Australia vs New Zealand: 1st Test Review

Australia 416 & 217/9d defeated New Zealand 166 & 171 by 296 runs @ Optus Stadium

POTM: Mitchell Starc – 5/52, 4/45 + 30 & 23

I’ll say this straight off the top as someone who attended the Test.

The only way Cricket Australia could have been any more unlucky with scheduling a Test match in the worst heatwave ever seen in Perth, is if they scheduled it during the one day in December the universe laughs at our expense and rains.

Seriously – Look at the weather in Perth starting from this coming Thursday.

That’s pristine Test match weather…. which will be welcomed greatly on Saturday when the Scorchers attempt to play something resembling cricket against the Renegades.

As a result of the subsequent low crowds over the 4 days, you can be guaranteed of next year’s Perth Test being against Afghanistan in mid-October…. Probably at Lilac Hill.

As for the teams, Lachie Ferguson made his Test debut in place of the injured Trent Boult, and umpire Aleem Dar took the field for his record 129th Test match, beating the long-standing record held by India’s all-time favourite umpire, Steve Bucknor.

Crap, now I’m going to get spammed about the 2008 New Year’s Test.

Day 1

Myself and The Rocket (Aka His Lordship) experienced the strange sensation of rocking up to a Perth Test at 10 in the morning, instead of the usual 5am, and after getting inside and staking our claim like Paddy Hannan to a speck of gold, within 15 minutes, the power went out in the Members reserve, delaying the start of most all-day drinking sessions to midday.

In hindsight, the power also went off on the Kiwis when Tim Paine won the toss and chose to laugh sadistically at the visitors suffering while bowling in 40 degree heat.

As Dave Warner got the innings rolling as only Dave Warner can, a frustrated Tim Southee decided to make an assassination attempt against Joe Burns, which was the closest the visitors came to taking a wicket in the opening hour.

After the opening hour, Burns was the first wicket to fall, being adjudged LBW for 9 by one of Colin de Grandhomme’s 122 km/h trudgers, which turned out to be going down leg side on the DRS, but Dave Warner reminded him who was wearing the g-string in their partnership.

Still looking invincible after that 335, Warner was unbelievably dismissed on 43 after chasing a low full-toss from Neil Wagner, who stuck out his right hand in a reflex action while sliding down, and to the sheer bewilderment of everyone, the ball stuck in his mit.

“Fatty Vautin you orsey bawstawd!”

Turned out it was only the second-best catch from the Test.

In an odd coincidence, right as that caught & bowled occurred, I was busy telling The Rocket in an off-topic conversation that Ringo Starr’s real name isn’t Richard Starkey…. it’s SIR Richard Starkey.

Despite those successes, the Kiwis copped one in the gonads when debutant Ferguson went down in the 2nd session with a dodgy calf, after bowling 11 overs, leaving him unable to bowl for the remainder of the match (He did bat), and not many people would realise, but that’s the second time a New Zealand team has gone a player down at Optus Stadium this year.

The other was Scotty Barrett getting sent off for a shoulder charge in the Bledisloe.

Mitch Santner obviously tried doing this to Aleem later on

With Warner gone, the Kiwis faced the nightmare of Steve Smith batting with South African Steve Smith, and the clones batted right into the evening session in a 132-run partnership, although in a strange twist, it was Loosebuschange outscoring Smudge at a rate of 2:1!

In the meantime, the No Hope travelling party ventured up to some wanky open air Sky Bar on the Swan River side of the ground, but thanks to the heat being generated from one of the two Biggest Scoreboards In The Southern Hemisphere, they were better off renaming that area ‘The Sauna.’

We lasted roughly the same length of time as Mal Meninga’s political career, but I will say this – The view really enables you to see just how much of the crowd dressed up as seats.

As Springbok Steve Smith passed 90, he also reached 1,000 runs for his career (The 4th fastest Aussie to that mark), and to the delight of the crowd, brought up his 3rd consecutive ton in the best way possible – Clubbing a spinner back down the ground for 6.

I’d detail the remainder of the evening, but after a day of 40 degree heat and a solid 7 hours on the piss, I was in the process of nodding off.

Apparently Smith fell to a perfectly laid leg side trap by Williamson (Southee & Wagner combined for that one), which in part explains why the Kiwis were going all out with the Bodyline leg theory tactics on Saturday, and Matty Wade had a brain fart.

Day 2

In the latest crazy moment to occur during the Test, the ground informally known as The Furnace was almost turned into an actual furnace, when a fire started at Belmont Racecourse barely half-an-hour before play was set to get underway.

You may think that was a grass fire, but it was actually the Kiwis sending out a cry for help after Thursday’s torture session.

Suffering in 40 degree temperatures while down a quick for the match, Wagner was made to work like a Clydesdale in a heroic 9 over spell during the opening session, and he got reward for effort by bowling around the wicket to Loosebuschange, producing a perfect delivery that bowled the right handed demigod around his legs for 143.

It’s yet another episode in this worrying slump Marnus is in – He’s fallen from scores of 185, to 162, and now he can only put together 143.

