First Test Match

New Zealand v Australia 1999-2000

Toss: Australia.

There was no keeping Warne out of the limelight. Fellow-spinners Vettori and Miller may have outbowled him; Steve Waugh, his captain, might have kept him sidelined as Miller and Lee worked through New Zealand's lower-order batting on the final day. But, with the last pair at the wicket, Warne returned. Wiseman hit him for two fours then swung again, missed and could do nothing as the ball looped from glove, arm and shoulder to wicket-keeper Gilchrist. Warne, having gone into the match needing five for the record, had captured his 356th Test wicket to overtake Dennis Lillee as Australia's leading wicket-taker and complete Australia's eighth consecutive Test victory.

It was a little ironic that Warne, the most prolific spinner in cricket history, had to wait to the last, given that spin accounted for 28 of the 40 wickets. It was certainly a contrast to the Test at Eden Park a year earlier, when New Zealand and South Africa ran up 1217 runs for 18 wickets, only five to slow bowlers. This time the pitch was grassy enough to favour seamers, but it also offered the spinners turn and a tricky, tennis-ball bounce. Vettori was in action from the tenth over on the first morning, Langer immediately greeting him with a four and a six, as if aware that batting was already a matter of trusting to luck. Langer rushed to 46 from 47 balls before he was stumped off Wiseman's off-spin, Blewett went to the same bowler two overs later and, after that, only Mark Waugh, unbeaten for three and a quarter hours, had a satisfactory answer to the questions set by Vettori and Wiseman. Vettori bowled his left-arm spin unchanged from lunch until the end of the innings.

McGrath and Lee presided over the almost ritual removal of the New Zealand openers, with the drama heightened by the first use of floodlights in a New Zealand Test, owing to the poor light. Warne chipped away at the middle order the following morning and, soon after lunch, McGrath finished his previous evening's work with three for 21 from his last 25 balls. Australia had a lead of 51, which was just as well. After Cairns had again closed the Blewett-Slater opening partnership, Vettori took the ninth over and embarked on one of the great New Zealand spin-bowling passages. Langer corrected the faulty start with a brisk 47; Vettori fought back and got him in the 27th over. When both Waughs had gone at 107 for five, a winning door was opening for New Zealand.

Stout batting by Martyn and Gilchrist amid the third-morning showers helped Australia out of the danger zone, but Vettori and Wiseman took the last five wickets in 11 overs either side of an early lunch prolonged by more rain. When Vettori bowled Martyn, he had his 100th wicket in 29 Tests and, at the age of 21 years 46 days, he supplanted Saqlain Mushtaq as the youngest spinner to this landmark by a year and 279 days. Only Kapil Dev, a fast bowler, had reached his century at a younger age. Vettori's seven for 87 in Australia's second innings were his best figures yet, while his match return of 12 for 149, his first ten-wicket take, was the second best for New Zealand behind Sir Richard Hadlee's 15 for 123, also against Australia, at Brisbane in 1985-86.

Showers, bad light and overnight thunderstorms all conspired against New Zealand's attempt on a winning score of 281. There was also the depressingly familiar scenario of second-innings wickets falling early, with four gone for 43 by the 18th over. Astle and McMillan applied a tourniquet, adding 78 in 17 overs before Warne bowled Astle around his legs to equal Lillee's record. With McMillan, whose fifty came off 50 balls, and Cairns still together at stumps, and New Zealand 130 from their target, victory was not completely out of the question with two days to play. But rain washed out the fourth day and delayed the start of the fifth, when New Zealand immediately lost Cairns. Parore stayed for an hour, but when Lee struck twice, removing him and McMillan in successive overs, that was it. All that remained was for Miller to complete his first five-wicket return in Tests, and for Warne to pursue the victim who would take him past Lillee.

Man of the Match: D. L. Vettori.

© John Wisden & Co