Article by Jon Cocks 01/12/04
At the conclusion of the Second Trans-Tasman Test, New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming talked of his team’s inability to withstand the best ever Test attack. He labeled Australia’s bowlers as being like three Richard Hadlees and the greatest ever leg spinner. Given that Australia took twenty New Zealand wickets for 501, while Fleming’s men could only manage ten for 714, the stark difference in those bare stats would add weight to his words.
Factor in the ability to play long partnerships, field with consistent brilliance, formulate and execute innovative plans and there is credence in the view that this Australian team is unbeatable. The media was full of such theories as the Australians marched steadily to a powerful win by lunch on the fifth day, but serious pundits remind us that it wasn’t very long ago that Australia capitulated in Mumbai. However, that was a dead rubber, asserted the proponents of the unbeatable theory. Whichever way you think, New Zealand was not going to provide a serious contest to Australia in these two tests.
On the back of an innings win in Brisbane, members of the Australian cricket team were of a collective mind to turn up the heat on the Kiwis, who needed a win in Adelaide simply to square the series. The visitors’ pace attack needed more sting, but instead they added off spinner Paul Wiseman at the expense of batsman Craig McMillan – he of the heated Brisbane to-walk-or-not exchange with Adam Gilchrist – in an unspoken admission that Adelaide’s batting Paradise would keep them in the field in the near-Century heat of Day One, once skipper Stephen Fleming had lost the toss and his men were consigned to the field.
Adelaide’s weather did nothing for the collective Kiwi cool and neither did the Australian batting lineup, headed by Justin Langer (144*), who batted through the day to reach his twentieth Test century and took four boundaries from the recalled James Franklin’s first over with the first new ball, repeating the punishment to his first with the second new ball. As Franklin was inclined to pitch full from the River End, so was Langer moved to perfect the cover and off drives that he had begun playing from the first ball of the day, courtesy of Chris Martin (19-4-82-0) and his propensity to bowl on a full length from the Cathedral End. Langer rocketed to 23 by the end of the second over, thanks to the Kiwi pacemen’s largesse.
Matt Hayden took a little longer to get going, while Langer raced into the thirties. Jacob Oram (15-5-25-0) replaced Franklin (14-2-84-0) after three overs that gifted 26 and – while his bouncy, straight medium fast fare arrested the run flow – eight overs had allowed 42 without loss. Langer was a man in a hurry to leave batting doldrums behind, while his partner essayed a number of unsuccessful pull shots that merely rebounded from his thigh guard and dribbled clear of the stumps. A confident appeal for a catch behind went begging as well.
This only served to make Hayden conscious of his batting partner’s big head start. In rapid succession, the big Queensland Unit punished Franklin straight and square for boundaries, causing Franklin to be dismissed and Vettori to enter the attack. An undeterred Langer swept the spinner to bring up a sparkling fifty, despite wearing one from Franklin in the Gangulies during the previous over. The Australian openers were subdued a little in the half hour before lunch, with Oram bowling straight and Vettori’s variation keeping them honest.
Meanwhile, in the large marquee that half covered the Adelaide Number Two ground, the visions of plenty offered by Hayden and Langer were not echoed by the SACA for its members. A fifteen-minute wait in the queue for fish’n’chips or an Asian BBQ pointed squarely to a reticence on the SACA’s behalf to invest more in staff to ensure that the members’ luncheon needs were met.
One member – clearly ahead of his time in vision but nevertheless incensed at this staffing shortcoming – proposed a separate ‘gentlemen’s marquee’, a place where early luncheon bookings featuring the best South Australian cuisine with the finest local wines might be honoured in an atmosphere decorated by attractive female waiting staff attired – or not, as the case might be – in a ‘minimalistic’ fashion, thus saving on SACA laundry bills and the imagination of the said members. Alas, the best and most brilliant of ideas are often lost in the vortex of history.
By forty minutes after lunch, Hayden had not only begun to close the gap between himself and Langer with a brace of boundaries, the first of which raised his fifty, he had gone past the Sandgroper. It appeared his form had returned, but a sharp return catch by Wiseman (14-3-56-2) sent Hayden (70) packing. However, this merely brought Ponting (68) to the crease and his destruction of the spinners’ line and length pushed the runrate back out toward 3.5 per over. In no time, the Australian captain approached fifty, despite the spinners’ best efforts. Australia had advanced to 1-203 at tea, with Ponting looking invincible.
