Once again, Australia finished the Test against New Zealand in four days. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)
Australia finished its home summer with an enjoyable attacking flourish, completing an unbeaten five-Test romp with victory over New Zealand at the SCG.
Australia’s Test summer
|Pakistan||The Gabba||Win by innings and 5 runs|
|Pakistan||Adelaide Oval||Win by innings and 48 runs|
|New Zealand||Perth Stadium||Win by 296 runs|
|New Zealand||MCG||Win by 247 runs|
|New Zealand||SCG||Win by 279 runs|
Pakistan series: 2-0 win
New Zealand series: 3-0 win
Tests: 5 Wins: 5 Losses: 0
The hosts first batted with vibrancy and vigour to entertain the Sydney crowd until they reached 2-217 and declared after lunch, with a lead of 416 and another David Warner century to celebrate.
Then Nathan Lyon led the charge once more with the ball, taking five wickets to earn himself 10 for the match.
Hometown boy David Warner was at his most dashing, finessing the red ball through the gaps in a spread New Zealand field on his way to another 100. Joe Burns was similarly aggressive but won’t quite have nailed down his spot after falling for 40.
That meant the two great entertainers of the summer, Warner and Marnus Labuschagne, were at the crease together to punch Australia into an unlosable position.
David Warner had time to reach another century for Australia before the declaration. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)
Not surprisingly, it resulted in some of the best batting witnessed in home Tests this season, with both men caressing and clobbering, mixing up classic strokes with improvised flamboyance.
If you’ve hardly noticed Steve Smith’s indifferent form in recent matches it’s probably because Labuschagne is becoming more and more indistinguishable in his style from the former captain.
He even played one Smith-esque tennis slam down the ground with horizontal bat.
Labuschagne finished the home summer with 896 runs at an average of 112, while Warner made 786 at 131 — truly extraordinary figures when they were produced in tandem.
The match flared into controversy before the innings was done, with Australia being punished to the tune of five runs for a running-between-wickets infringement.
In a bizarre application of the rules, which nobody could remember seeing before at Test level, umpire Aleem Dar first warned Labuschagne for running down the wicket, before penalising Warner for repeating the crime in the same over.
Marnus Labuschagne (R) was warned for running on the wicket, before umpire Aleem Dar penalised David Warner. (AP/Photosport: Andrew Cornaga)
The feisty opener lost his composure somewhat, demanding to know what he’d done wrong. And he had a point.
After playing a drive off his toes, he made a line for the edge of the pitch. In doing so it was necessary to take a couple of steps on the pitch itself, unless Dar expected him to spring like a jackrabbit onto the green area.
Despite Warner’s protestations, the run was subtracted from Australia’s total and five more were added to New Zealand’s first innings. Five more runs would have seen them avoid the follow on in that first innings.
Thankfully, one was never enforced as it would have thrown up all sorts of philosophical conundrums for commentators and statisticians to muse over for years to come.
When Labuschagne fell for 59 chasing quick runs, Paine clapped his hands and called everyone in, with enough time, it turned out, for the bowlers to tear through the deflated Kiwis.
When Mitchell Starc took the key wicket of Tom Latham, the Australians knew they had removed the biggest obstacle to victory.
But they would be made to wait after stalling on five wickets thanks to some dogged rear-guarding from Colin de Grandhomme and BJ Watling.
Once the big seamer had passed 50, however, the New Zealanders seemed to acknowledge on some level that the match was lost and there was really no point in coming back tomorrow.
The shots became more lofted, the concentration less focussed. De Grandhomme dinked a pointless shot to Joe Burns at midwicket and from there the wickets tumbled.
Nathan Lyon was in high demand from happy fans after his 10-wicket haul in the third and final Test. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)
Ric Finlay tweet: Australia’s ever-present bowlers during the Test summer – MStarc 29 wickets @17.45, NLyon 27 wickets @21.96, PCummins 20 wickets @24.10 #AUSvPAK #AUSvNZ
Lyon finished the job when Watling was caught behind square just before 6:00pm.
Perhaps Shane Warne should suggest Lyon be rested before every Test. The off-spinner proved how indispensable he is for Australia with yet another sublime display.
He would be useful if he just held up one end and allowed Australia to rotate its bevy of quicks, but he does more than that — he ensures batsmen are constantly unsettled, testing their skills and patience.
Most importantly, he takes wickets and lots of them.
New Zealand’s players will not have fond memories of this Australian tour. (AP/Photosport: Andrew Cornaga)
ABC Grandstand tweet: “They weren’t ready for this tour at all.” Former @BLACKCAPS captain Jeremy Coney tees off with @matt_clinch about the ongoing problems for the Kiwis. Is he right? #AUSvNZ #PinkTest
There were high hopes for this series after Australia had dispatched Pakistan easily. Disappointingly, the second-ranked New Zealand failed to show much more than a bit of pluck.
The fact that all three Tests were over by day four shows just how one-sided it was, despite all involved trying to convince ourselves otherwise much of the time.
As green and gold streamers exploded over the Australian team on the winner’s podium, the smiles were big but the celebrations were muted. This team has a positive energy about it and the potential to do big things.
This summer felt more like a preview of things to come, rather than the main event.