At Basin Reserve, Wellington, March 24, 25, 26, 27. Australia won by six wickets. Toss: New Zealand.
New Zealand stiffened their pace attack by bringing in the left-arm seamer, O'Connor, ahead of off-spinner Wiseman. The obvious plan, or so it appeared, was to attack on what looked a lively pitch. Yet, on winning the toss, Fleming decided to put his own brittle batting line-up under pressure first. It was quickly exposed. Lee, using his speed rather than extravagant movement, had brushed aside Spearman and Horne by his second over, Miller trapped Sinclair lbw with a straight medium-pacer in the tenth, and Fleming and McMillan were also out by the time New Zealand struggled to lunch at 69 for five. The afternoon, however, produced New Zealand's best hours of Test cricket since they outplayed West Indies either side of Christmas. While Astle bustled away, Cairns flexed his batting muscles and in half an hour they added 46. Cairns should have been caught when 38, but their fightback had added 72 off 88 balls when Mark Waugh helped Warne remove Astle with one of his artistic first-slip catches. Undeterred, Cairns charged past fifty from 54 balls, steadied a little and was 82 at tea, 135 runs having come in the 32 overs since lunch. He lost Parore after the interval, their partnership worth 109 in 113 minutes, but there was no stopping his third Test hundred. From 138 balls, his 109 contained 14 fours and two sixes, its end just as dramatic as its compilation. Cairns hit Miller high and straight, and Blewett at long-on wobbled about under the ball until he dragged in the catch as he was falling to the ground.
New Zealand built on their recovery by whisking out Blewett and night-watchman Warne for 29 in the last seven overs, and enjoyed further success next morning with Langer and Mark Waugh out within eight more overs. However, Slater and Steve Waugh drew from their deep well of experience and slowly worked Australia clear. When the bowling lost its sharp edge as Vettori began to feel the effects of a back strain, the two New South Welshmen were away. Slater took 97 balls for his first fifty, only 54 for his second, and while Waugh's 22nd Test century was more circumspect - 94 balls for the first fifty, 113 for the second - their stand was worth 199 by the time Slater was caught behind for 143, having hit a six and 23 fours. Waugh and Martyn added 68, mostly off the new ball, before bad light stopped play, and the runs continued to flow on the third morning as they extended their partnership to 114. Even after McMillan and O'Connor broke through, New Zealand had to endure a run-a-minute last-wicket stand of 33 between Waugh and McGrath that saw Australia's captain to 151 not out, so completing scores of 150 against the other eight Test countries. He had batted seven minutes short of seven hours and hit 23 fours, establishing a lead of 121.
Horne and Spearman put on 46 for the first wicket, New Zealand's best start of the series. But when Horne and Sinclair left in four balls, Spearman at 69 and Astle and McMillan at 88, putting Warne on a hat-trick, New Zealand were still 33 behind. Once again, Cairns came to the rescue - and with a full cavalry charge. He belted Warne for four, six, six, then flicked a ball from Lee over the long-leg fence and away down Kent Terrace. Next came the shot of the Test, perhaps the season. Cairns rocked slightly back and hit Lee high and straight over the sightscreen. The Australian batsmen in the slip cordon almost clapped. He hit two more sixes and another four as he reached his fifty in 54 balls for the second time in the match, and he was unbeaten on 61 when bad light left New Zealand 189 for five. Fleming had seemed almost anonymous during their century stand. Both went in the first hour on the fourth morning, though, and it needed another tidy innings by Parore and a roistering 40 from Doull to set Australia as many as 174. By now the pitch had flattened out and, with most of the afternoon ahead of them, the Australians were able to bat well within themselves and still win with a day to spare.
Man of the Match: M. J. Slater.