First Test

New Zealand v Australia

Andrew Ramsey


At Christchurch, March 10, 11, 12, 13, 2005. Australia won by nine wickets. Toss: Australia. Test debuts: C. D. Cumming, I. E. O'Brien.

For more than two days it looked as though New Zealand might flout the form book and get the better of the Australians who, on the third morning, were fleetingly in danger of following on. The intrigue and controversy that characterised the build-up to the opening Test, for once, did not seem misplaced. There was even a chance that Shane Warne - who had scathingly dismissed the explanations of the New Zealand coach John Bracewell for their one-day defeats as "the best excuses I've ever heard" - would get his comeuppance. But it was all an illusion. On the third afternoon, normal service was resumed and by the fourth evening Australia had romped home.

Sent in by Ponting on an even-paced pitch, New Zealand's batsmen prospered, perhaps vindicating those who argued that Brett Lee, enjoying the form of his life in recent one-day games, should have been included. And once a maiden Test hundred from Hamish Marshall had seen New Zealand - aided by a couple of straightforward turfed slip catches - to 330 for three on the second morning, Australia's dominance of the past three weeks was just a memory.

But McGrath then ran through the home batsmen in electrifying fashion, his last ten overs yielding six for 40. From a position of such strength, Fleming was rightly disappointed with 433. Immediately, the Australian openers revealed their attacking hands, and 15 came from Martin's opening over. Yet the introduction of Vettori quelled the scoring, and wickets began to fall. On the third morning, Australia were 160 for five, 74 from saving the follow-on. But when Gillespie, the night-watchman, was sixth out at 201, Gilchrist arrived to partner Katich.

These two then forged the stand that determined the outcome of the match. They added 212, just five runs shy of Australia's seventh-wicket Test record set by Doug Walters and Gary Gilmour on the same ground 28 years earlier. More significantly, they scored their runs in such irresistible fashion that they stole all the momentum New Zealand had established over the first two days. As ever, Gilchrist was the dominant partner: his hundred came up from 105 balls, and his 121 contained six stunning sixes, five off Vettori, including one which landed in the imposing new grandstand. By the time he fell attempting one big hit too many, Australia were just 20 in arrears. Katich fell shortly afterwards, but he had notched an important century - one that strengthened his claim to keep the middle-order place vacated by Darren Lehmann, who was recovering after shoulder surgery.

New Zealand had first-innings lead, but only by one run. They looked demoralised, and duly capitulated. Their batsmen seemed neither able nor willing to find a way of combating Warne, who bowled round the wicket into the deep footmarks created by the fast bowlers at the Hadlee Stand End. The dismissal of Marshall was doubly significant: first, it exemplified the depth of New Zealand's problems because the ball cannoned out of a pothole and shot behind the batsman's legs as he played no stroke; second, it was Warne's 1,000th in first-class cricket. Among current players, only Phil DeFreitas, Mushtaq Ahmed, Martin Bicknell and Muttiah Muralitharan had more. McMillan was equally at sea, padding up to balls he should have hit, and then playing at a wide leg-break and pushing a catch to short leg.

Warne finished with the 29th five-wicket haul of his Test career as New Zealand were rolled over for 131, with seven lbws - equalling the Test record set in Zimbabwe's first innings at Chester-le-Street in 2003. Over the next couple of hours, the inadequacy of New Zealand's second-innings batting was made clear by the ease with which Langer and Ponting helped themselves to a steady diet of 19 fours and two sixes. Victory, in the end, was very easy.

Man of the Match: A. C. Gilchrist.

© John Wisden & co.