First Test Match

Australia v New Zealand

Peter English

At Brisbane, November 18, 19, 20, 21, 2004. Australia won by an innings and 156 runs. Toss: New Zealand.

Fleming left the field at stumps on day two with much to smile about. After a preparation hampered by his mystery illness and the late withdrawal of Franklin with a groin injury, he had four Australian wickets and a lead of 156. They were riches of which he would not have dared dream. Oram, a tall all-rounder with immense power, had rescued the side from No. 7 with an innings using guile to reach his second Test century and serious bite once past it. The bowlers had stuck together while batting and were further rewarded with indents into Australia's top order.

By lunch the next day Fleming's control had been loosened by a spectacular innings from Clarke, who added a memorable home debut to his stunning first Test at Bangalore a month earlier, and 216 runs with Gilchrist. Worse was to follow when Gillespie and McGrath combined in an outrageous display. Both notched half-centuries in a 114-run partnership that was just 13 short of Australia's highest last-wicket stand, between Arthur Mailey and Johnny Taylor in 1924-25. The change was so swift that, in just three sessions, Fleming had gone from plotting a fifth-day target to an almost impossible match-saving assignment. New Zealand's second-innings resistance lasted less than three hours.

Australia dawdled through days one and two. The opening sessions were moderately successful as Kasprowicz, playing his first Test on his home ground for six years, bowled with speed and purpose, enjoying bounce not found on the subcontinent's pitches. He delivered a double blow in his third over when he induced edges from Richardson and Fleming.

Astle, smartly run out by Clarke, and Sinclair (whose nick to Ponting was referred to the third umpire Peter Parker) went with the score on 138. New Zealand were five down and staring at trouble, but Oram, the logical all-round replacement for Chris Cairns, found enough partners to boost his side to 353.

Oram, on 92 when Martin, a definite No. 11, arrived, cleverly worked the field - which had as many as eight fielders on the boundary - for twos as he neared his hundred. Then he opened up with three sixes, including two in a row from Kasprowicz. It took a while for Australia to get going. Clarke began the third day on 31 and waited until the third over to assert himself with two pulls off Mills; as lunch neared, he was at full pace. Joined by Gilchrist after Martyn lofted a cut to third man, Clarke accelerated with cover-drives off both feet, and wanted 11 from the last over of the morning to reach his century. After taking a four and a three from Martin's first two deliveries, Clarke watched Gilchrist engineer a single, as he had for Steve Waugh against England at Sydney in 2002-03, and had one ball to move off 96.

Men were sent to the square and fine-leg boundaries, and Martin provided the requisite short ball, which Clarke pulled in front of square and celebrated with airpunches and helmet kisses. Some observers compared it to Doug Walters's six off Bob Willis to get a century in a session at the WACA in 1974-75. Bowled attempting a wild swipe that ended his 200-ball stay, including 21 fours and a six, Clarke became one of Vettori's four victims. The innings of Gilchrist, who had also taken a supporting role at Bangalore, was overlooked, but with 13 fours and four sixes in 151 balls, he had scored at a faster rate than his partner.

The innings was expected to end quickly, but McGrath and Gillespie drained New Zealand with a frolicking partnership that spanned 36.1 overs. Ponting shelved plans for a declaration, and the pair reached stumps, by which time McGrath had his first half-century. His 61 boasted a hooked six and was the highest score by an Australian No. 11, beating the 52 by Rodney Hogg at Georgetown in 1983-84. That was one record no one ever expected McGrath to break.

Gillespie reached his fifty and celebrated by riding his bat like a jockey to satisfy a promise to club team-mates at the Adelaide Buffalos. The ridicule ended when McGrath became Martin's fifth wicket, but New Zealand surrendered meekly in 165 minutes with their lowest total against Australia since their first meeting at Wellington in 1945-46.

Man of the Match: M. J. Clarke. Attendance: 52,082.

© John Wisden & Co