Chappell-Hadlee trophy.
Williamson top-scored for the visitors, with only four of his teammates reaching double figures in one of the weakest ODI batting performances in recent memory.
“No doubt the conditions are tough but we have to be a little bit smarter,” the New Zealand captain confessed.
“Today I thought we were too soft in terms of our dismissals, we did need to try and weather the storm a bit. It was going to be a challenge, but if you could try and stick together. There wasn‘t a lot of scoreboard pressure so you try to reverse that momentum later in the game and get through the tough spells.
“The new ball was quite challenging and Australia were just outstanding with the lengths they are able to hit, the pressure they built, and they got some early wickets as well. It is almost old-school one-day cricket where you are just trying to get through spells. As we saw, Australia were able to get two partnerships that were able to get them a competitive total, so certainly some lessons to learn.”
The third and final ODI between Australia and New Zealand gets underway at Cazalys Stadium on Sunday afternoon, with the first ball scheduled for 2.20pm AEST.
The Black Caps have not won an ODI on Australian soil since 2009.