With that partnership over, Head buckled down with his captain in the heat to reach a half century, but summing up why he’s half a chance of being knifed at the selection table, he let another good start go to waste by picking out Santner on 56 when Southee forced him to crack.

Paine (39), Pat Cummins (20) and Mitchell Starc (30) provided some really useful rear guard action to push the total past 400, eventually being bowled out for 416, as Southee and Wagner picked up 4 wickets apiece.

Having spent 2 brutal days in the field, the Kiwis were obviously as keen as mustard to get back out there, as Tom Latham popped up an easy caught & bowled for Starc 5 balls in, and then Hazlewood struck next over, removing the team mascot Jeet Raval for 1, which turned out to be the only full over he got through before pulling up lame with a dodgy hamstring after only 8 balls.

Taking advantage of the new legalised assisted dying laws in WA, Cricket Australia eased Josh’s pain, as Michael Neser took his spot in the field, while the injuries to both Hazlewood and Ferguson also created fresh discussion about the potential for injury replacements in Test cricket.

I’d give it 5 minutes before someone found a grey area…. and that’s being conservative.

With Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson clinging aboard the life raft floating up Shit Creek, things got even worse for the Kiwis…. when Matty Wade came on to bowl down some heat!

It was funny, but it wasn’t quite Michael Clarke giving Wade the ball on the last day of the 2012 Hobart Test…. when he was the keeper.

Moving along to 34 in a 76-run partnership with Rosco, skipper Williamson was brought undone by a moment of magic from Smithy, who kept up his weird streak of taking one-handed screamers against New Zealand with something resembling The Hand of God, only this time it wasn’t committed by a fat little Argentinian after smashing out a line.

Let’s see that again

And one more

In a dominant final hour, which kind of sums up his mastery of the pink ball, Starc removed Nicholls for 7, and then demolished the nightwatchman Wagner for a golden duck, landing himself on a hat-trick for the 3rd consecutive Test, and the 4th time this summer, if you throw in that T20I against Pakistan (Also in Perth).

But, the 4th time was not the charm, as BJ Watling defended the hat-trick ball, and I think the obvious answer as to why Mitch couldn’t convert any of them into the coveted feat of bowling is quite simple – Unlike Peter Siddle, none of them were on his birthday.

Still, his 4 wickets left the Kiwis at 5/109 at stumps, with Taylor unbeaten on 66, needing to pump out another knock of 290 to revive the lifeless corpse that was their hopes of victory.

Day 3

The Aussies missed an immediate chance to strike on Saturday, when Taylor sent Watling back with an extremely late no call, leaving BJ stranded in No Man’s Land and a walking run-out victim, only for Paine to piss-up Lyon’s throw to the keeper’s end.

It didn’t cost too much, because Watling only contributed another 7 runs before he was skittled by Cummins, as Taylor progressed to 80 in a defiant performance, before his struggles against Lyon cultimated in Gazza taking out the danger man with a relatively soft dismissal – Taylor poked at a fuller delivery that was edged straight to Smith for a low catch at slip.

Funnily enough, that 80 turned out to be the second-highest score of the match.

Providing some wag in the tail, de Grandhomme progressed to 23 off 20, but in a contentious moment at 7/155, Starc hit back with a bouncer that smashed into some part of CDG, and flew into the hands of Steve Smith at second slip, with Aleem taking a good 15 years to finally raise the finger, thinking the ball had flicked some part of the glove.

CDG reviewed immediately, and despite nothing noticeable on hot spot, plus nothing much on the snicko other than a massive spike that looked closer to the helmet than the glove, 3rd Umpire Erasmus had no conclusive evidence to overturn the call.

Two cheap wickets later from Labuschagne and Lyon saw the Kiwis bowled out for 166, a massive 250 runs behind, but Paine did the sensible thing and gave the bowlers a rest after an afternoon in 41 degree heat, which also meant Australia would bat twice in a Test for the first time this summer.

With the pitch starting to became harder and harder to bat on, the Kiwis reinvented the wheel and deployed the Bodyline leg theory tactics – Wagner, Southee and De Grandhomme firing in short-pitched missiles, some of which barely ticked past 125 km/h, and loading up the leg side with players in catching position, in scenes unseen

After Warner and Burns raced away to an unbeaten 44-run stand, the short stuff started paying dividends as the lights kicked in, when Southee frustrated Warner into top edging a pull shot that sat up perfectly for sub fielder Tom Blundell at silly mid on, and the Kiwis very nearly claimed Labuschagne third ball with a mistimed top edge, but de Grandhomme spilled the prize tracking back from mid-wicket.

After that reprieve, Biltong Boy and Mr Burns set about driving the nails into the Kiwi coffin, handling the wild nature of the pink ball under lights better than all of their teammates combined, posting a pair of half-centuries in an 87-run partnership.

In the meantime, this Test apparently hadn’t experienced enough weird crap, so Aleem became the latest individual to go down with an on-field injury, after being smacked in some solid knee on knee contact with Santner trying to avoid a run-out attempt.

After realising that everyone would have been subjected to Joel Wilson’s mindbogglingly crap decisions if he’d gone off, Aleem rose to his feet and carried on, although unsurprisingly, his decision making declined dramatically after that incident, although others would argue it was also crap to begin with.

