Melbourne: New Zealand took a 2-0 lead in the Chappell-Hadlee Trophy series with a six-wicket victory over Australia at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Friday evening.
Australia was unable to defend a modest target of 226 on a difficult and unyielding MCG wicket and slumped to its fifth consecutive one-day loss.
Stand-in captain Michael Clarke tried desperately to effect an upturn in Australia's fortunes, and despite nearing a century with the bat was unable to help the host side muster more than 5 for 225 from 50 overs.
Clarke starred in the absence of regular skipper Ricky Ponting, who was rested after a strenuous summer program, but fell short of a fourth ODI ton and his first against the Black Caps.
The 27-year-old clearly relished the added responsibility and his promotion to the opening spot, and conservatively stroked his way to 98 from 133 balls.
New Zealand's response was stodgy as the visiting batsmen accrued runs at a measured tempo with plenty of wickets in hand.
Grant Elliott provided the key contribution, an unbeaten 61 that included the winning runs as he smashed a boundary off Ben Hilfenhaus in the penultimate over.
His highest one-day innings bettered the valuable contributions of team-mates Ross Taylor (47) and Brendon McCullum (43), to finish the match as the Black Caps' top scorer.
Neil Broom, whose dismissal in Perth sparked a controversial spat between Vettori and Brad Haddin, saw out the match with Elliott and finished on 26 not out.
The other batsmen to fall for New Zealand were opener Martin Guptill for 8 and number three Peter Fulton for 21.
The MCG pitch did not offer a free flow of runs, but bowlers also found wickets hard to come by with just eight between the opposing attacks.
A ninth wicket fell in the match - a run-out by Daniel Vettori to remove David Hussey for 10.
Michael Hussey missed a golden chance to dismiss Taylor in the 37th over, dropping a difficult catch in the deep that handed the right-hander a life at a crucial point in proceedings.
Taylor continued to bat through until the 42nd over when he was eventually dismissed with an edge through to Haddin from Mitchell Johnson - who took just the lone scalp with figures of 1 for 43.
Nathan Bracken also struggled to penetrate the Black Caps' batting line-up, taking 1 for 34 with James Hopes finishing with match-best figures of 2 for 30.
Despite leading Australia to a loss with his rare opportunity opportunity as skipper, Clarke was awarded man-of-the-match honours for his captain's knock of 98.
The joint Allan Border medallist brushed aside the distractions of a reported scuffle with Test team-mate Simon Katich and his withdrawal from the Indian Premier League (IPL) auction.
Clarke could have commanded bids in excess of $1 million, but opted out of the lucrative Twenty20 competition to keep himself fresh for Australia's struggling Test and one-day squads.
His innings prematurely came to a halt when he was bowled attempting to drive Iain O'Brien several paces in advance of his crease, as Australia saw out the 50 overs with little fanfare.
Michael Hussey was Australia's next most valuable contributor with a measured 75 from 94 deliveries, while Haddin (12) failed to make the most of his promotion to number three in the order.
Greenhorn opener David Warner again struggled atop the order with 2 from 11 balls, and has yet to reproduce the cavalier performance that dazzled the MCG on his Twenty20 International debut.
On that occasion he hammered 89 from 43 balls but has since recorded scores of 7, 5, 1, 22, 7, and 2 - with a 69 against the Proteas in the third ODI his only reprieve.
David Hussey never got out of the blocks before he was dismissed for 10, with Cameron White (17 not out) and debutant Callum Ferguson (6 not out) seeing Australia through to the completion of its allotted overs.
O'Brien finished with innings-best figures of 2 for 48, with Kyle Mills (1 for 37) and Tim Southee (1 for 57) taking one scalp apiece.