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The History of Australia-New Zealand Tests

by John Polack


It was in 1992-93 that the teams next came together - this time in the form of another three match series in New Zealand. Prior to the present tour, it was also the most recent occasion on which the teams had met in the Land of the Long White Cloud. It was a series which retained a number of similarities from previous encounters - rain playing havoc with proceedings in Wellington, and relatively low scoring dominating the fixtures in Christchurch and Auckland.

Lancaster Park played host to the First Test and to a massive Australian victory, the ultimate size of which was an innings and sixty runs. After Border (88) had top scored - and created history by becoming the top Test run scorer of all time along the way - in an even batting effort which saw his team reach 485, the home side was always in bother on a pitch significantly less suited to batting than the tourists had made it appear. This was especially true once Rutherford (57) proved the only man genuinely able to resist the Australian bowlers in New Zealand's first innings of 182. Not even the presence of Greatbatch (4 and 0) at the top of order could inspire a rescue act; all but Rutherford (102) humbled in a second innings score of 243 as Hughes (2/44 and 4/62) and champion leg spinner Shane Warne (3/23 and 4/63) continued glittering personal matches.

Notwithstanding some spirited play on subsequent days from both teams, the Second Test was essentially condemned to the status of a drawn match once Wellington's rain had wiped out most of the first six hours. When the action finally did proceed, Martin Crowe (98), Wright (72) and Greatbatch (61) led from the front as New Zealand opened the contest with an entertaining 329. Steve Waugh (75) played a fine innings in Australia's reply of 298, but it was the searing pace of Morrison (7/89) which clearly provided most of the highlights of the innings. Flickering hopes of a result were then revived when McDermott (3/54) and Warne (2/49 off 40 tantalising overs) reduced their rivals to a mark of 3/30 in the second innings, but the determination of Tony Blain (51) and a hobbling Wright (46*) swiftly extinguished such prospects.

The result at Wellington ensured that, for the first time in three attempts, Australian captain Border would not depart New Zealand on the losing end of a series. But he was still to leave such shores without a series win under his belt either, after some more poor batting from his team permitted the home side the opportunity to record a tough five wicket win in the Third Test in Auckland. Much as they had done in the one-off Test three years earlier, the visitors committed the error of deciding to bat first in conditions conducive to swing and seam bowling. They paid a heavy price, crashing to Morrison (6/37) to be dismissed for a paltry 139. Warne (with the astonishing figures of 15-12-8-4) guaranteed that his opponents fared little better but, where the Australians had erred in ensuring that only four of their batsmen reached double figures, the New Zealanders conversely had only three men who did not reach them, and they established a priceless eighty-five run lead as a result. The Australians seemed temporarily transfixed when off spinner Dipak Patel (5/93) was awarded the new ball in the second innings, but young tyro Damien Martyn (74) then joined with Border (71) to lead a counter-attack that reaped rewards in the form of a score of 285. It was a tally which left Australia precisely 200 runs ahead, and the Test and the series could have gone any of several ways from there on a still bowler-friendly surface. Once Greatbatch (29 off 30 balls) had followed Martyn's prompt with an aggressive innings that seemed to unnerve the Australian bowlers, however, it paved the way for the likes of Rutherford (43 and 53* representing another fine double) to see their team home in another absorbing finish.

Captains: MD Crowe (NZ) and AR Border (Aus)

New Zealand 1 Australia 1.


Following this string of engrossing and competitive battles, the nature of the teams' meetings toward the end of the century then alternated back to the formula which had dominated their original encounters - namely, to one of almost complete Australian dominance. Indeed, the 1993-94 and 1997-98 series in Australia both resulted in crushing triumphs for the home team, and the 2-0 scorelines in which each of the sets of three matches ended were possibly flattering to the tourists. The outcomes also emphasised Australia's re-birth through the period as one of the world's best performing Test nations.

Of all of the six Tests that were to be played between them and Australia over the following four seasons, the First Test in the 1993-94 series in Perth represented one of New Zealand's more respectable performances. Nevertheless, the Australians were always in a strong position from the time that wicketkeeper Ian Healy (113*) crafted an innings of defiance that steered his team toward a first innings score of 398. Even without Healy's act of intervention or those of Jones (143) and Cairns (78) as they brilliantly seized a lead for their team at 9/419, the knowledge that captain Martin Crowe was limping because of a persistent knee injury; fast bowler Willie Watson had torn a hamstring; and Cairns himself had sustained a bruised heel, would have been enough in itself to cruel any vague dreams of success by this stage for this visitors. Typically, Morrison bowled wholeheartedly in Australia's second innings of 1/323 but with a lack of support, a frustrating run of ill fortune and the curse of a series of dubious umpiring decisions contriving to visibly affect him, Mark Taylor (142*), Michael Slater (99) and Boon (67*) profited handsomely. When opener Greatbatch (0) fell from his first ball, the signs looked ominous for the New Zealanders, but a clearly distressed Crowe (31*) bravely filled the sheet anchor role as his team fought out the remainder of the final day to finish at 4/166. Significantly, it was the last Test that Crowe would ever play against Australia and the first in which paceman Glenn McGrath (2/92 and 1/50) would compete against New Zealand.

With Crowe convalescing at home, Rutherford assumed the leadership mantle for the Second Test at the Bellerive Oval in Hobart. But it was not an auspicious start by any means, and New Zealand tumbled to a loss by the humiliating margin of an innings and 222 runs. In combining to register their country's highest ever second wicket partnership in Trans-Tasman competition, Slater (168) and Boon (106) set the tone as they guided Australia toward a score of 6/544 in stiflingly hot conditions. That Mark Waugh (111) later made a century of his own only compounded the New Zealanders' problems. It was then that the tourists' frailties were fully revealed - in a total of less than ten hours, they wilted to be dismissed for a score of 161 in each of two maudlin innings. Sixteen of their twenty wickets fell to spinners Warne (3/36 amd 6/31) and Tim May (5/65 and 2/45) as only Jones (47) and Blain (40) in the first attempt at competitiveness and Rutherford (55) in the second showed any stomach for the fight.

