MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Spinner Nathan Lyon grabbed four wickets as Australia completed a crushing 247-run victory on day four of the Boxing Day test against New Zealand on Sunday to claim an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
After setting an improbable 488-run victory target, Tim Paine’s side bowled out the Black Caps for 240 after tea, with Lyon breaking their resistance on a balmy afternoon at the Melbourne Cricket Ground following a withering pace assault by James Pattinson in the morning.
Australia’s unbeaten run against their trans-Tasman neighbours has now stretched to 25 years, leaving a battered and bruised New Zealand playing only for pride in the third and final test in Sydney this week.
Having thrashed Kane Williamson’s team by 296 runs in the day-night opener in Perth, Australia have claimed victory in four successive tests since retaining the Ashes in England.
“I thought the way we went about this test from the moment we lost the toss was outstanding,” said captain Paine.
“We’re sharing the load. We can’t rely on too few and good teams have guys contributing throughout the list and we’re starting to do that.”
Tom Blundell warmed New Zealand hearts with a stirring century that thwarted Australia’s hopes of wrapping up a quicker victory.
But his batting partners crumbled around him and New Zealand ultimately bowed out meekly in the final hour.
“They’ve got a fantastic attack with pace and bounce but their accuracy stood apart and they did seem to get more out of that surface,” said New Zealand skipper Williamson.
“All round from our perspective we need to be better in all departments. We do need to be better come Sydney.”
Australia declared their second innings closed at 168 for five in the morning and an unleashed Pattinson crashed through New Zealand’s top order with three wickets in nine deliveries.
New Zealand rallied through Blundell, an inspired replacement for the out-of-form opener Jeet Raval, to be 131 for four at tea to the delight of thousands of travelling fans who sang with gusto in the terraces throughout the day.
But Lyon broke the game open by capturing BJ Watling’s wicket for 22, ending a 72-run stand with Blundell with a venomous delivery that caught an inside edge on the way through to David Warner’s safe hands at leg slip.
All-rounder Colin de Grandhomme was out for nine flicking Lyon straight to Warner at backward square leg, ending a short and uneasy innings on the 12th ball faced.
With tail-ender Trent Boult not batting due to a broken hand, a comical run out of Tim Southee for two left Australia needing only one wicket for victory.
Part-time legspinner Marnus Labuschagne wrapped it up by having Blundell out for 121, with Lyon taking a catch just above the grass.
Williamson will think ruefully of what might have been, having sent Australia in to bat after winning the toss only for their batsmen to pile on 467 runs and Travis Head score a matchwinning 114.
A five-wicket haul to Pat Cummins then saw New Zealand bowled out for 148 in their first innings to all but put the result beyond doubt.
“Without a doubt their bowlers came in and hit the wicket hard, bowled exceptionally well and made life difficult for us,” said Williamson, who was trapped lbw for a duck by Pattinson on Sunday after managing nine in the first innings.
“That is the nature of playing cricket over here. But as a batting unit we do need to be a lot better.”