Wet weather helps New Zealand survive
Glenn McGrath delivered Australia the perfect start as rain successfully spoiled their determined attempt to seal the series. Play began 90 minutes late but McGrath made up for the loss when he knocked back Stephen Fleming and Hamish Marshall in the third over. Australia's excitement was drowned by a further - and final - disruption 20 balls after lunch, during which Michael Kasprowicz grabbed his 100th Test wicket.
Australia walked out this morning wanting ten wickets to settle the series before the third Test starting at Auckland on Saturday. New Zealand, needing 326 to give the game a fourth innings, craved three good batting sessions or a day of drizzle following rain-dance calls from Lou Vincent last night. The plea was successful as the clouds chopped the day's original expectation from 98 overs to 83, and then allowed only 17.2 throughout the opening two sessions. After a tricky 60-minute warm-up New Zealand went to lunch two wickets down, and were in serious trouble at 48 for 3 until rain and bad light saved them a difficult finish.
Fleming's poor run - against Australia and McGrath - showed no sign of ending in his brief seven-ball stay. McGrath bounced him twice in the third over before bowling a fuller stumps delivery that had Fleming shuffling across. On a day when Fleming at least wanted to lead his side to lunch he was gone for 1. The move to opener has failed as miserably as the shining sun in Wellington.
McGrath has nailed Fleming lbw three times in a row and has dismissed him on eight career occasions. Mike Atherton (19) and Brian Lara (13) head McGrath's highlights list, but Fleming has made a huge surge up the table in the last four Tests by dropping to him six times. It is a stunning streak that has had repercussions on the remainder of the re-shuffled batting order.
The damage from McGrath increased two balls later when a sharp off-cutter rapped the bottom of Marshall's thigh guard and New Zealand were 3 for 2. It was a disastrous start when play could have ended at any moment.
A match that has been ordered around by the clouds - eight sessions were washed out on the first four days - was again ruined and despite Australia's domination New Zealand can square the series next week. The covers were on as light showers fell on the Basin Reserve when the match was due to start at 10am local time, and the bad weather stayed for most of the morning.
Giving Australia a teasing chance, the gloom returned in the fourth over after lunch, allowing enough time for Kasprowicz to reach triple figures. Three deliveries after the break Lou Vincent, as he had in the first innings, pushed forward to Kasprowicz with too much weight on his back foot and was bowled when the ball rebounded from his diagonal bat. Kasprowicz was ecstatic. It was a milestone more than double what he thought he'd achieve two years ago.
Only in the past year has Kasprowicz felt comfortable as a Test cricketer. Until February 2004 he owned 47 wickets in 17 Tests and was carving out an exceptional reputation in fulfilling stints as Glamorgan's overseas professional. Since the Sri Lanka tour last year he has rapidly developed his Test status with 53 victims in 15 matches, and is entrenched as one of the four horsemen of Australia's regular apocalypses.
Kasprowicz woke up Australia with two wickets in the first innings yesterday and finished with 3 for 42. The team quickly surrounded him when he became the second Queensland bowler to step to 100 behind Craig McDermott, who finished on 291. Brett Lee, who has been sidelined by Kasprowicz since October, then showed the incredible spirit among the bowling cartel when he raced to congratulate him as he left the field. As the rain continued to fall the milestone gave Australia something to toast in the absence of a series victory.
Fleming lbw McGrath 1 (3 for 1)
Missed one playing to legside again; lbw to McGrath again.
Marshall lbw McGrath 0 (3 for 2)
A second-ball off-cutter that hit the bottom of his thigh pad in line, but a query over height.
Vincent b Kasprowicz 24 (37 for 3)
Pushed forward with an angled bat and inside-edged on to the stumps.