Down a bowler, Australia’s attack put in a superb performance in Perth to take the first Test against New Zealand with a 296-run win.
With Josh Hazlewood sitting on the sidelines with a hamstring injury which has ruled him out of the Boxing Day Test, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins were outstanding despite the oppressive heat, taking all ten Kiwi innings in a little over two sessions to wrap up the victory with a day to spare.
Starc was named player of the match for his nine-wicket haul, including four scalps on the final day, while Lyon continued his love affair with Optus Stadium with his own quartet of last-innings wickets.
Cummins, though, bowled better than his two colleagues, displaying superb control as he constantly challenged the off-stump of New Zealand’s batsmen. The New South Welshman went at under two runs an over for the final innings and constantly beat the bat without reward. There will be plenty of times in his career where he’ll bowl worse yet finish with more wickets.
New Zealand will be left to rue a feeble first innings effort with the bat, when only three batsmen (Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor and Colin de Grandhomme) made double-digit scores and the team was skittled for 166, well behind Australia’s 416.
The Day 4 effort was more admirable, BJ Watling (40) in particular showing good fight on a pitch which had cracked up under the intense Perth heat.
The Kiwis were not as thoroughly outclasses as the scorecard suggests. They came into this match with good bowling plans, looked at one stage to be set to challenge Australia’s first-innings total when Williamson and Taylor were in together, and put in an impressive stint with the ball in the final session of Day 3 to gain some semblance of momentum heading into what would end up being the final day.
Neil Wagner was outstanding, Tim Southee picked up career-best figures against Australia, Trent Boult will likely be back for Boxing Day, and they played much of this Test, like the hosts, with ten men after Lockie Ferguson strained his calf on Day 1. It’s far from all doom and gloom for the tourists.
Ultimately, though, they were bowled out twice in two days for sub-200 scores, a long way from what’s needed to win a Test in Australia.
In addition to the hosts’ bowlers, Marnus Labuschagne continued his golden run of form with a third successive century and a 50 to match in the second innings. There was a half-century for Joe Burns, too, in the second dig, although Steve Smith has now gone three Tests without a fifty for the first time in his career.
With Hazlewood out for the second Test, James Pattinson and Michael Neser will contend for the third seamer’s position, otherwise an unchanged XI is almost certain, particularly with a week and a half until Boxing Day.