Martin and Franklin struggled to hit the right length on the benign Adelaide pitch, while the spinners at least kept the brakes on. Ponting did as he pleased, pulling the quicker men and driving the slow men, getting away with a huge top edge off Vettori (28-6-74-1) that landed safely. Just as there seemed no hope for New Zealand, Ponting leapt down the wicket to Vettori, was beaten by the flight and stumped by McCullum.
When Damien Martyn (7) edged Wismen to slip, hope reared briefly in the Kiwi breast, but hometown hero Darren Lehmann (28*) emerged and played with assurance to stumps, in league with the indefatigible Langer, to usher Australia towards the imposing position of 3-327. Your correspondent witnessed the Redback champion survey the happy throng from above on the manicured lawns behind the George Giffen Stand from his customary dressing room back window, as he soaked in the atmosphere that is unique to the Adelaide Test.
On the second morning before play, a massive crowd stood behind the Mostyn Evan Stand at the nets to watch Warne wheel down some leggies to Gilchrist’s gloves, while a similar throng planted itself behind the net where Brett Lee and Jason Gillespie bowled off the full run at some unguarded stumps. The bristling tension amongst the pundits keenly viewing the net action could be summed up four words: Could Boof get the ton? History records that he fell nineteen short, but the assured manner in which he batted underscored his importance in the middle order. In a way, some pressure was off Justin Langer, the other overnight not out batsman, as he already had his century and had two previous double centuries in the book.
The look on Darren Lehmann’s face as he headed out to bat on Day Two spoke of a man seeking to realise a childhood dream. Justin Langer’s steely expression as he left the nets before play spoke volumes - of runs from the New Zealand bowling. He was the aggressor in a morning that realised 106 runs for Australia and his third Test double century was raised with a towering pull for six from off spinner Paul Wiseman, a feat which he followed by planting the ball onto the roof of the more northerly of the two Chappell Stands.
The baking heat returned to baste the Kiwi fieldsmen in their own sweat, as Langer (215) drove and swept his way past 150; his first straight drive a defensive push with sweet timing, a shot he repeated the following over from Oram (24-7-55-0), whose line and length were by far the most consistent of the three New Zealand seamers. Lehmann entered the forties with a fine glance to leg and it was clear that he was middling everything. Gone, too, largely, was his shuffle across the stumps.
The unhappy Franklin (17-2-102-0) returned and immediately over-pitched as he did on Day One, paying the inevitable penalty. Martin (27-4-118-0) was similarly ineffective, despite his pumping arms, big delivery stride and energetic demeanour. Lehmann’s fifty celebration was a muted affair, as 16,000 South Australians were every bit as conscious as the local legend that the job was only half done.
After lunch, Langer skied a sweep at Vettori and was well taken overhead by Oram at mid wicket. Down in the air conditioned comfort of the Bradman Room, your correspondent at lunch joined the loud applause, as the West Australian opener raised his bat the crowd. We toasted him with a Heggies Clare Valley Riesling. Michael Clarke (7) came and went quickly, trapped in front by a quicker straight ball from Vettori, who was disappointed twice in overs that followed not to pick up Adam Gilchrist (50) in the same way.
Lehmann (81) glanced fine for two to go past eighty, while Wiseman (32-7-140-3), whose figures took pre-lunch mauling from Langer, and Vettori (55.2-10-152-5) – now in tandem – dropped to their knees in fruitless supplication for LBW appeals. Then it happened, accompanied by a collective sigh that gusted all around the Adelaide Oval, including the Bradman Room, where your correspondent was preparing yet another full wine glass – Wirra Wirra Church Block Shiraz/Cabernet Merlot - for yet another trip upstairs to celebrate the Lehmann century that now surely was just a few overs away.
Murphy’s Law would cause our annual Bradman Room luncheon to coincide with Lehmann’s big chance at home town glory. Wiseman fired a full ball in at the batsman’s pads, as he had taken guard on leg. Lehmann looked to turn it square, but missed and the ball touched off the pads and rather unluckily rebounded onto the stumps. The ovation was deafening, but Boof would remain unfulfilled in 2004.
