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Revisiting three thrilling Trans-Tasman draws

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Australia_New_Zealand_Test_Cricket_drawThe latest edition of the Trans-Tasman Trophy is in progress, with hosts Australia having secured the three-Test series with a match to spare after wins at Perth and Melbourne. Australia have now been the holders of the trophy since 1993-94, thus extending New Zealand’s drought to 26 years. This fixture has produced its fair share of exciting finishes over the years, and on that note, here is a rewind to three thrilling drawn Trans-Tasman Tests.  

Third Test, Melbourne, 1987-88

Australia managed to hang on to a 1-0 series victory by the skin of their teeth, as the two teams played out an enthralling draw in the Boxing Day Test, the third and final of the series. Allan Border invited the visitors to bat, and Tony Dodemaide removed Phil Horne with the score on 32.

The dependable pair of John Wright and Andrew Jones shared in a second-wicket partnership of 79, before Jones was controversially dismissed for 40. He was out caught behind by Greg Dyer off Craig McDermott, to a catch which was later found to have grassed before being taken. Wright and Martin Crowe further added 68 for the third wicket.

Wright was agonisingly out for 99, caught behind off McDermott as well. McDermott bowled excellently to add the wickets of captain Jeff Crowe and Dipak Patel to his tally. New Zealand finished the opening day at 242/5, with Crowe looking assured at 76*. He could however only extend his score to 82, giving McDermott (5/97) his fifth wicket.

Wicketkeeper Ian Smith, batting at number nine, rallied well with the tail before being last out to Mike Whitney (4/92) for a quickfire 44, as New Zealand’s innings terminated at 317. The evergreen Richard Hadlee gave his side the edge as he took the key scalps of David Boon, Geoff Marsh and Dean Jones to reduce the score to 31/3.

Australia struggled to 121/5, before Steve Waugh and Peter Sleep steered the total to 170 without any further damage at stumps. Waugh failed to add to his overnight score of 55 on the third morning, but Sleep went on to make a career-best score of 90. He and Tony Dodemaide (50) frustrated the Kiwis with a grinding 80-run stand for the eighth wicket.

Dodemaide and McDermott added a further 61 for the ninth wicket to help Australia into the lead. Australia were all out for 357 towards the end of the third day, with Hadlee returning 5/109. With a first-innings difference of 40 and two days to go, the match now hung in the balance.

Horne and Wright mopped off the deficit with an opening stand of 73, before they both fell within three runs of each other. Crowe was in an attacking mood, and he dominated a third-wicket partnership with Jones worth 82 runs. He eventually fell to Border’s 100th Test catch, off Dodemaide, for 79 in just under two hours.

The score motored along to 272/5 before Dodemaide (6/58) inspired a lower-order collapse. New Zealand were bowled out for 286 in the first over of the final day, thereby setting Australia 247 in 92 overs. Boon (54) and Border (43) guided the chase, and at 176/4 with 28 overs left, Australia were in the box seat.

At 209/5, Hadlee (5/67) removed Sleep. At the same score, a settled Mike Veletta fell to John Bracewell for 39. Seven runs later, the tireless Hadlee sent Dyer back. When Dodemaide became Hadlee’s tenth victim of the match, Australia needed 20 with the last wicket and 4.5 overs left.

McDermott and Whitney held out amid great tension, as Australia escaped by ending at 230/9 –  with eight balls to go, McDermott was extremely fortunate to have survived a leg-before shout from Danny Morrison, thanks to a contentious decision by umpire Dick French.

Only Test, Perth, 1989-90

The next time the two teams met after the Melbourne draw was in a one-off Test at Perth two years later. It turned out to be another gripping affair. Wright inserted Australia in, but Boon and debutant Tom Moody put on 149 for the second wicket after Mark Taylor’s early dismissal.

Moody fell for a composed 61, which brought captain Border to the middle. Boon and Border put the bowling to the sword as Australia finished the first day at a healthy 296/2, with Boon unbeaten on 169. Their third-wicket partnership realised 142 before Border was out for 50. Boon went on to score an exact 200, coming off 326 balls with 28 fours.

