AUSTRALIA may have retained the Trans-Tasman Trophy, but they have lost one of their most loyal servants in the process.
The draw at Perth marked the very last time Mitchell Johnson would pull on the Baggy Green, after the 34-year-old fast bowler announced his retirement midway through the second Test.
He finishes his career as one of Australia’s most prominent wicket-takers in Test cricket, with 313 victims at an average of 28.40.
That leaves him behind only Shane Warne (708), Glenn McGrath (563) and Dennis Lillee (355) in the all-time charts, while his career strike rate of 51.1 is bettered only by Ryan Harris (50.7) among Aussies who have 100 or more Test wickets.
But Johnson wasn’t playing to anything like those figures during this series, and he admitted he had lost the edge required to bounce back in adverse conditions.
“I’m really happy with my decision and I just lost that hunger in the end to play out on those tough days – that’s where my decision came,” he told the press.
“And that was something I used to really enjoy about Test cricket – the challenge of those really difficult days out there and I just wasn’t enjoying it.”
He added: “It’s something I’ve been thinking about for a year now to be honest, on and off. I guess after the World Cup [earlier this year] I thought that was a good time to go out of one-day cricket.
“But with new guys in the team, I thought also I could help being a senior player and give some advice, but I just felt like I couldn’t compete at this level anymore. I just lost that hunger.”
Even though Johnson signed off in style by dismissing New Zealand openers Tom Latham and Martin Guptill in the final session of his Test career, it wasn’t enough to force a result on what was evidently a batsman’s paradise at the WACA.
It looked like Australia would cruise to a 2-0 series win after they posted 559 in the first innings, with David Warner (253) and Usman Khawaja (121) carrying their form over from the first Test at Brisbane.
But the Kiwis then exposed the lifeless Perth pitch for what it truly was, batting out until day four and taking a 65-run lead on the back of a mega partnership between Ross Taylor (290) and Kane Williamson (166).
New Zealand then furthered their advantage when they sent Aussie openers Warner and Joe Burns back to the sheds cheaply early in the second innings, but Steven Smith – moving up to number three after Khawaja injured his hamstring – and Adam Voges steadied the ship with two fine centuries.
Smith left it until halfway through day five before sending the Black Caps back in to bat, setting them a target of 321 with only 48 overs remaining.
But that left too little room for either side to get the job done, especially after a minor rain delay, with Williamson and Taylor keeping their wickets intact as the match petered out to a draw.
Second Test betting results
While most of our tips for the Gabba Test saluted, Perth turned out to be far less profitable for the CupsBetting.com team.
Although we successfully predicted the Aussies would score over 352.5 runs ($1.85 at Sportsbet.com) and have the highest opening partnership in the first innings, we missed the mark by backing Steve Smith’s men to win the match.
As for our top batsman and best bowler props – let’s just say we got our wires crossed.
We backed in Adam Voges to top score in Australia’s first innings, but he was rather soundly upstaged by Dave Warner’s double century.
And although our man Kane Williamson racked up another very impressive ton, man of the match Ross Taylor spoiled the party by knocking the highest-ever score by a touring batsman in Australia.
Our bowling bets were nowhere near it, as neither Mitch Johnson (1/157) nor Trent Boult (2/123) had much joy on that uncharacteristically lifeless WACA wicket.
Draw – $8
Australia or draw – $1.13
New Zealand or draw – $3.25
First innings lead
New Zealand – $2.62
Highest opening partnership (first innings)
Australia – $1.57
Top team batsmen (first innings)
David Warner – $3.75
Ross Taylor – $5.50
Top team bowlers (first innings)
Mitchell Starc – $3
Mark Craig – $5
Man of the match
Ross Taylor – $19
Odds provided by www.Bet365.com
Australia vs. New Zealand series betting
With the draw in Perth ensuring Australia retained the Trans-Tasman Trophy, most online bookmakers have closed their series betting markets.
Some bets have even paid out already, such as Australia to lead ($1.25 at Bet365) and correct series score ($3.25 at Bet365) after two Tests.
But our friends over at www.Sportsbet.com are still running a handful of cricket futures ahead of the third and final Test of the series, including these:
Australia to win – $1.20
Drawn series – $4.40
Any match to end in a tie – $101
Third Test match odds
Starts 2:00pm local time on Friday, November 27, 2015 at Adelaide Oval
Australia – $1.58 (CrownBet.com)
New Zealand – $5.25 (Sportsbet.com)
Draw – $4.50 (WilliamHill.com)
The Trans-Tasman series will close with the inaugural day-night Test match at Adelaide, where the actual cricket action may well take a back seat as the world turns its attention to that pink Kookaburra ball.
The Aussies are clear favourites, even though they will be missing the retired Johnson and the injured Khawaja. James Pattinson and Shaun Marsh have been called up as direct replacements, while Steve O’Keefe could also feature if the pitch conditions warrant a second spinner.
The Kiwis might shuffle the deck a bit as well – most likely in the bowling department, which has not fired at all so far – as they look to maintain their two-year unbeaten run in Test series.
Test series results and fixtures
First Test – Australia won by 208 runs at Brisbane
Second Test – Match drawn at Perth
Third Test – November 27 – December 1 at Adelaide
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