Perhaps the dream of the home Test hundred is not to be for Darren Lehmann, whose late blooming career is not likely to continue past the 2005-6 summer, if indeed it continues that long. The man himself is disappointed, but in his customary positive way, he was happy with the way he batted and the fact that the national selectors have at last acknowledged his worth to the team in the middle order, as a part of the brains trust and a senior player and mentor.
As Gilchrist and Warne (53*) savaged the tiring attack, the panel in the Bradman Room noted the weaseling out of one of its absent members of a gentleman’s wager, in which Simon, the aggrieved party, reminded us that Jeff, the absent one, had backed Gilchrist two years ago as the next post-Waugh Australian captain, while Simon had correctly predicted that Ponting would get the job. At stake was a bottle of Grange Hermitage. The panel passed a motion of censure at Jeff’s absence and apparent selective amnesia, noting that his mobile phone was switched off.
Tea came in a Bradman Room blur of St Hugo Cabernet and a flurry of lofted shots, including a six into the George Giffen Stand from Warne to raise his fifty, after Gilchrist was caught and bowled by Vettori. Jason Gillespie (12) had time to crack three boundaries before his dismissal enabled him to boast a higher batting average (66) than McGrath (61), his rival for bowling all rounder status in the team. Ponting was able to declare and have eighty minutes at the tired New Zealand openers, where Gillespie (6-2-9-1) was able to reiterate his true worth to the side by removing Sinclair (0) early in the New Zealand reply.
Darren Lehmann snared a brilliant catch at short leg, that should have dismissed his post-match race rival Mark ‘Rigor Mortis’ Richardson, but Umpire Shepherd did not believe that the bat had made contact. Two balls later it became an academic consideration anyway, as Kasprowicz cut one through the big Kiwi and tickled the off bail sufficiently to send him on his way. Nightwatchman Wiseman survived with Fleming to stumps, with the captain playing some fluent strokes and looking calm and resolute, given the mountainous target even the follow-on avoidance figure represented.
The third morning was a dour affair, in which 84 runs were added and Stephen Fleming (83) reminded everyone of his quality, while losing Wiseman (11) early, but steering his undermanned unit to lunch with no further loss. He brought up his half century with nine boundaries and played with an assurance and polish entirely absent from the rest of his Black Cap colleagues, with the honourable exception of the experienced Nathan Astle (52), who gritted out a testing morning against an Australian attack that smelt blood.
If the morning was all about the Australian vultures circling the doomed New Zealand carcass, the afternoon heralded the kill and the feast. Five wickets tumbled for runs, as the McGrath (21.4-3-66-4), Gillespie (19-4-37-3) and Kasprowicz (16-3-66-2) tore the middle and lower order apart with sometimes clinical and other times ruthless efficiency. Fleming late cut Kasprowicz to reach 80, then straight drove for three more, but McGrath struck the crucial blow from the River End when he moved one a little off the pitch and had the Kiwi captain playing away from his body and feathering it through to Gilchrist. Significantly, he walked, knowing perhaps that his team’s faint hope of saving this match – at 4-153 - had wilted in the Adelaide heat.
Kasprowicz worked Oram (12) over with several short balls, but the big Kiwi all rounder showed resolve, hitting back with pulls and drives against the trend of play. Nathan Astle was not done yet either, cover driving a rare over-pitched McGrath delivery for a boundary to raise his half century. However, his pleasure was short-lived, as he scooped a slower delivery from McGrath straight to Langer at short cover for no further addition to his score. With Styris held back in the batting order due to a reported ear infection, the tail was now exposed with over 150 more needed to avoid the follow-on and the net tightened.
Warne spun one back sharply into the left-handed Franklin (10), just missing off stump, but clean bowled the Kiwi paceman with the next ball – his 550th in Test cricket, an unprecedented statistic - when no stroke was offered to another big ripping leg break. Warne’s work was far superior to the bald statement made by his figures (28-5-65-1). Styris (28) came out to delay the inevitable, but the end came when he tried to hit McGrath out of the ground and succeeded only in holing out to Clarke at deep mid wicket.
