Nathan Lyon’s second fifer of the game, following David Warner’s record 24th Test century, scripted Australia’s comfortable 279-run victory at the SCG to round off their summer with a thumping 3-0 series sweep over New Zealand on Monday (January 6).
Mitchell Starc and Lyon took two apiece shortly after Australia’s declaration to trigger a fatal top-order collapse, and despite Colin de Grandhomme’s counter-attacking fifty, New Zealand’s resistance lasted less than 48 overs combined in Sydney. Set to chase 416, the visitors slipped to 38 for 5 and surrendered for 136 eventually with Matt Henry not coming out to bat to prevent aggravating his broken thumb.
The collapse began rather early, with Starc taking out both the openers in his successive overs. Tom Blundell was the first to depart, nailing a square drive off a juicy half-volley but straight to Lyon at backward point who pulled off a stunning, diving catch to make up for the two dropped chances on Day 3. New Zealand had barely added a run more to their score when Tom Latham was trapped LBW. The New Zealand stand-in skipper challenged the on-field call but “umpire’s call” on impact meant Marais Erasmus’s decision stood, leaving New Zealand two-down for just four runs on the board.
Tim Paine brought Lyon on – the wrecker-in-chief from the first innings – in the tenth over and he vindicated the move by inducing an edge off Jeet Raval. However, believing that he hadn’t nicked the ball, the New Zealand No. 3 challenged Aleem Dar’s call, only to be proven wrong. Moments later, in an action replay of sorts, Glenn Philips too was left embarrassed by the Snickometer that revealed a faint edge. The tourists lost both batsmen and their reviews on 22.
Unbeaten on 12, Ross Taylor was New Zealand’s primary hope going into Tea. The former captain surpassed Stephen Fleming’s tally of 7172 runs when on 22, to become New Zealand’s leading run-scorer in the format but couldn’t add much more to it as James Pattinson castled him with a peach, much similar to his first-innings dismissal.
At 38 for 5, when all hope seemed lost, de Grandhomme counter-attacked. He kept Australia at bay for the next 23 overs, putting on a nearly one-sided 69-run partnership with BJ Watling for the sixth wicket. The all-rounder raised a quick fifty with a six off Lyon but in an attempt to go aerial again, holed out to Burns off the very next delivery. The wicket opened the floodgates, even though Todd Astle briefly entertained with his cameo of 17 off 18 to delay the inevitable. Starc yorked out William Somerville for 7, and then Lyon went on to complete his ten-wicket match haul – and with that, the formalities – by ending Watling’s 108-ball vigil on 19 runs.
Earlier in the day, Warner converted his overnight partnership with Burns to 107 and then added 110 more with Marnus Labuschagne to stretch Australia’s lead to 420 before the home team declared their second innings. On an overcast morning and a probable target of 450 in mind, a comfortable overnight lead of 243 and all ten wickets intact afforded Warner and Burns the liberty to attack from the word go.
In fact, quick runs were the mantra evident Labuschagne’s quick scoring as the home team sought declaration at the earliest. While Warner looked to fetch some quick runs via boundaries, Burns dealt in sixes – hitting both New Zealand spinners for one each before departing for 39. Warner meanwhile raised his 31st Test half-century, off only 82 deliveries.
New Zealand’s only success came nearly an hour into the day’s play when Todd Astle followed up the classic leg-spin delivery with a well-disguised wrong’un to fox Burns out at the stroke of the drinks break. The Australian opener completely failed to read the googly that was pitched on the off and spun back into the batsman who was beaten on the inside edge. Denied the loud LBW appeal, confident New Zealand took the call upstairs and three reds on the ball-tracking forced Aleem Dar to overturn his original call.
Warner went past current coach Justin Langer’s tally of 23 Test tons with his 24th that came shortly after Lunch. Meanwhile, Labuschagne, dropped on 4 when Astle failed to take the return catch, made New Zealand pay by adding 55 more to his tally. He sacrificed his wicket for the team’s cause, uncharacteristically going for a glory shot and getting caught at long-on. The dismissal prompted Tim Paine to declare, leaving Warner unbeaten on 111. The hosts, however, were docked a penalty of five runs for both Warner and Labuschagne were warned for running on the pitch during the fag end of their second-wicket stand.
Brief scores: Australia 454 (MArnus Labuschagne 214, Steven Smith 63; Neil Wagner 3-66, Colin de Grandhomme 3-78) and 217/2 decl (David Warner 111*, Marnus Labuschagne 59; Matt Henry 1-54, Todd Astle 1-41)beat New Zealand 256 (Glenn Phillips 52, Tom Latham 49; Nathan Lyon 5-68) and 136 (Colin de Grandhomme 52, Nathan Lyon 5-50)by 279 runs.