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Joy of six: Lyon dismembers Black Caps as Aussies surge to commanding win, 1-0 series lead

2nd March, 2024
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2nd March, 2024
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When Nathan Lyon was taken out of the attack after just two overs on the fourth morning in Wellington, New Zealand, as far off as their target of 369 remained, would have been forgiven for thinking the momentum was theirs.

Instead, the Australian off-spinner instantly returned at the other end, the source of the majority of his wickets on a turning Basin Reserve surface this Test, promptly taking two wickets in the over to all but snuff out any remaining Black Cap hopes of a come-from-behind win.

Half-centurion Rachin Ravindra top-edged a cut to Cameron Green at point, surprised by extra bounce; three balls later, wicketkeeper Tom Blundell gave catching practice to Travis Head under the helmet at short leg. And like that, the Test was in Australia’s keeping.

Starting the day with two of New Zealand’s three wickets to fall on Day 3, Lyon would finish with six in total – his two early scalps part of a run of three in eight balls that ended with Glenn Phillips being trapped plumb LBW – in his latest dominant fourth-innings performance, to steer the visitors to an eventually commanding 172-run victory, a 1-0 series lead over the Black Caps, and a seventh consecutive Test triumph over their Trans-Tasman rivals.

The result was a second consecutive sub-200 score for the hosts, whose inability to perform at their usual excellence whenever Australia comes calling is now reaching disastrous proportions.

Speaking after the match, a delighted captain Pat Cummins was adamant that Black Caps can’t be underestimated despite the emphatic win, ahead of the second Test in Christchurch.

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“It was a really good game overall – it never felt like we were too far in front on that wicket,” Cummins said.

“No matter what format, they’ve [New Zealand] got a heap of match-winners who on their day can take the game away from you.

“Next week, a couple of them play their 100th Test as well, so can’t take them too lightly.”

That such a comprehensive win was achieved despite a still-misfiring batting order, Cameron Green’s wonderful match-defining 174 excepted, is a testament to yet another outstanding display from an Australian bowling attack which must surely now be considered the best in the world, of which Lyon, whose 10-wicket haul for the match is a record for a spin bowler at Wellington, is perhaps the most crucial cog of all.

“Garry bowled beautifully on the last day. He’s always under pressure in the fourth innings and he always seems to stand up and perform,” player of the match Green said of Lyon’s heroics in the immediate aftermath.

A pair of late wickets to Josh Hazlewood, including a simple return catch to remove last man standing Daryl Mitchell and complete the match, rounded things out for Australia, with Green capping a career-best match with a sharply rising ball that saw tailender Scott Kuggeleijn’s resistance ended as a desperate fend presented Alex Carey with an easy catch.

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Mitchell’s 38, plus some free swinging from Kuggeleijn (26) and Matt Henry (14) was the sum of the Black Caps’ resistance, with their worrying trend of losing wickets in large clumps continuing.

Three wickets fell for just two runs early on as Lyon turned the screws, while the final three added just nine runs as Hazlewood wrapped up the tail.

Lusty blows from Henry and captain Tim Southee couldn’t even come close to denting the off-spinner’s figures, with the latter holing out soon after for 7.

Speaking after the match, the Black Caps skipper said the team would take a few days to ‘reflect’ on the loss before steeling themselves for the second Test at Hagley Oval.

“We’ll debrief it, and move to a different ground, a ground that we’ve had a lot of success at,” he said.

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“We have a couple of days here to reflect on this week.”

The Black Caps will likely need to make at least one change for the match, with fast bowler Will O’Rourke in doubt with hamstring tightness.

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