Dean Jones ensured there was no respite for the Kiwi bowlers as he struck 99 from number five. The declaration came at 521/9. Pacemen Morrison and Martin Snedden toiled hard to take four wickets apiece. New Zealand, who were 25/0 overnight, resumed on the third morning with positive intent.

Mark Greatbatch (76) and Martin Crowe (62) took the total to a solid 173/2 courtesy a third-wicket alliance of 89, but Merv Hughes’ (4/51) dismissal of Greatbatch sparked a woeful collapse. The last eight wickets could muster just 58 runs between them, as New Zealand folded for 231 on the fourth morning, a whopping 290 runs in arrears.

Border enforced the follow-on, and the situation became worse for the visitors. Openers Wright and Bert Vance were both back in the hut with 11 runs on the board. Greatbatch and Crowe added 68 for the third wicket, but New Zealand needed much more if they were to survive. They ended day four at 168/4, with Greatbatch batting resolutely on 69.

Greatbatch resisted all tempting deliveries, but his hard work seemed to have gone in vain when Hughes had Jeff Crowe (49) LBW and Smith caught by Border in successive balls to make the score 189/6. Greatbatch though was concentration personified, battling with determination to reach his hundred from 341 balls after lunch.

Greatbatch and Chris Cairns, who was on debut, shared 45 runs for the seventh wicket before the latter’s dismissal. At this point, New Zealand were still 56 behind. But the gutsy southpaw found an equally obstinate partner in Snedden, and the eighth-wicket pair steadily played out time. At tea, New Zealand were 282/7, now trailing by eight.

Australia went wicketless in the final session, as Greatbatch and Snedden (33* in 142 balls) produced one of the great stonewalling efforts. They added an unbeaten 88 in 48.3 overs and 202 minutes to carry New Zealand to 322/7. Greatbatch returned to the pavillion a hero, facing 485 balls for his 146* which took five minutes short of eleven hours.

First Test, Brisbane, 2001-02

Steve Waugh’s all-conquering Australians were considered invincible at home, but they found a stiff challenge in the form of Stephen Fleming’s Black Caps who managed to hold them to a 0-0 stalemate in the three-Test series. The closest of the draws came in the opening match at the Gabba.

After being put in to bat, Australian openers Justin Langer (104) and Matthew Hayden (136) piled up a 224-run partnership. However, a collapse of six wickets for 39 brought New Zealand right back into the game. Australia ended the first day at 294/6, before rain proceeded to affect each of the next three days.

Australia bounced back with a rapid 135-run stand for the eighth wicket between Adam Gilchrist and Brett Lee (61). Gilchrist cracked 118 off just 158 balls, with 17 fours and a six. Waugh declared at 486/9 on the third day, and a draw seemed inevitable. Lee (5/67) and Jason Gillespie reduced New Zealand to 55/4 in reply.

But Nathan Astle (66) ensured that New Zealand went into the final day at a relatively safer 186/5. He shared in a 95-run stand for the sixth wicket with Cairns, who smote a quick 61 to add to his haul of 5/146. With the follow-on mark overhauled, Fleming came up with a sporting declaration at 287/8 just before lunch.

Waugh, being the aggressive captain he was, soon announced his own intentions, declaring Australia’s second innings at 84/2, the runs coming in just 14 overs. New Zealand were thus set an alluring 284 runs to win from 57 overs. A dull Test match had suddenly sprung to life in the last two sessions.

Mark Richardson struck a brisk 57, sharing in a stand of 56 for the second wicket with Matthew Sinclair. Both batsmen fell within the space of a run as New Zealand stumbled to 90/3. Fleming (57) and Astle (49) put the chase back on track with a fourth-wicket partnership of 100 in less than 19 overs.

Astle’s dismissal brought Cairns to the middle, at which point the requirement was 94 from 83 balls. Fleming was run out soon after, but Cairns charged at the Australians with 43 off 38 balls, including two sixes. With 20 needed off 11 balls, Cairns was out caught by Ponting on the boundary off Lee. New Zealand eventually finished at 274/6, just ten short of a stunning victory.



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Rustom Deboo is a cricket aficionado and freelance writer from Mumbai. He is an ardent devotee of T...

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