Ponting again spared the pacemen the burden of backing up in the heat by not enforcing the follow-on, despite being 324 clear. Openers Langer (31) and Hayden (21) were untroubled to extend that lead by a fairly leisurely 57 in the 21 overs until stumps, where the biggest moment happened at the expense of two seagulls, which saved New Zealand two runs, by getting in the way of a Langer late cut to the deep point rope. The ball struck one and cannoned – billiards-style – into the other.
Sadly, the gulls’ self sacrifice appeared – by stumps on Day Three – to rank with the Charge of the Light Brigade in futility, as the New Zealand hopes of saving the Second Test looked to have been even more hopelessly outgunned than the brave horsemen of Tennyson’s immortal ode to courage in overwhelming adversity.
New Zealand never lies down without trying something. Fleming’s game on Day Four was one of attrition, where the plan was to take the pace off the ball and make the Australian batsmen work hard for the boundaries to the extent that the Australian batsmen were restricted to 40 in the first hour. At this, Wiseman (22-3-52-1) and Vettori (18-2-35-1) stuck manfully to their tasks, bowling unchanged until lunch and for the short time after the interval that Ponting deemed appropriate before declaring at 2-139 and setting the visitors 464 for victory.
The spinners bowled to a field consisting of deep mid off and mid on, backward square and mid wicket on the fence and a deep cover, maintaining a good length and challenging both Langer (46) and Hayden (54) to work them square. The score mounted in singles, with only an occasional two or three, with Langer late cutting and sweeping fine and Hayden connecting with a couple of pulls. The pitch continued to be true, but appeared slow, with a few deliveries stopping a little on the batsmen.
McCullum suffered a blow to the jaw from a delivery that Langer left alone, but with the score on 93, Wiseman trapped Langer in front and the Kiwis had something to smile about as the mountainous deficit began to assume Himalayan proportions. Then Hayden top-edged one onto his jaw as well, necessitating another delay in play, but he completed a brace of half centuries for the match. However, Vettori had his man shortly afterwards, caught down the legside off a thin edge. Martyn (6*) joined Ponting (26*) until the closure.
During the lunch break, your correspondent’s party adjourned to the giant marquee out the back of the George Giffen stand and enjoyed the fish combo once more, this time getting served with some time to savour the Grant Burge Eden Valley Sauvignon Blanc, a happy circumstance relating more to the fact that it was a working Monday and the crowds were down, more than any inspiration on the part of the caterers to put on more staff.
The celebrations in the multi-coloured marquees behind the Giffen Stand were more muted, due to the inconvenient interruption of a return to work on Monday to the fans’ cricket enjoyment, but the forbidding leaden grey skies weighed on more minds than just that of your correspondent. Showers were forecast for Day Five. Had Ponting delayed the declaration too long? Had Fleming’s stalling tactics bought the Kiwis enough time to save the match? Much depended upon the resolve of the New Zealand upper order, but by tea all hope was torpedoed to the tune of 4-36 and it was down to Astle (38), Oram (40*), McCullum (34*) and the tail to bat for Kiwi pride.
McGrath (7-2-14-1) and Gillespie (11-3-27-1) were their usual probing selves on the resumption, giving very little in the way of line, other than the ball in McGrath’s first over that Richardson (16) glanced to the fine leg rope. Typically, he followed up with a miserly makeup maiden. Sinclair (2) completed a sorry double for the match, as Gillespie had him caught on the crease, unsure whether to go forward or back. The blow to his body would have stung, but not as much as being beaten by the next, which swung late and trapped him plumb LBW with the opening stand worth a mere eleven.
Fleming (3) suffered another superb McGrath delivery that beat him and lightly dislodged the off bail. At 2-18, the Shaky Isles looked ready to crumble completely. Kasprowicz (8-4-15-1) entered the attack from the River End and Warne (18-5-55-1) appeared soon afterwards from his favoured Cathedral End, with short leg, silly point, gully and slip hovering. Styris (8) appeared to get some bat on a ball that ballooned from his pad to Clarke at slip, but Umpire Shepherd expressed sufficient doubt and Warne expressed great displeasure, if the force of the throw into Gilchrist’s gloves at the end of the over was any guide.
