PAARL, SOUTH AFRICA - FEBRUARY 11: Darcie Brown of Australia reacts after taking a catch to dismiss Bernadine Bezuidenhout of New Zealand during the ICC Women's T20 World Cup group A match between Australia and New Zealand at Boland Park on February 11, 2023 in Paarl, South Africa. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Australia began its T20 World Cup defence in style, obliterating New Zealand by 97 runs in South Africa's Western Cape.

After losing the toss, Meg Lanning's world-beaters were sent in at Boland Park, running up a total of 173, thanks in large part to a half-century from Alyssa Healy (55) and dual scores worth 40 or more from Lanning (41) and Ellyse Perry (40).

With ball in hand, the Australians wasted little time making their mark, removing Kiwi openers Suzie Bates and Sophie Devine for respective first-ball ducks.

Sewing up the win after just 14 overs, the reigning champions were served brilliantly by Ashleigh Gardner, with the star all-rounder claiming figures of 5-12 from her three overs.

The White Ferns provided some fight off the blade of Bernadine Bezuidenhout (14 from 10), however, controversy reined in the sixth over when the keeper was dismissed by a diving Darcie Brown catch off the bowling of Perry.

While given her marching orders by umpires Nimali Perera and Sue Redfern, replays proved Bezuidenhout had reason for any reticence to leave the crease with Brown's dive shown to have fallen short.

The resounding win came in Australia's first T20 World Cup clash since winning the 2020 final before a sold out MCG crowd, a night in which the champions danced on stage with popstar Katy Perry.

Australia will now turn their attention to their second pool clash against Bangladesh at 4:00 am (AEDT) Wednesday morning.