First Test

Australia v New Zealand

At Brisbane, November 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. Drawn. Toss: New Zealand.

A cluster of declarations transformed the First Test from a weather-doomed grind into a hair-raising cliffhanger as New Zealand charged towards their target. An explosive innings from Cairns almost carried them to an astonishing victory; had he not been snared flush on the long-on boundary, with ten balls remaining and 20 needed, there would have been dancing in the streets of Auckland. The draw - it was Australia's first since October 1999, and ended a record run of 20 wins and three losses - appeared likely after rain allowed only 98 overs' play during the middle three days. But a remarkably generous declaration from Steve Waugh raised eyebrows and presented New Zealand with their opportunity. Opening their second innings with Gilchrist instead of Langer, Australia rattled up 84 in 14 overs before Waugh set a gettable target of 284 from 57.

Richardson gave New Zealand a brisk start, and Fleming put on 100 in 19 overs with Astle, who boosted his aggregate at the Gabba in the space of 12 days to 347 for three times out. But it was Cairns who scared the pants off the Australians with a whirlwind 43 in 38 balls, including two mighty sixes off Warne which sailed into the top tier of the members' stand. He and McMillan added 51 in 39 balls, and New Zealand's gallant chase ended only ten short. That they came so close to winning was a hot topic in Australia. Many believed Waugh had unnecessarily risked losing the series opener without giving his side much chance of victory.

After all, Australia had dominated from the outset. Hayden and Langer had set the scene with first-day centuries. Their partnership of 224 was not only a first-wicket record in Australia-New Zealand Tests, it was also the highest opening stand by two left-handers in any Test. The pair had opened together in only one previous Test, at The Oval in August, when they put on 158. Hayden was in sublime touch here. While Langer crawled to nine, he raced to 50 in 54 balls with three successive fours off O'Connor, then struck his next ball, Vettori's first of the game, for six. He took a mere 138 balls to raise his first Test century on his home ground, and had muscled his way to 136 when Cairns finally broke through after tea. Langer lived up to his reputation for luck - he survived a huge Cairns shout for lbw in the very first over - and scratched his way through the opening session, but gradually became more assertive. He got no support from the middle order, however, as six wickets went down for 39 before the close.

Relief was only temporary for New Zealand, who were back in leather-chasing mode between showers on the second and third days. Gilchrist and Lee added 135 for the eighth wicket, another record between these sides, and Gilchrist went on to his fourth Test century before enabling Cairns to mark his 50th Test with five wickets.

Gillespie reduced New Zealand's reply to 51 for three, then Lee proceeded to dismantle the rest with a fiery spell of pace, taking five for 67, including Parore courtesy of Steve Waugh's 100th Test catch. Still, New Zealand crept past the follow-on mark just before lunch on the last day - thanks largely to Nash's final contribution before he left the tour with an abdominal strain. With only O'Connor, also injured, to come, Fleming declared immediately. It very nearly paid off.

Man of the Match: B. Lee.
Attendance: 36,752.

© John Wisden & Co