Ponting's change of pace upsets New Zealand
Ricky Ponting blazed a thrilling hundred as the series-deciding Test roared into life at Auckland. Australia hacked the first-innings target to 73 in a drastic reversal of the slow but absorbing first day, with Ponting piloting them at almost five an over during his stay.
New Zealand took four sessions to reach 292; Australia ran to 219 for 4 in two. Ponting chased like it was a one-day total and, with him in a blistering flow, they sprinted to 143 for 2 in the session before tea. Despite rearranging his spinners and medium-pacers, Stephen Fleming found no way to stop the scoring until Nathan Astle prised out Ponting for 105.
Opening with a hooked six over fine-leg, Ponting raced to his half-century from 58 balls with seven fours and a second slap into the grandstand behind square leg. It was an emphatic reply to the Kiwis' grafting, which included 199 from 90 overs yesterday, as he greedily attacked his 22nd century.
Ponting enjoyed a chance when Tama Canning, standing at gully as a replacement, let a wild drive slice through his hands and the other disruption was a delay to cover glare from a grandstand rail. An awkward swipe - his only ugly streak - brought him three figures, as the ball narrowly sailed over midwicket. He had been held up slightly in the 90s, was desperate to move forward and raised his bat on his 104th ball.
It was an innings that Adam Gilchrist has matched - but few others. The short boundaries looked even smaller with Ponting's glances, off-drives and swings through midwicket. His third six came from James Franklin and his fourth was a powerful sweep off Daniel Vettori, but he was at his best when driving. A fine piece of work by Brendon McCullum standing up to Astle ended the jaw-dropping.
The rate quickly slowed on Ponting's departure and Damien Martyn contributed 38 until he was deceived by a sharp-turning offspinner. Paul Wiseman had waited two Tests for his chance and, with Astle and Daniel Vettori, turned Australia's attack into defence. Michael Clarke was carefully trying to play his way into form and Jason Gillespie was sent in as nightwatchman with 7.2 overs remaining. At stumps Clarke was 18 and Gillespie 1.
Clarke has scored 106 runs in his last seven innings and Hayden will also be pleased the season is coming to a close after a disjointed summer. His early stages were a struggle before he unleashed some punishing boundaries and a big, fast score seemed a formality until he missed an angling Franklin delivery heading for the stumps. The mood of Langer was upbeat, but he was also undone by Franklin. The left-arm angle was again the problem and he played on for the second time in the series.
It was a poor start but Australia rebounded after Glenn McGrath ordered the tail-end charge as they wrapped up New Zealand's innings by lunch. Setting up his figures with 17 runs in 24 overs on day one, McGrath stepped in to diffuse the dangers of Nathan Astle and Brendon McCullum, making sure of a medium-sized chase.
The unrelenting accuracy pushed Astle into an edge and McCullum fell in a similar way 19 runs later, becoming Adam Gilchrist's 74th catch off McGrath, who collected 3 for 49 from 34 overs. Shane Warne struck in his first over with a fortunate decision from Jeremy Lloyds against Franklin, and the three wickets set Australia up for a swift conclusion. Wiseman delayed proceedings for 26 runs with Vettori before rushing at Warne and being caught by Gillespie.
Vettori has been New Zealand's shining light during many dark moments on this tour and he again showed his all-round value with an energetic display. Adept at lifting his tail-end team-mates, Vettori sprinkled eight fours around Eden Park and was unbeaten on 41 from 50 balls when the innings ended. New Zealand deserved to be pleased with their efforts until Ponting grabbed the controls.
How they were out
Astle c Langer b McGrath 19 (228 for 6)
Nibbled at a good-length ball and went to a two-handed diving catch at third slip.
McCullum c Gilchrist b McGrath 19 (247 for 7)
Played slightly ahead of his pad and Gilchrist snapped a clever catch low and to his right.
Franklin c Katich b Warne 3 (262 for 8)
Bat-pad decision that didn't hit wood.
Wiseman c Gillespie b Warne 8 (288 for 9)
Down the wicket and skewed a lofted drive to mid-off.
Martin c Clarke b Kasprowicz 0 (292)
Defended to point for an easy offering.
Langer b Martin 6 (8 for 1)
Attempted back-foot forcing shot cover but inside-edged on to thigh and stumps.
Hayden lbw Franklin 38 (84 for 2)
Hit adjacent and suffered a painfully slow finger raise from Rudi Koertzen.
Ponting c McCullum b Astle 105 (187 for 3)
Fired a ball down legside that caught his edge for the sharpest of chances.
Martyn b Wiseman 38 (215 for 4)
Leaned back to give himself room, beaten by the spin, under-edged the ball and lost leg bail.