Not even moments after posting his half-ton, Marnus was unable to avoid the inevitable short-pitched mastery of Wagner, shanking him straight to Santner at mid wicket for 53, in what was an apparent lapse of concentration, that saw him miss out on becoming the 5th batsman in history to post 4 consecutive Test centuries.

That set off a spectacular chain reaction of short-pitched brutality- Southee claimed Burns for 53 fending a catch to Nicholls in the gully, Smith made it to 16 when he was baited into another leg side dismissal by Wagner, mistiming a pull straight to Rahal, Head was used by Southee as catching practice for de Grandhomme at leg gully for 5, and rounding off the crazy final session, Southee attacked Paine down the leg side and cleaned up the skipper for a 2-ball duck, completing a 90 minute spell that resulted in the Aussies losing 5/36, as Wade and Cummins reached stumps unharmed at 6/167.

In a Test in which they got bent over a barrel for 4 days straight, that final session for the Black Caps was like comparing Picasso to a banana duct-taped to a white sheet, and I can only think that if Douglas Jardine had have been alive to see the success they’d had using leg theory, he’d have been at half mast.

Still though, the Aussies had a very comfortable lead with 2 days to play.

Day 4

As the fourth day of the worst heatwave felt in Perth ticked over, there was another unusual moment, when the chicken in the sandwiches was apparently undercooked.

Alternatively, several hundred people enjoyed the new addition to Perth Stadium’s menu – The Shit Sandwich.

Just as Day 3 had ended, the Kiwis redeployed the short pitched material, and a few hits to the body from Wagner merely amused Wade, who gave the order to “Keep comin’, big boy.”

And keep comin’, the Big Boy did, while Wade fell for 16 when he randomly skied de Grandhomme straight to Raval, for what was the 7th out of (Then) 8 dismissals to come from a short-pitched delivery.

Starc pushed the total past 200 with another valuable 23, before he finally skied one to Taylor to give Southee a well-earned 5fer, and without Hazlewood, the declaration was forced an hour into the day, leaving the Kiwis to somehow bat out the equivalent of just under 2 days, or try and chase a nigh-on impossible 468, with several natives armed with pink balls ready to give them a dose of their own medicine.

Having to bowl minus Ferguson in the infamous dry heat of Perth (Yes, it’s a dry heat) for 4 days on end, Southee had enough in the tank to bowl 51 overs and claim 9 wickets, but Wagner was herculean, bowling a grand total of 60 overs – The most by any bowler in an Australian Test match in 7 years, as he finished with 7 wickets.

Given he bowled that many overs and that many accurate short balls without collapsing and dying from being overworked, I’m convinced he’s a Terminator sent back by Skynet to kill Steve Smith.

Anyway, New Zealand’s quest for survival started as well as my job search, when Raval went cheaply for the second time, splicing a short Starc delivery straight to Lyon at point for 1, who would pick up the next wicket with his first ball – Williamson for a quick 14, which picked out a crack and flicked Kane’s glove, sitting up for Wade at short leg – landing the GOAT on a Merv Hughes hat-trick (Spread out over 2 innings), which Taylor eventually had no problem seeing off.

To quote Kerry O’Keefe, “There are Colombian drug dealers that do less crack than Nathan Lyon.”

With all the crap once again lumped on his shoulders, Taylor only made to 22 before he tried pulling Starc through the off-side, resulting in a bottom edge and a simple caught behind for Paine, while Lyon struck again when Latham was hit on his back pad on 18, which was given not out by a doped-up Aleem, so Paine reviewed, and summing up the fortunes of the Kiwis, it was smashing into leg stump.

That left the Kiwis reeling at 4/57, and it was increasingly looking like the match would end on Sunday night.

In the only sustained partnership of the day, de Grandhomme and Watling were able to combine to put on 56 for the 6th wicket, seeing the Kiwis through to the final drinks break, after which de Grandhomme was sent packing for 33 when Cummins went around the wicket, followed in procession by Watling for 40, who became Starc’s 3rd victim when Paine reviewed on instinct for a caught behind that Nigel Llong turned down, and the hotspot came back with a light brush on the glove, confirming that if Timmy can absolutely nail 2 reviews on the same day, we are well and truly through the looking glass.

Wagner then went 6 and out to become Starc’s 4th victim, and the match came to an end 10 minutes later, when Lyon took the last wicket of Southee just shy of 8pm to join Starc with 4 scalps.

The Kiwis managing to pass their first innings performance, but the Australians got the job done by a massive 296 runs, as Starc took out Player of the Match honours for his 9 wickets and two handy contributions with the bat.

So Dave Warner got held in check, Steve Smith has now gone 3 Tests without so much as a half-century, Josh Hazlewood suffered the fabled hammy pull and won’t be back in the creams, and Pat Cummins only took 3 wickets for the match, having become so unplayable that he can’t even draw an edge.

And yet, once again highlighting the improvement of the team as a unit, the Aussies won easily.

I saw Tim Paine’s comment last night that he wished the team had an all-rounder after Hazlewood’s injury…

Say, is that Mitch Marsh’s music I hear?

Categories: Cricket

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