First Test


Toss: New Zealand.

For a contest so one-sided, this match had a surprising amount to recommend it. Border provided a sense of history, Rutherford batted gallantly in both innings against the tide and Warne reminded New Zealand of the exotic delights and dangers of quality leg-spin, such a rarity in this country that most of the batsmen responded like petrified rabbits. New Zealand, who lacked batting depth, went on the attack by naming five bowlers and sending Australia in on a wet pitch. After that, the strategy rang hollow, thanks to errant bowling and defensive field settings; a third man was preferred to short leg on the first morning. After several days sweating under the covers, the pitch was dark, damp and sprinkled with inviting green patches. But the fast bowlers were so profligate in their line that coach Warren Lees gave them a dressing down at lunch. Inevitably, the chatter in the stands centred on what Sir Richard Hadlee might have done on his old stamping ground.

The Australians kept their heads down until conditions eased. The left-handers Taylor and Langer played with pragmatism rather than panache and added 116 for the second wicket. If their scoring-rate was modest, Australia more than compensated on the second day, when their diligence enabled their colleagues to make an uninhibited assault. Australia added 149 in the middle session, in which Hughes clubbed 45 from 46 balls. Three of his four sixes were off Patel, including one on to the roof of a grandstand. Border, fortunate to survive a run-out chance on nine, top-scored with 88 out of 485, although it was his lofted sweep off Patel at 1.52 p.m. that drew the most attention. As the ball bounced into the fence at mid wicket, Border reached 50 and overtook S. M. Gavaskar's 10,122 to become the leading run-scorer in Tests. Being Border, he painted the achievement as little more than a numerical inevitability for one who had played so many matches - this was his 139th Test. He saluted his team-mates in the stand, acknowledged the applause of the sparse crowd, shook hands with Healy and Parore, the nearest players, and continued his innings.

The Australian bowlers had no trouble finding their line. McDermott dismissed Greatbatch and Jones before stumps on the second day, and Hughes removed Crowe, sparring indecisively at a lifter, during a splendid spell early on the third. Picking up Crowe twice in the match was a considerable service. But no one made the New Zealanders more uncomfortable than Warne. Wright and Rutherford poked and prodded at his leg-spin with such suspicion that his first seven overs did not yield a run. Warne bowled unchanged in each innings, 22 overs in the first and 26 in the second, for match figures of seven wickets for 86. As New Zealand floundered for 182 and 243, only Rutherford prospered, save for some late-order hitting from Patel and Su'a. Rutherford's 57 on an improving pitch mocked his team-mates' efforts and included the shot of the series - an audacious back-foot cover drive off McDermott that cleared the fence. His 102 following on was even better. But his dismissals were instructive; Warne bowled him around his legs attempting to sweep in the first innings, and had him caught behind after spinning a leg-break sharply out of the footmarks coming round the wicket in the second.

Man of the Match: S. K. Warne.

Close of play: First day, Australia 217-3 (J. L. Langer 63*, S. R. Waugh 33*); Second day, New Zealand 30-2 (J. G. Wright 4*, M. D. Crowe 7*); Third day, New Zealand 37-3 (M. D. Crowe 5*, K. R. Rutherford 4*).

© John Wisden & Co