New Zealand’s miserable record in Australia continued with Australia taking just four days to wrap up a mammoth 296-run victory in the first Test in Perth.
Resuming their second innings at 167-6 on the penultimate day, the hosts declared at 217-9 to leave the Kiwis with the daunting task of pulling off a world-record chase of 468.
In the end, the visitors were unable to make any sort of indent into that giant target, as they keeled over meekly under the Perth floodlights. It was the Mitchell Starc show once again with the pink-ball, with the left-armed pacer extending his fabulous home summer with another lethal showing.
His fearsome prowess with the pink-ball was always going to worrying point for New Zealand, and it is where we begin our takeaways from the first Test.
Starc’s pink-ball reputation soars higher
It has been some Australian summer so far for Mitchell Starc who was the pace attack’s fourth wheel for large parts of the Ashes tour earlier this year. Despite possessing searing pace, Starc’s reputation of being wayward and loose with the red-ball had preceded him for the last few years.
The 29-year-old wouldn’t have expected to become so integral to Australia’s Test plans in the home season, but an untimely suspension to James Patterson has just been the kick-start Starc needed to reignite his five-day career.
Having affirmed his pink-ball prowess with a five-for in the first innings against the Kiwis, Starc added four more wickets to his name on Sunday to take his season tally to 24 in just three Tests. A slight change in his bowling action has worked wonders for the pacer who is looking more accurate than ever.
His nine dismissals in Perth means Starc has now picked up 42 in seven day-night Tests at a stellar average of 19.23. No other bowler comes close with the pink-ball with Nathan Lyon’s 28 wickets a distant second.
New Zealand cut down to size
Kane Williamson’s men arrived on Aussie shores on the back of a burgeoning Test reputation which had seen them climb up to No2 in the table. However, literally everything else was stacked against them with the visitors coming into the Perth clash without any sort of warm-up clash, let alone one with a pink-ball.
Their record in Australia, especially in the past three decades, had been an extremely pitiful one and as such, history was very much against them. That they were up against a side who had won all seven of their previous day-night Test encounters was also ominous, and their display in Perth will only go on to confirm their credentials as bottlers in Australia.
With paltry scores of 166 and 171, the Kiwis were brought crashing down to size and they have now fallen to their 13th defeat in the last 23 Test appearances on Australian soil. Of the remaining 10, nine have ended in draws while only one has resulted in a victory. That eight of those losses have come by an innings or a margin greater than 200 runs is a stark foreboding for what is to come in the remainder of the series.
They are now just one loss away from what would be a first Test series loss in over 33 months.
Smith form no problem for Aussies
For the fifth innings in a row, Steve Smith failed to get going with the Australian stalwart now going three Tests without a half-century for the very first time in his career. After piling up the runs like a machine on his Test return in the Ashes series, Smith has been strangely subdued at home against Pakistan and now New Zealand.
Despite his lean patch, Australia have not really been hurt with Marnus Labuschagne and David Warner racking up the runs instead. Labuschagne’s third Test ton in a row means he is the leading run-scorer (1, 022) in the format in 2019 by a country mile, while Warner is in the middle of a purple patch as well.
Such has been Australia’s dominance against Pakistan and the Kiwis that spectacular catches in the field have become Smith’s primary contribution. That Smith will come good sooner rather than later is another ominous sign for the visitors who could bear the full brunt of his bat in the two remaining Tests.
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