Gilchrist blasts Australia to stunning victory
Australia 236 for 3 (Martyn 65*, Gilchrist 54, Symonds 48, Katich 43) beat New Zealand 233 (Fleming 37, Astle 37, Lee 2-41) by 7 wickets
Australia's rampant batsmen completed the most lopsided match of an already tilted series with 15.4 overs to spare at Wellington. New Zealand's bowlers were treated like club trundlers as they were driven and sliced all over - and in one case out of - the Basin Reserve in a brutal performance.
Simon Katich latched on to anything off line and managed to briefly outscore Adam Gilchrist, who responded to the slight with an explosive 54 off 37 balls. Damien Martyn glided to 65 not out and Andrew Symonds smashed straight and hard, facing the same number of deliveries as Gilchrist for 48. It was an unfair thrashing that guided them to a 4-0 lead and New Zealand's inexperienced bowlers will need hypnosis to forget it.
Stephen Fleming's side was forced into a number of changes for poor form and injury, but the recruits and reshuffling made little difference once he and Nathan Astle had disappeared with a pair of 37s. Their total of 233 seemed competitive for five overs, when his bowlers were set upon like picnic lunches. "They once again demolished us," Fleming said. "We're probably playing a tempo that is quicker than we've ever played before. We're getting a drubbing and we've got to learn lessons from that."
Standing in for his eighth match as captain, Gilchrist entered it with scores of 4, 0 and 18, but he banished the blemishes with some trademark thrashing after Katich had been the chief plunderer. Lance Hamilton had waited 31 years for his debut and the early signs were promising: his pace was sharp and the ball was moving. After three overs he had given up 19, and Katich further upended his moment with four boundaries in his next one as he feasted on the slightest glitch. Hamilton gushed 67 off eight overs; Jeff Wilson was squeezed for 67 from nine.
Wilson looked equally unsure of where to bowl once Katich sent him for three fours in his opening six balls. It was a heavyweight-bantamweight mismatch that Gilchrist highlighted when he drop-kicked Wilson over the mid-on stand and the ball bounced along an adjoining road. Spear tackles cannot have hurt as much for an All Black with 60 Tests.
Fortunately Chris Cairns was finally hollered for and he took care of Katich, who nicked to Brendon McCullum (78 for 1). It is hard to comprehend why Cairns is held back to fourth bowler and seventh batsman when he makes crucial contributions even when off-colour. While Gilchrist smacked Wilson at the other end, Cairns was making Martyn play, miss and leave. Nobody else managed it.
Wilson was given four overs when three for 29 should have been enough, but he had reason for something other than an embarrassed smile when Gilchrist top-edged and was caught by Craig McMillan (114 for 2). Even Gilchrist, the Man of the Match, was probably relieved he had given Wilson his first wicket since 1993.
The tempo of the first 15 overs was maintained by Damien Martyn and Andrew Symonds once Gilchrist departed. Symonds blasted three sixes and four fours before hitting to Wilson, and Martyn finished off the chase with little sweat.
Cairns, the only bowler spared cheek-reddening punishment, had helped fling New Zealand from an even more disappointing total after they started well for the first time in the series. But the biggest problem was that no batsman could manage a half-century and four were becalmed in the 30s. Cairns was one of the offenders but his brief was quick runs, and he hit two big sixes, including one over the sightscreen off Lee.
Australia employed an attack of four fast bowlers as well as the allrounder James Hopes, but their start was sleepy. "We were determined even though we'd won the series to come out aggressively," Gilchrist said. They have struggled to rise for dead-rubber games and, once again, there was urgency lacking before they snapped into action once the fielding restrictions eased, snuffing out the threats of Astle and Fleming.
The pair reached 84 from 17 overs but just as Australia started to get nervous they were removed. New Zealand's pace slowed once they departed and the middle order struggled to lift the rate until Cairns arrived. Hopes, who went for only 38 from 10 overs, was particularly responsible for the containment, and sealed a special memory from his debut with the lbw of Craig McMillan in his eighth over (163 for 5).
Australia had no trouble in their reply and the result was too easy against a side ranked No. 2. New Zealand must win the final match at Napier on Saturday to hold the ranking, but it would be a hollow achievement after being comprehensively outplayed.
Peter English is the Australasian editor of Cricinfo.