A 296-run comprehensive win in Perth gave Australia a 1-0 lead over New Zealand and the three-match series now moves to Melbourne for the iconic Boxing Day Test at the MCG.
The first test win gave Australia crucial World Test Championship (WTC) points, reducing India’s lead at the top to 144 points. New Zealand are hit by injuries and poor form, with the loss pushing them to fifth in the WTC table with just 60 points.
The chance to stay alive in the series beckons for this talented side reckoned to be the best Kiwi side to travel these shores.
An all-round performance from the Aussies, led by Marnus Labuschagne (143 & 50) with the bat and Mitchell Starc (5/52 & 4/45) with the ball, helped them vault past the Kiwis in Perth. It didn’t matter that Steve Smith had an ordinary Test (43 & 16) considering his very high standards.
Australia made light work of Josh Hazlewood’s absence. The tall opening bowler will be replaced in all probability by James Pattinson.
New Zealand also played the match with a bowler short after debutante Lockie Ferguson walked off injured after 11 overs. Ross Taylor scored a dominant 80 in the first innings, but that was the best the Kiwis looked. Tim Southee (4/93 & 5/69) and Neil Wagner (4/92 & 3/59) bowled their hearts out, but the New Zealand batsmen didn’t come to the party.
With Trent Boult expected to return, the Kiwis will sport a solid bowling line-up. Batting still remains a concern, with the mis-firing opener Jeet Raval replaced by the first-time opener Tom Blundell. More than anything, the Kiwis will hope for their captain Kane Williamson to be amongst the runs.
Australia enjoyed long periods of dominance in Perth, making lightwork of Hazlewood’s absence. The Perth Test was in fact a 10v10 game, as New Zealand missed Ferguson for almost the entire duration. Pattinson will add further bite to the attack, which should scare the Kiwis. The visitors have problems of their own, considering their opening combination is a newly-stitched temporary arrangement. All cards point towards an Australian win.
History & Statistics
Australia have won seven of their last ten Tests.
Australia have won eight of their last ten H2H home Tests (W8, D1, L1), including their last five.
New Zealand have lost their last four Tests against Australia.
New Zealand have won only one Test against Australia since 1993 over 29 Tests (W1, D7, L21).
New Zealand are yet to win an MCG Test (D2, L1).
New Zealand are Pattinson’s favourite opponent – 20 wickets at 17.70 in three Tests including two five-fors. Will he continue that dominance in Melbourne?
Tom Blundell, who made a century on Test debut, finds himself in the thick of action in an unusual opening position. Will he rise up to the challenge and prove to be an unexpected saviour for New Zealand?