Worst tour ends in a whimper at SGC

first_imgCricket New Zealand’s worst-ever test cricket tour of Australia had a quick, merciful ending at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Monday. In a gulf between expectations and the final result, the Black Caps plummeted to a 279-run defeat in the third test in Sydney, a 3-0 clean sweep for the hosts. Set another mammoth target of 416 to win, they folded quickly as Australia’s bowlers sensed a quick kill, 136 all out in 47.5 overs with Matt Henry (broken thumb) absent injured. Australian spinner Nathan Lyon led them home with a 10-wicket haul. Senior statesman Ross Taylor overtaking Stephen Fleming’s New Zealand test runscoring record of 7172 was a rare bright spot, along with a rollicking 52 from Colin de Grandhomme which had a predictable ending, too. Having arrived as the world’s second-ranked test side with high hopes of competing, they never got close to pace-setters Australia in a monumental letdown for cricket fans in the expected highlight of the summer. In eight previous three-test series in Australia, stretching back to 1973, New Zealand lost 2-0 five times but never before suffered a 3-0 shut-out on the world’s toughest cricket tour. All three tests finished inside four days and the sick and wounded Black Caps were in the field for all 12 days of the series in Perth, Melbourne and Sydney. The losing margins were comprehensive: 296, 247 and 279 runs at the SCG. It was New Zealand’s first test at the SCG in 34 years, since they lost in 1985 amid their only series victory in Australia. For captain Kane Williamson, who missed the third test with the flu but was at the ground on Monday, it was the biggest letdown of his captaincy stint just six months after he led New Zealand to within centimetres of a Cricket World Cup title. He scored 57 runs in four innings. It started in Perth when they lost the toss and fielded five sessions in 40degC heat, then were shot out for 166 by Australia’s bowling attack – the best in world cricket. They never relinquished their grip and the tourists’ batting never fired, bar a wonderful counterattacking century from Tom Blundell in Melbourne. The heat, intensity and pressure eventually overwhelmed them in Sydney where Williamson, Henry Nicholls and Mitchell Santner were ruled out with the same illness, and Henry joined fellow pace bowlers Trent Boult (broken hand) and Lockie Ferguson (calf strain) on the injured list. The flight home can’t arrive soon enough for the Black Caps who have a two-week break to freshen up before India arrive for the high point of the home summer. The first of five Twenty20 internationals is at Auckland’s Eden Park on January 24. It was a familiar task for New Zealand’s batsmen who hadn’t totalled more than 251 in five innings this tour. They had 52 overs plus one day to save it or produce a miracle. Hopes weren’t high, and in a flash it was 38-5 and tour obituaries were being hastily cobbled. The openers Tom – Blundell and Latham – combined for just three runs. Blundell was snared by a stunning grab by Lyon and Latham was given lbw by umpire Marais Erasmus to one that looked decidedly leg side from Mitchell Starc. It got chaotic with Jeet Raval and Glenn Phillips were both nicked off by Lyon, both challenging the decisions and getting it wrong. Amid all this it was a strange situation for Taylor who overtook Fleming in his 99th test, 12 fewer than the former skipper who retired in 2008. He got a standing ovation from his team-mates and Australian players and gave a little wave in response, the match situation grim. Sure enough, he was skittled by a gem from Pat Cummins for 22 soon after. The sense of deja vu returned on day four as Australia began in complete control, the field spread and it was a matter of when captain Tim Paine would summon them in. There was plenty of action, with David Warner charging and leaping to his 24th test century before he was penalised five runs for running on the pitch. He was incredulous at umpire Aleem Dar’s decision but New Zealand would take any bonus they could get. Legspinner Todd Astle was centre of attention, too, for good and bad reasons. He trapped Joe Burns lbw with a pinpoint googly, then shelled a sitter from run machine Marnus Labuschagne on four. Having snared a sharp, leaping return catch to remove him for 215 on day two, this was agony as a much simpler offering went down. Astle buried his head in his hands, summing up New Zealand’s tour as Labuschagne added another 55.last_img