Recent Match Report – Australia vs New Zealand, ICC World Test Championship, 1st Test

Australia 416 (Labuschagne 143, Head 56, Wagner 4-92, Southee 4-93) and 9-217 declared (Burns 53, Labuschagne 50, Southee 5-69, Wagner 3-59) beat New Zealand 166 (Taylor 80, Starc 5-52) and 171 (Watling 40, Starc 4-45, Lyon 4-63) by 296 runs

Disciplined and determined where Pakistan were mercurial and chaotic, New Zealand succumbed to much the same fate nonetheless at Perth Stadium, as Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins delivered a yawning victory for Australia and a 1-0 lead in the Trans-Tasman series with the Boxing Day and New Year’s Tests to come.

Tim Paine’s Australians will be delighted not only to have wrapped up a 296-run win over Kane Williamson’s men inside four days, but also to have done so despite losing Josh Hazlewood after the New South Welshman had bowled a mere eight deliveries for the match. James Pattinson looks highly likely to replace Hazlewood for the MCG, though the coach Justin Langer has already hinted that five bowlers may well be chosen in expectation of a “play it safe” pitch after last week’s abandoned Sheffield Shield game.

Either way, Starc, Cummins and Lyon will take some stopping, having rolled New Zealand twice for little more than 300 runs on an excellent Perth pitch that offered runs for quality batting but also provided plenty of pace, bounce and eventual deterioration for the bowlers. And as well as the tourists bowled to Australia, particularly David Warner and Steven Smith, they were left with plenty of hard evidence that Paine’s men have decided advantages in depth and suitability to the prevailing conditions.

Mitchell Starc celebrates a wicket with his teammates Getty Images

New Zealand had been left with 468 to win after Paine declared with one wicket remaining at the end of an innings where the visitors had successfully limited the lead while also expanding the amount of time in which the hosts may have needed to bowl with only two fit pacemen. Hazlewood, sidelined with a hamstring tear, padded up to bat but was not asked to hobble to the middle. This was all to be a sideshow however to the main act – namely Australia’s efforts to end the match with a day to spare.

Tim Southee and Neil Wagner shared eight wickets between them in Australia’s innings, as New Zealand claimed 8 for 86 after the hosts had advanced to 1 for 131 late on the third day. Their concerted, short-pitched angle of attack resulted not only in plenty of wickets but also a succession of painful blows for the batsmen, most notably Matthew Wade.

Wade, Cummins, Starc and Lyon added 50 runs on the fourth afternoon, leaving New Zealand with five and a half sessions to survive if they wish to get out of Perth with a draw – a feat that, if achieved, would severely fatigue Australia’s bowlers with Hazlewood already out of the game.

If New Zealand did not make quite as disastrous a start as they had done in the first innings, when they had lost two wickets in the first two overs, Raval and Tom Latham could not stay together for long. Taking advantage of an increasingly cracked pitch, Starc taunted Raval with the words “this is the last chance of your career” before promptly hitting the shoulder of the opener’s bat to gift Lyon the simplest of catches the very next ball. With scores of 3, 33, 4, 0, 19, 5, 0, 1 and 1 since his first Test century against Bangladesh, Raval has some thinking to do.

Williamson was granted some early latitude by Starc and Cummins, who allowed him to skate into the teens with a couple of full balls on leg stump and then a wide half volley, but Lyon was in no mood to be quite so charitable. His first ball leapt out of the surface with turn and bounce, clipping the edge onto thigh pad and straight to short leg to leave New Zealand teetering at the interval.

They were given very little respite on resumption through a superlative spell from Cummins, who will bowl far worse on other days and return a hatful of wickets. The rewards were to be reaped by Starc when Taylor attempted a pull shot and could only edge thinly behind to Paine, and then Lyon fizzed one through to strike Latham in front of middle and leg stumps. Paine reviewed after the umpire Aleem Dar decided the ball may be missing the stumps, only to be proven clearly wrong by ball-tracking.

In weather that remained unpleasantly hot, Paine resorted to the dual amateur spin bowling of Travis Head and Marnus Labuschagne, the former earning the compliment that he was “bowling like Tim May” from his impressed captain. Paine then swung Lyon back into the fray for the final over before Tea, and he presented Head with a close-in catch at silly point when Nicholls propped tentatively forward to another delivery spitting out of the rough.

BJ Watling and Colin de Grandhomme provided staunch resistance in the first hour of the final session, opening up the possibility that the game would creep into a fifth day. However Cummins, as he tends to do, had de Grandhomme fending into the slips immediately after the drinks break, and the rest followed quickly. Cummins, Lyon and Starc ended the match as the world’s three leading wicket-takers in Test matches in 2019 (Hazlewood is seventh), underlining the high degree of skill and ruthlessness they have shown all year.

New Zealand may be No. 2 in the world Test rankings, but daylight was second to Australia’s bowling battery in Perth.

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