Lee floors overawed New Zealand to seal series win
Brett Lee’s five-wicket haul was responsible for another disastrous performance from New Zealand’s ailing batting order as Australia stormed to an innings-and-62-run victory and a 2-0 series success. Run making has been a severe problem for the tourists throughout the contest, but they left their most inept performance till last on a friendly pitch, falling to 6 for 84 on the way to 203.
Lee, who took nine wickets for a career-best match return, was not at his best during the India tour, but he has improved with each innings since coming home and re-affirmed his status as the attack leader by finding life in the dead surface. All the serious damage came in the first session when Lee blasted four wickets in a 10-over spell that cost 23 runs.
The visitors started the fourth day 230 behind and were soon caught in a Lee whirlwind that resulted in a demoralising defeat in the final Test for the coach John Bracewell. After scoring 177 and 156 in Brisbane, New Zealand followed with 270 in the first innings and ended the match with barely a punch, except for those offered by Brendon McCullum in his fierce, fighting 84 not out.
McCullum and Iain O’Brien added 50 for the ninth wicket – well, O’Brien didn’t contribute any runs, but he did defend well – to delay their second loss in four days over the past two weeks. The result pushed them to eighth on the rankings, below their next opponents West Indies.
Only Aaron Redmond and Jamie How reached double-figures from the top six, but the opening pair was responsible for allowing the early carnage. Ricky Ponting provided the highlight for Lee with a stunning one-handed take at second slip to remove How for 28. Lee squared up the batsman and the edge was intercepted by a flying Ponting who was at full stretch. The catch was so good Ponting, who is not usually excited by his own deeds, started on a looping run before his team-mates mobbed him, and he received a special hug from Lee as they watched the replay on the big screen.
Lee started by removing Redmond, whose back-foot drive looped to Michael Clarke at point, with the second ball of the morning before Jesse Ryder (3) pushed a wide delivery moving further away to Andrew Symonds at forward point. New Zealand were 2 for 55 and three runs later Ross Taylor (1) turned his bat too early to Lee and gave the bowler a simple return catch.
Ponting’s classic take made it 4 for 63 and it could have been worse for the tourists and better for Lee without Brad Haddin’s drop of a speeding edge from Daniel Flynn before he had scored. Lee released some personal tension by hitting Peter Fulton in the arm, but had to wait until after tea to bring up his tenth five-wicket haul with the lbw of O’Brien. In 25 overs he had 5 for 105 and added the collection to his 4 for 66 on Saturday.
Mitchell Johnson replaced Lee before lunch and picked up Flynn lbw for 9 and the rout continued almost immediately after the break with Johnson bowling Fulton (7). With Lee receiving some punishment and Nathan Hauritz unable to finish the innings, Johnson was called back and ended the match by knocking over Chris Martin.
Hauritz, who was economical in giving away 32 runs in 24 overs, removed the potentially difficult obstacle of Daniel Vettori with an edge to Matthew Hayden at first slip and picked up his second with Tim Southee’s nick. The top scorer McCullum defended until Iain O’Brien arrived, when he turned on the attack by hitting three fours in a row off Lee.
After tea McCullum brought up his half-century and belted four more boundaries and two thumping sixes from Lee, with one going over square leg and the other to point. However, he was also struck uncomfortable blows on the left arm and glove, which caused further wincing from the tourists. New Zealand’s immediate pain ended quickly, but the long-term bruises from this series will remain.