Third Test

Australia v New Zealand

At Perth, November 30, December 1, 2, 3, 4. Drawn. Toss: New Zealand. Test debut: L. Vincent. New Zealand almost snatched an outrageous series victory after challenging their hosts to score the highest fourth-innings total to win a Test. Even more outrageously, Australia came close to doing it, but the series finally ended in its third draw.

Fleming called correctly again and, this time, chose to bat, whereupon Lou Vincent, rushed into the side at the expense of the struggling Bell, made a fairytale debut. Asked to open the batting on the world's bounciest pitch against the best pace attack, Vincent set the tone for his country's bold showing with 104 in the first innings and a run-a-ball 54 in the second. He was the sixth New Zealander to score a century on Test debut and, remarkably, only the fourth touring player to achieve the feat in Australia. The last had been the Nawab of Pataudi senior in the First Test of the Bodyline series in 1932-33, following in the steps of R. E. Foster in 1903-04 and George Gunn in 1907-08; all three were representing England, at Sydney.

Vincent added 199 with Fleming, who scored his first Test hundred for three and a half years, and only his third, to go with 34 fifties. But the partnership which really had Australia rattled came from Astle and Parore. Both made Test-best scores as they put on 253, the second-highest eighth-wicket stand in Test history, after 313 by Wasim Akram and Saqlain Mushtaq against Zimbabwe in 1996-97. It was more than a hundred better than New Zealand's previous eighth-wicket record, and beat their all-wicket best against Australia. It was the first time four New Zealanders had scored centuries in the same Test innings - curiously, no one finished in double figures - and Australia had conceded four only once before, to England at Nottingham in 1938.

Fleming declared on the second evening at 534 for nine, New Zealand's second-biggest total against their neighbours, and seemed likely to make them follow on when they were 192 for six. Australia avoided that thanks mainly to Warne's highest first-class innings: 99 out of 159 added for the remaining four wickets. New Zealand were well served by Chris Martin, who had replaced his fellow-seamer, Tuffey, but the attack was brilliantly led by Vettori, who claimed the prize wickets of the Waughs, sent back the dangerous Gilchrist, outwitted Lee and Gillespie, and deprived Warne of a century. Earlier, Langer's run of hundreds in successive Tests ended when he walked on 75 - only to look up and see the replay screen, which suggested a no-ball.

When Fleming declared on the fourth evening - just after Lee had seen off Bond with abusive language that earned a 75 per cent fine - he set Australia the uphill task of scoring a record 440 in a minimum of 107 overs. It seemed even steeper when they lost Langer and Ponting by the close. In fact, they finished only 59 short with three wickets left, and Gilchrist unbeaten on 83. The Australian batsmen took full advantage of a safety-first approach from Fleming; half-centuries from the Waughs even gave them an outside chance of winning.

It might have been a different story had umpire Robinson agreed that Steve Waugh, then 13, had been caught behind off Vettori midway through the last afternoon. That would have reduced Australia to 203 for five. New Zealand's frustration grew when Robinson refused to accept that Gillespie had gloved a ball from Cairns down the leg side to Parore, which would have been 366 for eight, with seven overs to go. It could have been Australia's first home defeat for three years. Instead, the series ended in stalemate, but the draw had provided five thrilling days of Test cricket.

Man of the Match: D. L. Vettori. Attendance: 41,853. Man of the Series: J. L. Langer.

© John Wisden & Co