Test matches (2): Australia 1, New Zealand 1
Just over a month after New Zealanders scratched a 24-year sporting itch by winning the rugby World Cup, another still festered. This one stretched back even further - to 1985-86, when Richard Hadlee took 33 wickets in three matches, and New Zealand collected their only two victories in 26 previous attempts across the Tasman Sea. In fact, when their country last won a Test in Australia, Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee and Kane Williamson were not even born.
It was little wonder, then, that New Zealand's long-suffering cricket public got excited after their team beat Australia by seven runs in the Second Test at Hobart: Ross Taylor and his players even received a standing ovation from passengers as they boarded their Air New Zealand flight home to Auckland. It levelled a rollicking two-Test series, both matches completed in under three days of actual playing time after Australia had dominated the First at Brisbane.
Australia had only just played out another 1-1 draw, in South Africa, and were, as ever against their neighbours, heavy favourites. But memories of their Cape Town capitulation for 47 were fresh; throw in the perceived waning of Ricky Ponting and Mike Hussey, and the absence of five injured frontliners - Shane Watson, Mitchell Johnson, Ryan Harris, Shaun Marsh and teenage fast bowler Pat Cummins - and it was not quite so clear-cut.
New Zealand, ranked eighth on the ICC table, had not beaten a top-eight side away from home since 2002, when they won in Barbados. Even so, they arrived with a swagger, rather than their usual stagger. Taylor, Brendon McCullum and Jesse Ryder all scored rapid centuries in the solitary warm-up game, against Australia A, with Ryder equalling the world record for sixes in a first-class innings, clearing the rope 16 times during a blazing 175.
But conditions in the Tests were much more in favour of the bowlers, and a pair of 21-year-olds stole the show. James Pattinson was best known as the younger brother of the one-time England seamer Darren. A fringe member of the Australian squad, James was called up for his first Test thanks to the assorted ailments of Cummins, Harris and Johnson, and ended a dream fortnight as Man of the Series, with 14 wickets at 14 apiece.
It had not, in truth, started well: thrown the new ball in Brisbane by Michael Clarke - Pattinson was the first debutant to bowl the first over for Australia since Alan Hurst, also against New Zealand, at Adelaide in 1973-74 - he began with a delivery that had a hint of Steve Harmison's infamous opener at Brisbane, and his first over went for 13 against a fired-up McCullum. However, in the second innings Pattinson took the first five wickets, before claiming another five-for on a green, seaming pitch at Hobart.
Doug Bracewell had already shown his match-winning qualities on debut, at Bulawayo the previous month, when his five-wicket haul helped New Zealand secure victory over Zimbabwe in the final session. He arrived with an impressive pedigree: his father, Brendon, was a Test fast bowler, and three of his uncles also played first-class cricket. One of them, John, coached New Zealand after a career as a combative off-spinner which included their last Test victory in Australia, at Perth late in 1985.
Bracewell junior may have been aware of the history when he embarked on one of the most memorable bowling spells by a New Zealander not called Hadlee, taking six for 40 as Australia lost eight for 77. He ended the match by bowling Nathan Lyon after a gripping 34-run partnership for the last wicket with David Warner, who carried his bat in only his second Test for an unbeaten 123.
While Warner averaged 76.50 in his debut series, his opening partner, Phillip Hughes, had a wretched time. He managed only 10.25 and had the dubious honour of being caught in the slips by Martin Guptill off Chris Martin four times out of four. Ponting scored one half-century but generally struggled, while Hussey never got going and averaged less than eight.
New Zealand also unearthed some much-needed middle-order grit, and they had Western Australian cricket to thank. Dean Brownlie was born and raised in Perth but, frustrated by a lack of opportunities, shifted to his father's home town of Christchurch in 2009. Displaying a sound back-foot technique, he scored 77 not out at Brisbane and 56 at Hobart, both from No. 6, becoming only the third New Zealander, after former greats John Reid and Bert Sutcliffe, to make fifties in each of his first three Tests (Brownlie had also hit one on debut at Bulawayo). It was as well he did - none of the top five managed to average more than 20.
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