By FOSTER NIUMATA Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — Mitchell Starc took five wickets as Australia's bowlers strangled New Zealand in winning their Cricket World Cup group match by 86 runs at Lord's on Saturday.
Chasing 244, New Zealand was all out for 157 in the 44th over.
Left-arm paceman Starc took tournament-best figures of 5-26, his second 5-wicket haul of the event. Starc has 24 wickets, two more than he earned in the 2015 World Cup, with at least two more matches to play.
His wickets, however, were the result of pressure applied by his fellow bowlers.
Jason Behrendorff removed the openers, and part-time spinners Steve Smith, Aaron Finch and Glenn Maxwell, and specialist Nathan Lyon contributed to tying down the Kiwis, who cracked trying to make runs.
New Zealand's chase was as good as over from the 32nd over, once captain Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor were back in the pavilion for 40 and 30 respectively.
Of the 261 balls the New Zealand batsmen faced in their innings, 172 were dots.
Starc was virtually unplayable: Of his 58 deliveries, 45 were dots. Fellow left-armer Behrendorff was left alone for 37 of his 54 deliveries. Pat Cummins for 28 of his 36.
Australia, still the only team to have qualified for the semifinals, is heading to the playoffs continuing to show ruthless improvement in every appearance.
After rejecting a chance to rest front-liners and promising to keep its foot on the pedal, the Australians squeezed out a fifth straight win defending a total since its only loss to India. The defending champions extended their lead atop the standings to three points over unbeaten India, which has two games in hand.
The New Zealanders would have cemented their semifinals position with a win, but after their bowlers earned them a seemingly achievable target of 244, they were overwhelmed by an even better display of bowling
Depending on results over the next three days involving England and Bangladesh, New Zealand could go into its last group match on Wednesday against England as desperate for a win as the tournament hosts.
A pitch that was roasted in afternoon temperatures of 34 Celsius (94 F) still offered movement for seam and spin in the evening, and Australia bullied the Kiwis into errors.
Martin Guptill and Henry Nicholls, making his World Cup debut, gave New Zealand its best opening stand in five matches, but both were dismissed by Behrendorff by the 14th over, bringing together Williamson and Taylor, New Zealand's best batsmen.
They were hardly any less constricted. Their 15-over score of 46-2 was the lowest of the tournament. The pair went 10 overs without scoring a boundary.
They were tied down by spin, and Starc benefited when he returned for his second spell by getting the big wicket of Williamson. The New Zealand captain was tempted by a fielder vacating slips and tried to dab Starc away only to glance behind to wicketkeeper Alex Carey.
That ended a stand of 50 with Taylor, who was out skying a fast ball from Cummins.