On Friday the 13th of November New Zealand plays a WACA Test for the first time since 2001.
The final Test of the three match series in ‘01/02 was the closest New Zealand came to beating Australia in over a decade.
The Brisbane and Hobart Tests were rain-ruined draws. The Gabba Test was delicately poised after day one, with the Aussies reaching 6/294 – openers Matthew Hayden and Justin Langer amassing 224. Just 29 overs were bowled on day two, 18 on day three and 51 on day four. Australia eventually declared at 9/486, with tons to Hayden (136), Adam Gilchrist (118) and Langer (104). Led by enterprising captain Steven Fleming, the Kiwis declared on day five 199 runs behind. Australia used 14 overs before declaring at 2/84, setting New Zealand 284. The Kiwis had a genuine crack…and nearly got there. Mark Richardson (57), Fleming (57), Nathan Astle (49) and Chris Cairns (43) guided New Zealand to 6/274 off 57 overs.
Just two innings were played in Hobart. Ricky Pointing (157 not out) made a home ground ton, with Justin Langer scoring 123 as Australia declared at 8/558. Rain was New Zealand’s enemy; they batted 35 overs on day three, 51 on day four and 19 on day five to reach 7/243.
Onto Perth, where the kinder late November-early December climate would ensure a full Test.
Batting first, New Zealand was a precarious 7/293 at stumps, with a Lou Vincent century (104). New Zealand grabbed the game on day two, batting 72.5 overs before declaring at 9/534. Astle (156), Fleming (105) and number nine Adam Parore (110) filled their boots.
Australia’s reply is remembered for Shane Warne’s 99. Warne was an underrated batsman, capable of heavy runs when he put his mind to it. Warne came in at 6/192; he left 50 overs later at 351 all out, one of Daniel Vettori’s six wickets. A few years later – at the Allan Border Medal night – footage emerged of Vettori’s overlooked no-ball during Warne’s wicket. These were the days when umpires actually backed themselves and didn’t forensically analyse everything. AB Medal host Eddie McGuire (this was when Nine still gave a damn about “cricket’s Brownlow Medal”) interviewed Warne, who showed remarkable restraint.
Leading by 183, New Zealand batted Australia out of the game, declaring at 9/256 late on day four (Vincent 54), setting Australia 440. Sadly for the crowd, everyone’s favourite bunny Chris Martin was denied a hit in both innings.
Entering the final day, Australia were 2/69. Could New Zealand find eight wickets for a historic win? In an entertaining final day, Mark Waugh (86), Gilchrist (83 not out), captain Steve Waugh (67) and Hayden (57) got Australia to 7/381. Vettori was the only multiple wicket-taker, with one each for Shane Bond, Cairns and Craig McMillan and two run outs. The 0-0 result was enough for Australia to retain the Trans-Tasman trophy.
For New Zealand to get this close to beating an Australian team at the peak of the powers was incredible. Australia rebounded to belt South Africa 3-0 in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney.
Sadly, they haven’t been able to repeat it, with the Kiwis allotted the minimum two Tests until this summer. In 2004/05, Australia won the home-and-away series 4-0 (2-0 in Australia, 2-0 in New Zealand), won 2-0 in 2008/09 and 2009/10. New Zealand salvaged a 1-1 draw in 2011/12, with a famous win in Hobart, their first in Australia since 1985/86.