Australia 467 (Head 114, Smith 85, Paine 79, Labuschagne 63, Wagner 4-83) and 5 for 168 dec beat New Zealand 148 and 240 (Blundell 121, Lyon 4-81, Pattinson 3-35) by 247 runs
James Pattinson and Nathan Lyon combined to bowl Australia to a handsome 247-run victory with a day to spare, and with it retention of the Trans-Tasman trophy, but makeshift opener Tom Blundell showed tremendous spirit with a second Test hundred to take it deep into the final session. Pattinson’s three-wicket pre-lunch burst appeared to be hurtling New Zealand to a swift defeat, but Blundell stood up magnificently to the challenge. However, Lyon’s 4 for 81 ensured Australia would not have to return on Monday to wrap things up.
After being set a hypothetical 488 for victory – following Australia’s declaration 10 overs into the day – New Zealand plummeted to 3 for 35 as Pattinson claimed three wickets in nine balls which included losing Kane Williamson for a duck. Blundell, who had never opened in first-class cricket before this match, could have been lbw in the first over but went on to play an outstanding innings and score the first century by a New Zealander at the MCG.
When the Australia quicks started straight he worked them through the leg side and when they went short he was never afraid of taking it on. His hundred came from 185 balls when he nudged Pat Cummins towards mid-on, the milestone greeted by raucous celebrations from the large travelling support who helped swell the crowd to over 200,000 across the four days.
As the lower order departed, and with Trent Boult unable to bat, it looked as though Blundell would carry his bat – the last man to do that was team-mate Tom Latham – but as he opened his shoulders with the century under his belt he picked out mid-on against Marnus Labuschagne as Paine spared his fast bowlers towards the end. It was those quicks, especially Pattinson and Cummins, that had done so much to secure this victory.
Pattinson, who returned to the side as Josh Hazlewood’s replacement, struck with his fourth delivery when he drew Latham into driving at a wide delivery to break an opening stand that had shown small signs of promise, but even bigger prize followed a few moments later after a switch of ends following the successful first over.
Williamson, who played a poor shot in the first innings to fall for 9, was given lbw when a delivery nipped back to catch him on the crease. The captain called for the DRS, as he had to do, and the replays showed it was clipped leg stump by, dare it be said, the barest of margins. It was the type of decision that can often go against the side under the pump. Australia have cut off the captain, once again, and it has given them a huge advantage.
While there may have been an element of bad fortune in Williamson’s dismissal, Ross Taylor’s downfall was self-inflicted as he dragged on an under edge as he attempted to cut Pattinson to give the quick his third wicket in nine deliveries
Australia could have had their first wicket in the opening over when Mitchell Starc swung one back into Blundell which would have taken leg stump and been overturned on DRS had Paine reviewed. A freshly-shaven Blundell made a punchy start to his innings, launching a pull over wide mid-on against Cummins, and he continued to impress during the afternoon as alongside Henry Nicholls he halted Australia’s immediate advances for more than an hour. There was the latest example of a bail not being dislodged when Nicholls inside-edged Starc, although the delivery was a no-ball so he would have survived anyway, and Starc became a little hot under the collar as he strived for a wicket.
Both Starc sent down a delivery at 152kph and Cummins touched 147kph as they pushed up the speed gun during their afternoon spells but it was Lyon, settling into a nice spell, who brought through when one gripped to beat Nicholls’ edge and he dragged his foot out of the crease with Paine very alert.
Blundell went to his half-century from 106 balls and took on Pattinson and Cummins in thrilling style shortly before tea, with BJ Watling joining him in a stand of 72 before Lyon got work again. Watling was removed in rare fashion, get an inside edge that flew through the gate to be caught by David Warner at leg slip. Colin de Grandhomme fell heaving Lyon to the leg side and Blundell needed someone calm to stay with him to ensure three figures wasn’t missed.
Mitchell Santner, who has had a difficult match, did that and a bit more in a stand that threatened to push the match to the fifth day until Lyon found the edge and Tim Southee was run out in a mix-up with Blundell. In a way it was fitting that it was Blundell and Neil Wagner at the crease as the game finished, they are two players who will leave with reputations enhanced. Otherwise it has been a humbling series for New Zealand against an Australia side going from strength to strength and looking for a whitewash in Sydney.