Certainly there were mitigating circumstances; the pitch was green, the ground was damp and New Zealand won the toss. But, for an Australian side who were bullish about their chances of brushing off their recent defeat in India, it was a calamitous start to a series. They were bowled out for just 214, as New Zealand’s battery of medium-fast bowlers prospered on a pitch tailor-made for anyone who could keep tight line-and-length.
Tim Southee, still just 19-years-old, was the chief cause of the chaos. He reduced Australia to 23-3 with some superb swing bowling in the morning session. Matthew Hayden and Simon Katich were both caught behind from cunning off-cutters that broke the other way from his stock in-swinging delivery to the southpaws. When Ricky Ponting was caught at slip after playing across an away-swinger Southee had taken three wickets in 15 minutes.
Mike Hussey and Michael Clarke rallied the innings with a 73-run partnership, but Southee was backed up with some stalwart support from Iain O'Brien and Chris Martin. Hussey departed lbw for 35 an hour into the afternoon session, a wicket which brought Andrew Symonds to the crease for the first time since he was dropped from the side for going awol on a fishing trip in August. He took eight runs from a single O'Brien delivery, an all-run four being followed by an equal amount of overthrows, and was out caught behind in the same over for 26. Australia's lower-order succumbed for a succession of single-figure scores. Only Michael Clarke mustered any authority, batting on while those around him stumbled. Clarke added 54 for the last two wickets and fell two runs short of his century. "If you had have told me I was going to get 98 this morning I would have been rapt," said Clarke. “I'm disappointed I didn't make a 100. But at the end of the day, the team's total is more important, and with 214 on the board I think we did pretty well.”