However, smiles were restored to Australian faces the very next over when Richardson edged Kasprowicz to Langer at third slip and Warne got his man in his next over, with Styris edging to Clarke, whose catch went into the book this time. Oram was crowded as was Styris, but he held firm, as did Astle, despite being beaten twice in an over by Kasprowicz and being bounced by Gillespie.
The New Zealand tailenders Wiseman, Franklin and Vettori were seen to be working hard in the nets during the break, but they were spared uncomfortable appointments with the pacemen, due to the resolution of Astle, Oram and McCullum and Ponting’s apparent desire to emulate Fleming and end the day with spinners from both ends.
Much to the crowd’s delight, Darren Lehmann (9-0-31-1) entered the attack from the Cathedral End, allowing Warne to switch to the River End, unusually for him. These two bowlers would end the day the way it began, with an extended session of slow bowling, in which Warne bowled some vintage, ripping leg breaks for little reward and Lehmann was tidy, on the stumps and typically ripe for underestimation by the batsmen.
Despite Justin Langer’s cat-like dive and wonderful catch that gave Lehmann his fourteenth Test wicket (and first at his home ground), it seemed possible that Ponting might have allowed things to drift a little late in the day, although the other school of thought noted the gloomy light as leaden skies towered above the Adelaide Oval and the floodlights were switched on, in lieu of the umpires offering the batsmen the light.
Nathan Astle was beaten by the flight and a bit of turn and the ball found enough leading edge for the batsman to spoon it to short cover’s right. Perhaps Ponting envisaged this happening once or twice more before stumps, but instead McCullum decided to take Warne on, driving successive boundaries in one over and slog-sweeping a six in the next, while Oram played each ball on its merits and punished anything loose. By stumps, the batsmen had steadied the Shaky Isle’s ship a little at 5-149, although an unlikely further 315 were required on Day Five at exactly 3.5 an over.
For all Jacob Oram’s brave words after Day Four about trying to stay the distance, McGrath (12-2-32-2) took just three balls to remove him for his overnight 40 on the morning of Day Five, finding the edge for Gilchrist to do the rest. Not long later into the morning, Gillespie (16-5-41-2) swung one into McCullum (36) and trapped him LBW.
Vettori and Franklin resisted for a while, with Vettori being dropped by Gilchrist off the unlucky Warne, but Kasprowicz (14-4-39-2) put one across the left-handed Franklin (13) and Gilchrist made amends for the dropped chance and snared the edge, diving to his left. At 8-206, the end was in sight and not before time as far as the Australians were concerned, as there had been drizzle before play, with more showers expected later. Nevertheless, Wiseman was able to get off the mark with a sweetly timed cover drive from Kasprowicz’s bowling, showing how well the pitch was still playing.
More resistance from Wiseman (15*) and Vettori (59) saw Darren Lehmann (13-0-46-2) replace Kasprowicz at the crease, his first over a tidy if unthreatening affair, unlike Warne’s next, which had Wiseman defending and missing a flipper that shaved the off stump. Vettori refused to go away, lofting Lehmann down the ground to move within two of his fifty. Another lofted straight drive raised the milestone to generous applause. Warne (27.3-6-79-2) came around the wicket to Vettori and fizzed them in from the rough, but Vettori picked the wrong’un and put it away to the fence at point.
Then came a sweet moment for the local crowd. Vettori holed out to Gillespie at deep mid off right on the stroke of lunch from the bowling of fellow South Australian legend Darren Lehmann. New Zealand fought hard in the morning, as predicted showers drew closer from the Southwest and the Australians hunted the final wicket. This took just six balls after the interval: the rest of Lehmann’s uncompleted pre-lunch over, with Martin (2) falling to the third ball of Warne’s 28th over of the innings, the paceman being taken at short leg by Ponting.
Australia 8 dec. for 575 and 2 dec. for 139 had defeated New Zealand 251 and 250 by 213 runs, clean sweeping the series, with Justin Langer taking Man of the Match for his majestic 215 and Glenn McGrath the Man of the Series. But it didn’t go all Australia’s way. Mark Richardson defeated Darren Lehmann in the race of the slowcoaches, with the three thousand dollar prize going to charity. Just when the Kiwis had something to smile about, the rains came and settled in for the afternoon, a couple of hours late for the beaten Shaky Islanders.
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