First Test – Australia v New Zealand: Bowlers up in lights as Mitchell Starc and co rip through tourists

There cannot be many qualifications on Australia’s win. Batting first was an advantage, but they did not bat for so long, or so well, as to club New Zealand into submission. It was the bowlers who did that job. The wicket developed enough cracks to produce excitement yet not enough to influence the match. This was simply a case of Australia’s bowlers producing one of their best performances, against the world’s second-ranked Test team, and restoring a sense of inevitability to Australian domination in home conditions.


The bowling was even more meritorious for the fact that Australia’s batsmen were unable to secure their tactical aims, namely to give Starc and Cummins the use of the new ball under lights. Both of Australia’s innings with the bat became weighed down by over-thinking which got in the way of batsmen hoping to play anything resembling their natural games. Through Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon, it was quite bizarre to see New Zealand, hundreds of runs behind and with no realistic prospect of winning, dictating the terms of engagement.

Starc, Cummins and Lyon rendered all of this a footnote. Taking the ball with four hours of baking sunshine still ahead of them, and no opportunity to take a second new ball after nightfall, they discarded micro-management and just bowled well.

Free of excessive thought, the opening pair produced a fiery, accurate, and ultimately successful new-ball spell. Deprived of any of the magic properties of failing light, they captured Jeet Raval early, exposed Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor, and got their men in broad daylight, no gimmicks, through their own cricketing skills. The matter was settled long before the sun reached the yardarm.

A 296-run win places New Zealand under pressure to make a contest in Melbourne and Sydney. Conditions cannot be any less favourable for them than they were in Perth, but they weren’t beaten by the conditions; they were beaten by the very fast bowling and guileful spin that will await them in the eastern states. Trent Boult will return for the Kiwis, but their weakness is at the other end of their order.

Mitchell Starc’s Australian teammates celebrate after the quick dismissed Neil Wagner.Credit:AAP

Australia’s tactical entanglements hardly mattered in the end, nor did they ever promise to. The overwhelming strength of Australia’s bowling, even without Hazlewood, made it a sure thing. No manufacturing of complex timetables was needed. With bowlers this skilful, it was best in the end to just let them play. In Sydney and Melbourne, without the distraction of the day-night format and the pink ball, they will be ready to play again.


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