Agence France Presse

Wellington, March 22:

Australia were robbed of the chance to wrap up their cricket Test series against New Zealand here on Tuesday when rain brought an early end to the second Test match. The rain set in soon after the lunch break with New Zealand in trouble at 48 for three in their second innings, requiring a seemingly impossible 278 runs to make Australia bat again, and leaving Australian skipper Ricky Ponting frustrated at being denied a likely victory. The draw means the three-match series will be decided in the final Test starting in Auckland on Saturday after Australia won the first Test. The second Test came to an end when the southerly rain set in just 3.2 overs after lunch — enough time for Lou Vincent to be bowled by Michael Kasprowicz for 24, to give the Queenslander his 100th Test wicket.

But as much as Australia were left to rue what might have been, New Zealand skipper Stephen Fleming had no complaints about the weather after his side’s uncompetitive performance against the top-ranked team in the world. “It got us out of jail so I’m not too disappointed with the weather,” said Fleming, who won the toss and elected to bowl first when overcast conditions looked ideal for seamers. Australia made 570 in their first innings, led by 165 from Damien Martyn and 162 from Adam Gilchrist and then dismissed New Zealand

for 244 and enforced the follow on. When New Zealand started their second innings on the fifth day of the rain-interrupted Test Glenn McGrath provided Australia with the perfect start when he had Stephen Fleming and Hamish Marshall both out lbw in the space of three balls.

It continued an uncharacteristically bad run from Fleming who has fallen lbw to McGrath for 17, nought and one in his last three innings, and highlighted the flawed decision to try to convert New Zealand’s senior batsman into a makeshift opener.

In the second innings he avoided the dreaded pair with a single off Jason Gillespie, but McGrath set him up with three short balls then a full inswinger which would have hit middle stump. Marshall then played back to McGrath and was hit high up on the back leg, with umpire David Shepherd giving the decision, making it three for two. McGrath, who moved to 492 Test wickets, finished with two for 10 off six overs after having the figures at one stage of three overs, three maidens and two wickets. New Zealand’s first innings top scorer Lou Vincent again looked in good touch and was on 24 at lunch, but he lasted just three balls after the break before going in the record books as Kasaprowicz’s 100 Test victim Opener Craig Cumming defiantly stuck to his task, taking more than half an hour to get off the mark and was on 10 not out when the rain set in with Nathan Astle on four.