The Third Test in Brisbane was replete with a series of personal milestones for members of the Australian team, and resulted in another innings defeat that New Zealand supporters would undoubtedly have liked to erase from the record books altogether. It started satisfactorily enough for the tourists as Jones (56) led a competitive display from the upper order, but it then began to unravel as the lower order crumbled to Warne (4/66) to ensure that 233 was as many as they could collectively muster. In his 150th Test, Border (105) then joined with Steve Waugh (147*) to make what was to become the last of his twenty-seven Test centuries, apply the gloss to a convincing top order effort, and direct his team to the massive score of 6/607. This still remains Australia's highest ever innings total against New Zealand, and it was one to which the mentally and physically shattered Kiwis had no meaningful answer. Around another courageous performance from Rutherford (86), they were brought to their knees by more excellent bowling from Warne (4/59) and McGrath (3/66) to stutter toward 278 and defeat by an innings and 96 runs.

Captains: AR Border (Aus) and MD Crowe & KR Rutherford (NZ)

Australia 2 New Zealand 0.


Again it was Brisbane, Perth and Hobart which were the venues for the three Tests in the 1997-98 series and once more, the matches assumed a lopsided complexion. For all of that, though, the New Zealanders took across the Tasman a team which represented a real investment in the future of cricket in their country rather than one which was necessarily expected to conquer an Australian team high on both skill and confidence.

In the First Test at the 'Gabba, Cairns (4/90) made a bold start, dramatically reducing the Australians to 4/52 with some superb fast bowling. But Ricky Ponting (26) survived what looked a straight forward caught behind decision off the bowling of Simon Doull only moments into his innings, and the Australians escaped; the Tasmanian and Mark Taylor (112) holding the top and middle order together before Healy (68) and Paul Reiffel (77) made nuisances of themselves lower down to see their team to 373. Young captain Stephen Fleming (91) showed steel and resolve beyond his years in a superb first innings in international cricket in Australia, Cairns (64) showed typical aggression, and Craig McMillan (54) similar belligerence in a remarkably impressive debut Test hand, as the tourists replied with a brave 349. The Australian top order again struggled against Cairns (3/54) the second time around before Greg Blewett (91) and a dashing Ponting (73*) combined to lift the score to 6/294 and allow Taylor to effect an aggressive declaration. Set 319 runs to win in a little over a day on a deteriorating pitch, the New Zealanders were never really in the contest as McGrath (5/32) and Warne (3/54) went about the task of exhibiting the extent of their team's capacity to corner a weakening opponent. The Kiwis plunged to a 186 run defeat with only Bryan Young (45) at the top of the order and Adam Parore (39*) near the bottom playing in the type of manner appropriate to the circumstances.

The Second Test in Perth, which was ultimately won by the home team by an innings and 70 runs, was not a memorable game for several reasons. Foremost among these was the reality that the match took place in the shadow of an acrimonious dispute between the Australian players and the Australian Cricket Board over rates of pay. The cricket itself strangely took something of a back seat, although it must be said that it was the New Zealanders who appeared to be the significantly more disinterested of the two teams. McMillan (54), Cairns (52) and Parore (63) were the only players to exceed thirty as they were humbled in their innings of 217 and 174. Warne (4/83 and 2/64) and Test debutant Simon Cook (2/36 and 5/39), the latter's pace bowling proving especially difficult to handle as cracks opened in the pitch late in the second innings, were the principal beneficiaries of the New Zealanders' ineptitude. In between, Steve Waugh (96), Mark Waugh (86) and Healy (85) had been the chief contributors as Australia had careered its way to 461 around some more fine fast bowling from Cairns (4/95).

Notwithstanding their preceding torment, though, the New Zealanders won the admiration of all who witnessed the Third Test in Hobart by virtue of the significant degree of flair and enterprise that they brought to the match. Around three days of persistent drizzle that caused a substantial amount of time to be lost from the game, Matthew Elliott (114), Blewett (99) and Mark Waugh (81) seemed to push Australia so slowly to its first innings score of 400 that a draw seemed inevitable. But once the impetus provided by young opener Matthew Horne (133) had proved sound enough for New Zealand to reach 6/251 in reply, Fleming boldly declared the innings closed and threw down the gauntlet to his opposite number in Taylor to rescue the match from the dead. It was a move which seemed to surprise a man who was more familiar with making attacking declarations of his own than of responding to them, and the extent to which he delayed his ensuing closure (by waiting until lunch on the final day and until Australia's second innings had swelled to 2/138) told of this. New Zealand began the pursuit in sizzling style - Nathan Astle (40) and Horne (31) adding seventy-two for the opening wicket in less than nine overs before the first wicket fell. The assault was continued most of the way down the order, but the control of Warne (5/88) not only killed off the chase for the 288 runs that were required, but also condemned the tourists to a grim fight for survival. In the best traditions of closing matches in Trans-Tasman series in Australia, final pair Doull (1*) and Shayne O'Connor (0*) then obdurately defied some outrageously attacking fields to bat out the last sixty-four deliveries, to deny their opponents the prize of a clean sweep, and to ensure that their team deservedly did not lose a Test that it had done so much to help enliven.

Captains: MA Taylor (Aus) and SP Fleming (NZ)

Australia 2 New Zealand 0.

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Date-stamped : 23 Mar2000 - 21:47