New Zealand v Australia, 2nd Test, Christchurch, 5th day February 24, 2016

Australia claim No. 1, McCullum exits


Australia 505 (Burns 170, Smith 138, Wagner 6-106) and 201 for 3 (Burns 65, Smith 53*, Khawaja 45) beat New Zealand 370 (McCullum 145, Anderson 72, Lyon 3-61) and 335 (Williamson 97, Bird 5-59, Pattinson 4-77) by 7 wickets
Scorecard and ball-by-ball details

Play 01:22
Farrell: No fairy tale ending for McCullum

At once a benediction and a coronation, Brendon McCullum's final moments as a Test cricketer marked Australia's ascendancy to the world No. 1 Test ranking after a resilient and relentless performance by Steven Smith's men.

It was Smith at the other end as Adam Voges stroked the winning runs through cover after key contributions from Joe Burns and Usman Khawaja. A target of 201 was never enough for New Zealand to defend against an Australian batting line-up that has carried much before them since the harsh lessons of England last year.

Since the nadir of Trent Bridge, Australia have won seven of nine Tests without once tasting defeat, enough to hand them the ICC Mace as the world's top team and a $1 million prize. This was the first time Australia reached No. 1 since 2014, but the difference now was a far younger team aware there was still much more to do: namely to succeed in Asia, against Sri Lanka and India over the coming 15 months.

Befitting their enduring loyalty to McCullum, New Zealand's effort was never less than wholehearted. This was epitomised by Neil Wagner's continued bouncer assault on the tourists, despite carrying what had been revealed to be a broken left hand from a Burns shot that burst through his fingers on the fourth evening.

Even so, it was occasionally puzzling to see New Zealand not really trying to generate pressure through disciplined lines and reverse swing, which Matt Henry in particular was able to find. Smith relished the challenge of matching McCullum's outlandish field settings with creativity of his own.

Khawaja had a fortunate escape in the second over of the morning, edging Trent Boult precisely between the wicketkeeper and a wide sole slip. Thereon he accumulated his runs in calm style.

Batting was more of a struggle for Burns, who was struck one glancing blow on the helmet by Wagner and others on the body. He took 35 minutes of play to add to his overnight score, but refused to be flustered and eventually went to a deserved fifty.

Tim Southee's entry to the attack brought another Khawaja edge, this time held smartly by McCullum above his head. Smith arrived to one last display of lateral captaincy from New Zealand's retiring leader, a packed leg side field and another short-ball attack.

Having been hit hard by a bouncer in the first innings, Smith resolved to attack, and boldly hooked his first short ball from Wagner over the head of the man at fine leg. He used the full width of the crease to open up other scoring zones, and was soon bringing the target well within reach.

After speaking with the umpires, Smith took the opportunity for an extra 15 minutes to try to seal the game without breaking for lunch. Burns rose to the challenge with a pair of boundaries before being bowled by Boult when going for a third, leaving Smith to concede the job could not be done before the interval.

The remaining 16 runs were duly polished off in early afternoon, Voges finishing off the match with a princely cover drive. Australian celebrations were of the reserved variety: partly out of deference for McCullum, but also in acknowledgement of the fact that getting to the top is one thing, staying there quite another.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @danbrettig

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gautam on February 25, 2016, 16:18 GMT

    By the looks of it, there are 3 good teams with nothing to separate them - Australia, India and England, with a 4th - South Africa just inches behind. Australia beat NZ in NZ, Ind beat SL in SL, and Eng beat SA in SA. All of them also have solid home records. I guess the no.1 will be a revolving door between these 3 teams for the next couple of years with the team with the most recent home series holding the position till the next team plays its home series. Drawing test matches from losing positions may become critical at some point which is a bit of an issue with us Aussies. Good luck to all teams!

  • Xiong on February 25, 2016, 10:01 GMT

    @eyballfallenout It's definitely the big one, but I don't think the 3-2 defeat was a poor result. I felt like if we combined 5 home and 5 away matches against England at that time, Australia would have only a slight edge. In 5 away tests I felt like that edge rested with England, and that is how it turned out. What I'm really looking forward to now is the next 2 Ashes series, because both England and Australia have young enough teams (other than England's opening bowlers) to last both of those series, and good enough teams that I think they'll provide some excellent test cricket. Even neutrals are probably going to be pretty darn interested in them if they actually appreciate cricket.

  • Ashok on February 25, 2016, 7:14 GMT

    Tremendous achievement by Australia, but its important for them to keep in mind that they're still very much a work in progress. Until they can compete in Asia or in England, they'll remain at best a good side, without being great.

  • Jake on February 25, 2016, 6:19 GMT

    Definitely the form team and the team to try and get close to. Great batting line up, with 4 players averaging over 50 and as always a great bowling line up, no matter who they pick.

  • chris on February 25, 2016, 6:17 GMT

    @ not sure if your trying to have a go there but your not too far wrong. the Ashes is still probably the big one for most australians.

  • subhasish on February 25, 2016, 4:34 GMT

    My Australian squad for Sri Lanka tour .warner.burns.khawaja.smith.voges.mitch marsh .navil.agar.lyon.pattinson.Hazelwood.stark.siddle.peter handscomb.Aston agar.son marsh

  • Manoj on February 25, 2016, 3:42 GMT

    Well deserved and fitting No.1 rank for Australia. They are not home tigers like one Asian team who tries to manipulate ranking to become Number 1.

  • Anusheel Prasad on February 25, 2016, 0:56 GMT

    At the end of the day . number one means nothing for Australia as they lost the only test series they exist for. THE ASHES.

  • Sanjay on February 25, 2016, 0:32 GMT

    Well played Smithy and team. Captian Smudge leading from the front. Great to see Burns strengthen his postion and Khawaja and Voges well settled. Nice to see Bird do well as well. Smith talked about havn to adapt well prior to the start of the tour which they have done. A good start to being able to move forward in SL and India ove the next year. Our ability to reverse the ball will be a key. As always there are the anti aussie comments from the usual suspects. Always enjoy reading the posts from fellow Aussie supporters @DUNGERBOB, @MIKEPATT, @PRASPUNTER, @DREW12, @AUSSIENSW, @DAMIEN, @BIGGUS and others. Smudge has set some good fondations for the team which should see more results away from home. Look forward to future tests away from home. Well done Lads once again. Good bye to BAZ and he will be missed.

  • Craig on February 24, 2016, 22:57 GMT

    2017 should be a defining year for Australian cricket imo. If we can beat Sth Africa here and India at home we deserve to retain our world crown. The big obstacle will be taking on India in their backyard...a graveyard for Aussie teams in the recent past. I see a marked improvement in our play against spin from as close as 12 months ago. More players are now using their feet and covering more of the crease to engage spin. Cricket Australia's innovative project to build Indian style pitches at the Cricket Academy appears to be paying off. In addition, our premier spin bowlers can only get better bowling on these types of decks. Hats off to you CA.