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At Perth, November 20, 21, 22, 23. Australia won by an innings and 70 runs. Toss: New Zealand. Test debut: S.H.Cook.
After their scare in Brisbane, Australia were ready for New Zealand's aggressiveness. This time they countered it early, blotting out the visitors' first innings on a true pitch and never relinquishing their advantage, concluding the match before tea on the fourth day. The 2-0 series win was their eight in succession, discounting the one-off Test loss to India in Delhi in October 1996, and the fifth in succession sealed with at least one Test to play.
Australia's dominance, however, was obscured by the deterioration of the players' relationship with the ACB, Before the First Test, the sides had called a truce; this match, by contrast, was sabotaged on the first morning when the Board leaked a players' association document naming dates for a proposed strike. The Test became a mere backdrop to late-night meetings between the players and their advisors. Captain Mark Taylor used rain delays on the second and third days to arrange secret meetings with ACB chairman Denis Rogers. The players eventually backed down, and, far from being distracted by off-field turmoil, Australia played as if cricket oval was their refuge, where they could escape from controversy, and do what they do best.
On the field, New Zealand's batsmen continued to show a propensity to lose concentration. Their first-day 217 was agrave disappointment, with no one able to capitalise on a series of good starts in ideal conditions. Parore, promoted to No. 3 after Astle's continuing slump, resisted for nearly two and a half hours, while McMillan and Cairns both carried on their encouraging form from Brisbane. But every time a New Zealander hit the ball in the air - or so it seemed - an Australian hand intercepted it. Mark Waugh, who made an astonishing leap and catch to his right to dismiss Cairns, provided the most memorable moment.
Waugh later said that the catch triggered something in his mind. After averaging only 20.90 in the Ashes series and failing twice in the First Test, he knew his place was in jeopardy. But his 86, in a stand of 153 in 157 minutes with his brother, late on the second day, marked a return to his best. Under the Perth floodlights, which were switched on after tea, the first such use in Tests, he on-drove Vettori more than 130 yards on to the roof of the five-tier Lillee-Marsh Stand, a shot many locals believed to be the biggest six at the WACA ground. Typically, Waugh was out in frustrating fashion, tickling Doull down the leg side.
Australia's old guard - the Waughs, Healy and Reiffel- ground out a 244-run lead. During his innings of 96, Steve Waugh became the seventh Australian to pass 6,000 Test runs, but his dismissal was his seventh score in the nineties, one behind Alvin Kallicharran in this dubious club. Healy, meanwhile, passed Rodney Marsh's 3,633 Test runs and now trailed only Alan Knott (4,389) as Test cricket's highest-run-scoring wicket-keeper.
New Zealand resumed with seven sessions to save the match. But opener Pocock, his right big toe broken by a Ponting hook when he was fielding at square leg, lasted just four balls with a runner and was later ruled out of the Third Test. After that it was down to debutant seamer Simon Cook to provide the flourish, taking the last five wickets of the match. Australia would go to Hobart still without McGrath, but they had proved in Perth that, against this opposition, his absence was inconsequential.
Man of the Match: S. R. Waugh. Attendance: 24,991