Toss: New Zealand. Test debuts: G. D. McGrath; B. A. Pocock.
The first two days of this Test were a dying echo of past New Zealand heroics, but by the third a note of Australian mastery was rising, and it would resound through the series. Only Australia's unaccountable dithering on the fourth day prevented a clean sweep beginning here.
Unseasonal rain delayed the match by an hour and caused the pitch to sweat profusely under its covers. Morrison and Cairns seized the chance to rip through Australia's top order, Morrison claiming Border for the seventh time in Tests and Cairns sending back Boon for his second successive Test match golden duck. Only Taylor stood firm. Next morning, as pitch and attack mellowed, Healy stroked his second Test - and first-class - century. It was doubly satisfying for him: he had been jeered 12 months earlier by the parochial Western Australian crowd, who thought Zoehrer should have replaced him in a one-day international. With support from Reiffel and McDermott, he lifted Australia to 398.
Jones marshalled New Zealand's reply with 143, his seventh Test century, Cairns hit a rollicking 78, and by the fourth morning New Zealand had established a slender lead. It was not until the second new ball that McDermott took his second wicket, his 200th in Tests - having been stuck on 198 since March - and Warne was tamed to such an extent that Cairns, fooled by a flipper, was his only wicket, and his first in three first-class matches at the WACA.
Morrison bowled superbly when the Australian openers resumed, both groping blindly for his out-swinger, but he had wretched luck. He lacked support, for Watson had torn a hamstring while batting and Cairns had a bruised heel. The modest off-spinner Patel shared the new ball and bowled almost throughout. Slowly, Slater rediscovered his footwork and confidence, then took three boundaries from Cairns's only over and moved energetically to 99, whereupon he glanced Patel to wicket-keeper Blain. He had lost a century but saved his Test place.
Taylor, as blessed as Morrison was cursed, might have been lbw at three, and caught twice before he was 20. But with the pitch now benign, he advanced methodically to 142 not out, the 11th of his Test centuries, each on a different ground, against six different opponents. He shared a long and sometimes lackadaisical partnership with Boon. Who passed 1,000 Test runs in the calendar year. Although Australia's lead grew beyond 300, Border delayed his declaration until just before lunch on the final day.
The pitch remained mild and, despite losing Greatbatch to a leg-side catch first ball, New Zealand batted the day out. Pocock extended his time at the crease in his maiden Test to almost five hours, while the brave Crowe hobbled between the wickets and winced with every shot to see the job through before flying back to Auckland. He would have grimaced more had he known what was about to befall his team.
Man of the Match: A. H. Jones.
Close of play: First day, Australia 229-6 (I. A. Healy 30*, P. R. Reiffel 16*); Second day, New Zealand 123-2 (A. H. Jones 62*, M. D. Crowe 2*); Third day, New Zealand 390-6 (C. L. Cairns 66*, T. E. Blain 35*); Fourth day, Australia 218-1 (M. A. Taylor 94*, D. C. Boon 15*).