Second Test

New Zealand v Australia

Andrew Ramsey

At Basin Reserve, Wellington, March 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 2005. Drawn. Toss: New Zealand.

Forecasts suggested this match would be blighted by strong winds. Instead, low cloud and drizzle hung over the Basin Reserve for much of the Second Test, ensuring New Zealand escaped with a draw. Almost everything else, however, unfolded according to the script.

Despite their heavy defeat in Christchurch, New Zealand retained their line-up, but drastically changed their preparation, which included scuffing up a practice pitch to reproduce the conditions Warne had exploited the previous week. Several aspiring local leg-spinners were recruited and told to bowl into the rough to help the home batsmen hone their defence. Meanwhile, Fleming endured more than an hour of throw-downs from video analyst Bob Carter in an attempt to remedy the technical deficiencies exposed by McGrath and co. Neither ploy worked: few of the young leg-spinners could land the ball in the right place and the practice was abandoned early, while Fleming twice fell lbw to McGrath for a combined score of one.

By contrast, the Australians enjoyed a relaxed build-up to the Test, their only distraction a call for Brett Lee to play for New South Wales in the five-day Pura Cup final against Queensland rather than sit around on the margins. But this plan also fell through, and Lee was again serving drinks in his familiar role of twelfth man. After rain and fog wiped out the opening day, Fleming gambled on the pitch having sweated beneath the covers and inserted Australia. Shortly before tea on the extended second day, at 163 for four, it looked a fruitful decision. But once again the sting in their batting lay just before the tail. This time it was Martyn who joined forces with the irrepressible Gilchrist, and together they turned a finely balanced position into one from which only the Australians could win. The pair made New Zealand rue their decision to omit off-spinner Paul Wiseman on the dry Wellington pitch, and their partnership of 256 was a sixth-wicket record between the two nations. While Martyn's highest Test innings was typically graceful and classical, Gilchrist again stole the accolades with his clinically brutal hitting. He struck 22 fours and five sixes, one of which, off Vettori, smashed a window in a function room.

Gilchrist's hundred came from just 86 balls and, though he had hit quicker ones in Mumbai (2000-01) and against Zimbabwe in Perth (2003-04), his hurry started before the third day began. While the umpires were deciding that the Wellington weather had improved sufficiently for play to start, he was in the pool at the Australian team hotel with his three-year-old son, Harrison. Gilchrist arrived at the ground just 15 minutes before the first over, but he immediately plundered the New Zealand attack, passing Ian Healy's total of 4,356 Test runs - from 86 fewer innings - to become Australia's most prolific wicketkeeper-batsman. His breathtaking 162, his third century in three Test innings, helped carry Australia to 570 for eight declared.

With around three hours to bat on the third day, New Zealand made the worst possible start when Fleming shouldered arms to the first ball he received from McGrath, and was given out lbw. By stumps they were in dire trouble at 122 for four, and under gloomy skies next morning lost a clatter of wickets to be dismissed 326 runs in arrears. The only blessing for Fleming's team was that the weather closed in again and denied the Australians any opportunity to make further inroads in the follow-on.

More rain on the final day ensured Australia's victory was moral rather than actual. In the third over of the delayed morning session McGrath claimed two wickets, including Fleming for another failure, and immediately after lunch, when Vincent became Kasprowicz's 100th Test wicket, New Zealand were facing humiliation at 37 for three. Salvation then arrived in the form of persistent rain, and at 3.30 p.m. on a bleak afternoon the match was formally abandoned, raising the bizarre prospect that New Zealand could still draw the series.

Man of the Match: A. C. Gilchrist.

© John Wisden & co.