Australia cruise to 7-wicket win; win series 2-0

From Cricbuzz

Two hours into Day 5, the umpires decided to extend play for four overs with Australia needing 32 runs to win. Steve Smith, who was at the crease along with Joe Burns, passed on the instructions to go after the bowling and get done with the formalities at the earliest.

Brendon McCullum, playing his final Test, wanted to prolong the proceedings. Even when defeat seemed the only obvious possibility, he wasn’t willing to let his Trans Tasman rivals have them easy. An unconventional attacking field was set, and the pressure to get those runs shifted on the Australians, who tried to hit out against the New Zealand pacers.

McCullum, witnessing their frustration, brought out a rare chuckle. He was well-backed by his teammates, too. The injured duo of Corey Anderson and Neil Wagner dived around the field despite the pain. The latter, continued to hurl a barrage of short-pitched deliveries at the batsmen with his plastered left-arm. McCullum raced and dived too. For those unaware of the match situation would’ve been excused to believe that New Zealand were on top. However, it was the first time, since McCullum’s took over as Test captain (December 2012) that New Zealand were losing a series at home.

In the process of trying to get the runs quickly, Burns lost his wicket and Smith only calmed down when repeated attempts by him to find gaps in the field either had the ball hitting his pads or finding a fielder. Nine balls before the extended first session, the Australian captain reversed his mind and went on the defensive.

Coming into Day 5, Australia needed 131 runs to win with nine wickets in hand at the Hagley Oval in Christchurch on Wednesday (February 24). In-form batsmen – Burns and Usman Khawaja were at the crease. With New Zealand pacers unable to reverse swing with the old ball, they had their work cut out.

After adding 43 runs in the morning, Khawaja was strangled for runs. In a bid to hit out, he played at a delivery angling away from the body off Tim Southee, and offered an easy catch to McCullum at first slip.

Nonetheless, that didn’t shake too many plans for Australia as Smith looked in good touch right from the moment he walked out to bat. He kept shuffling across the crease and worked the ball towards the on-side. The two went about their business without much worry, before falling for the temptation of finishing the match before lunch had them playing rash strokes.

Eventually, Smith and Adam Voges walked out to bat in the second session and got the 16 remaining runs without much trouble. In the process, Smith also brought up his 16th Test fifty. Australia bagged the Trans Tasman Trophy 2-0, the first whitewash for New Zealand since McCullum’s maiden series against South Africa. The seven-wicket win also takes Australia to No 1 position in ICC Test Rankings, overtaking India.

There was only a sparse crowd gathered at the Hagley Oval. But they stood up to applaud their captain as he walked back to the dressing room.

Brief Scores: New Zealand 370 & 335 (Kane Williamson 97, Matt Henry 66; Jackson Bird 5-59, James Pattinson 4-77) lost to Australia 505 & 201/3 (Joe Burns 65, Steve Smith 53*) by 7 wickets