Despite their best efforts, this series is showing up a gap between the Black Caps and Australia. (AP/Photosport: Andrew Cornaga)
A revamped New Zealand side may be resisting Australia a bit harder in this third Test, but in the end, that’s all it will be: resistance.
State of Play: stumps, day three
- Australia: 454 & 0-40 (Warner 19*, Burns 15*)
- New Zealand 251 (Phillips 52, Lyon 5-68)
Australia leads by 243 runs, with 10 wickets remaining
Australia is now almost certain to go on to win, making it three from three against the Kiwis and five from five for the summer, but fans, and the team itself probably, will be feeling mildly triumphant, rather than ecstatic.
In light of what’s happening across the rest of the continent, it feels especially hollow.
The tourists fought their way to 251 on Sunday, but the brilliance of Patrick Cummins (3-44) and Nathan Lyon (5-68) wore them down once more.
Nathan Lyon and Pat Cummins dominated the wickets on day three — but Australia simply has too many options. (AP/Photosport: Andrew Cornaga)
If it hadn’t been those two, it would have been James Pattinson or Mitchell Starc with their names up in lights, or Marnus Labuschagne or Steve Smith.
In short, Tim Paine’s side has been a class above this summer.
At least Australia was forced to spend most of the day in the field, a small win for the Black Caps, but what else was there for them to celebrate?
A 52 for Glenn Phillips? Tom Latham’s 49? Slim pickings.
A 50 on debut for Glenn Phillips was one of the few highlights for New Zealand at the SCG. (AAP: Dan Himbrechts )
At stumps Australia was 0-40, a lead of 243. And tomorrow will surely follow the same recipe as the first two matches of the series.
The Aussies will continue to bat until the game is dead as a contest, then overpower a demoralised New Zealand line-up one more time. It may end late on Monday or leak into Tuesday. Either way, the result will be the same.
“This is not a Test match,” Australian great Neil Harvey told me just after lunch.
“New Zealand are number two in the world, what does that say about the rest of the teams?”
Ashes the launching pad for invincible summer
The intensity of the contest highlighted Steve Smith’s Ashes brilliance, not just his big scores. (AP: Kirsty Wigglesworth)
He has a point. Sides win home series almost as a matter of course, but few can consistently win away.
Albert Camus, who died 60 years ago on Saturday, said, “In the depth of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.”
He was a big soccer fan, so probably wasn’t thinking of cricket at the time, but you could say that Australia’s invincible summer was born last winter, as the side began to rediscover its own character following the ball-tampering scandal, while successfully retaining the Ashes in England.
ABC Grandstand tweet: “They’re going to have to bat for a day and a half to save this game.” End of day 3 and @jimmaxcricket looks at how the #PinkTest is unfolding between @CricketAus and @BlLACKCAPS
That drawn series felt far more vibrant and meaningful than five convincing home Test wins.
Yes, it was because it was the Ashes, which always mean more, but it was competitive. Both sides were flawed but they fought some rip-roaring battles, and the result was rarely inevitable.
Steve Smith batting brilliantly in English conditions is far more satisfying and extraordinary than David Warner plundering runs against hapless opposition at home.
Test cricket needs more evenly fought series to capture our attention, with so many other distractions available.
Day three in Sydney finished under dark skies. It was hard to tell where the cloud cover stopped and the smoke haze began, but the floodlights were necessary for much of the afternoon to shine on the less-than-luminous proceedings below.
Who knows, maybe New Zealand will rage against the dying of the light for the remainder of this Test, but if the rest of the summer is any indication, they’re more likely to go gentle into the good night.