Underdone Aussies get the job done


sbsb.jpgAustralia entered the Trans-Tasman series with plenty of questions.

How would they rebound after losing over 250 Tests worth of experience after the Ashes?

New Zealand’s preparation left a lot to be desired. After an easy win in the traditional Prime Minister’s XI match, they played two matches against the Cricket Australia XI. The first two-day game in Canberra was a draw, while the second game in Bankstown was called off after the CAXI piled on 1/503 in 121 overs.

That poor preparation would hurt them at the Gabba.

First Test: 5-9 November, The Gabba. Australia won by 208 runs

Australia loves playing at the Gabba. Since 1989, they have won 19 of 26 Tests, with seven draws. They would make it 20 from 27 against New Zealand. David Warner (163) and Joe Burns (71) opened with 161 runs. Usman Khawaja continued the rout with 102 not out as Australia reached 2/389 at stumps. Khawaja finished with 174 – and Adam Voges 83 not out – as Australia declared at 4/556.

Kane Williamson was New Zealand’s savior, scoring 140 as New Zealand was dismissed for 317. Mitch Starc (4/57) and Mitch Johnson (3/105) did the bulk of the damage.

Declaring on the third evening at 4/264 (Burns 129, Warner 116), Australia had two days to get 10 wickets while New Zealand needed an almost impossible 504. Nathan Lyon, who’d bowled tightly in the first innings, took 3/63, with two each to Mitch Marsh (2/25), Hazlewood (2/68) and Starc (2/69) as New Zealand were dismissed for 295 in 89 overs. Captain Brendon McCullum (80) and Williamson (59) offered resistance and took the game into day five.

Second Test: 13-17 November, WACA. Match Drawn.

The WACA run-feast was remembered for the flat pitch and “bore draw” cricket as well as the record-breaking double tons to Warner and Ross Taylor and Johnson’s retirement.

Any hopes of a result were dashed by the third day. Responding to Australia’s 9/559 declared, New Zealand had advanced from 2/140 to 6/510, with Taylor 235 not out. Warner’s 253 (he’d scored 244 on the first day as Australia made 2/416) established Australia’s massive total. By the time Taylor (290) had finished on the fourth morning, New Zealand were 65 runs in front. While Starc had worked hard for 4/119, Johnson’s 1/157 off 28 overs stirred retirement rumors. Smith (138) and Voges (119) batted Australia into safety by day four’s end. With a draw guaranteed, talk turned to why Australia didn’t applaud Taylor’s big innings. After all these years, the “ugly Aussies” tag is still hard to shake. The last day was all about fare welling Johnson. He was given a guard of honour when arriving to bat and scored 29 off 45 balls before taking 2/20 off six overs in the final innings. A fitting end.

Third Test: 27-29 November, Adelaide Oval. Australia won by 3 wickets

After another drawn tour match – this time against a Western Australia XI – New Zealand moved to Adelaide for the day-night Test, heavily hyped by Channel Nine, who’d conveniently launched their new HD channel the day before. The first day also marked the one year anniversary of Phillip Hughes’ passing.

Before the end of the first day, it was clear day-night cricket would work, with almost 50,000 at the Adelaide Oval. It was also the closest game of the series. More importantly, the much-debated pink ball survived with few dramas.

Shaun Marsh was a surprise replacement for the injured Khawaja, while Siddle came in for Johnson.  Starc (3/24) and Josh Hazlewood (3/66) dismissed New Zealand for 202, with Siddle (2/54) finally taking his 200th Test wicket.

Entering day two at 2/54, Smith scored 53, but it looked in vain as Australia slumped to 8/116. Lyon should have been out for a duck after mistiming a sweep off left arm spinner Mitchell Santner that ballooned to slip. Following five minutes of deliberation from Nigel Llong, Lyon survived due to lack of evidence. It would cost New Zealand, with Lyon pushing onto 34 and combining with Peter Nevill (66) and Starc – defying his broken foot for 24 not out – as Australia reached 224. Hazlewood (6/70) ripped through New Zealand to leave them 5/116 at stumps. A crucial 45 from Santner – proving to be a more valuable spinning all-rounder than Mark Craig – set Australia 187.

The Aussies were in trouble at 3/66 before Shaun Marsh (49) and Adam Voges (28) complied 49. Then Mitch Marsh (28) joined his brother for 46. When Shaun Marsh went, Australia needed 11 runs with four wickets left. Boult (5/80) gave New Zealand every chance but Siddle (9 not out) got Australia home.

The 2-0 margin seemed right. Australia won big in Brisbane and withstood an improved Black Caps side in Adelaide.




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