Wellington: New Zealand need more runs from the middle order and must build on partnerships when they get started to boost their chances of beating Australia in the final One-day match in Hamilton on Monday.
Australia levelled the three-match series on Saturday with a four-wicket victory in Wellington, where Mitchell Marsh and John Hastings put on an unbroken seventh-wicket partnership of 86 that saw them home after some nervous moments following a mid-order collapse.
Despite New Zealand taking four top-order wickets for 22 runs, and two in the middle order for six, their 281 was not enough of a target to defend after a century opening stand from David Warner and Usman Khawaja.
New Zealand's top order of Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum and Kane Williamson have put down foundations, though they have also been guilty of getting out at times when they should have consolidated, while Henry Nicholls scored a composed 61 in the first game at Eden Park.
However, the engine room of the lower-middle order, where the team's power hitters are, have not produced the volume of runs expected of them.
Grant Elliott (21 and 32), Corey Anderson (10, 16) and Luke Ronchi (16, 19) have all failed to kick on at a time when the team were seeking attacking momentum in the final 15 overs.
In the first match at Eden Park, Ronchi was the last of the trio dismissed in the 45th over. In Wellington, all three were back in the pavilion by the 41st. All had spent time establishing themselves before falling.
That has left the bowlers and the improving Mitchell Santner to close out their innings. The rookie all-rounder has demonstrated how comfortable he is in international cricket despite only making his debut last June.
Santner, who turned 24 on Friday, has innings of 35 not out and 45 not out, and combined with the fast bowlers to add 44 runs in 32 balls in Auckland and 76 runs in 58 balls in Wellington.
While New Zealand scored 307 in the first game, which they won by 159 runs after Australia slumped to 41-6 in nine overs, the score on Saturday was barely competitive, despite Santner suggesting it might have been enough.
"In our innings we lost wickets at key times when we were trying to build partnerships but we did all right to get to 280 which was reasonably competitive," he told reporters.
"We were in a pretty good spot when they were six down ... and knew if we got one more we were right in it.
"Fair play to Mitch and John, that was a serious partnership."