A fifth day was not needed in the Boxing Day Test between Australia and New Zealand as the hosts stormed to a 247-run win in Melbourne.
There was no stopping Australia who set the visitors a target of 488 runs to get in the final innings, with Tim Paine and his men clinching the three-match series in emphatic style. In the end, the Kiwis were able to breach the 200-run barrier for the first time in the series but that wasn’t enough to avert a crushing loss in the second Test between the two sides.
It could have been a lot worse for the visitors if not for Tom Blundell, with the New Zealand opener resisting valiantly with a fighting ton. His gritty knock of 121 features in our key talking points from Day Four at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.
Williamson and Taylor fail to fire again
The fact that skipper Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor have aggregated just 15 runs in the four innings between them in Melbourne underlines why New Zealand have struggled so heavily with the bat.
Williamson, normally so self-assured, has barely looked like himself in the series with some rather uncharacteristic dismissals. The Kiwi captain’s rash shot to throw his wicket away in the first innings was horrible by all accounts, especially in light of the match situation.
He fared no better in the second innings where he once again fell to the pace of James Pattinson. Missing a straight delivery altogether, Williamson was pinned LBW for a duck with a futile review not coming to the aid of the right-hander.
Similarly, fellow senior batsman Ross Taylor failed to do justice to his talents after he dragged a Pattinson delivery on to his stumps.
Blundell shows his chops
While New Zealand’s senior batsmen disappointed with their lack of responsibility, they were given a lesson in patience by Tom Blundell. Drafted in to the playing XI for the second Test replace the misfiring Jeet Raval, the Kiwi opener was able to save some blushes for the visitors with a resolute knock.
Playing in only his third Test, the right-hander had played a loose cover drive to squander his wicket in the first innings. However, he showed great powers of adaptability in the second innings by completely abandoning the cover drive from his armoury.
Striking 15 boundaries in his 210-ball stay at the crease, Blundell became the first New Zealand batsman to register a Test ton at the MCG and he was deservedly given a standing ovation by the significant Kiwi contingent of fans in the iconic stadium.
If not for his fightback, New Zealand most surely would have been bundled out for less than 200 runs for the fourth innings in a row. He was the last Kiwi batsman to be dismissed, but he can take immense pride from a hard-fought Test innings of the highest quality.
Lyon’s spins his web
While it was the pace of Pat Cummins, Pattinson and Mitchell Starc which rattled New Zealand in the first innings, it was the off-spin of Nathan Lyon which proved their undoing on the fourth day.
With the deteriorating Melbourne track starting to offer sharp turn and bounce on the penultimate day, Lyon was in his elements as he spun a web around the Kiwis. Pattinson did the early damage with three top-order wickets on Sunday, and from then on it was the Lyon show with the off-spinner running through the Kiwi middle-order.
Henry Nicholls and wicketkeeper BJ Watling had got themselves in, but they both fell prey to Lyon’s genius on a crumbling pitch. While Nicholls was stumped after some sharp work by Tim Paine, there was nothing Watling could do about a delivery that turned in sharply to take the inside edge of his bat.
All-rounders Colin de Grandhomme and Mitchell Santner were unable to stand the test against Lyon as well, with the latter having no answers against a perfectly flighted delivery. With the four-wicket haul, Lyon’s 45 Test scalps in 2019 is now only behind his team-mate Cummins who has 59.
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