The hosts’ chase of 241 had been guided expertly by David Warner, but Bracewell’s removal of Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke and Michael Hussey, all on 159, left Australia a nervous 5 for 173 at lunch, and on resumption the remaining five went down for a mere 60. In all it was a collapse of 8 for 74, Warner left marooned on 123 when the last man, Nathan Lyon, was bowled by Bracewell.
Bracewell’s display, characterised by swing, bounce and sharp variation, confirmed his pre-series billing by the New Zealand captain Ross Taylor as a cricketer of enormous potential. It also branded Australia as a team of profound vulnerability with the bat, a problem made doubly vexing by the fact the top seven is populated as much by experience as callow youth. Clarke will take precious little consolation from the retention of the Trans-Tasman Trophy.
Phillip Hughes had been dismissed without addition to his overnight score, yet again caught by Martin Guptill off the bowling of Chris Martin, and Usman Khawaja was again out for a useful but not sufficiently consequential tally. Ponting and Warner took Australia to within 82 with eight wickets in hand, before tumult ensued.
Hughes and Warner resumed in morning sunshine, aware that morning session had been the most difficult in which to bat during this match. Martin shared this knowledge, and he swiftly made use of it by finding another delivery that seamed across Hughes to be snapped up by Guptill in the slips. Hughes had been out in that manner in each of his four innings for the series, and he walked off knowing he could not expect to be retained for the Boxing Day Test.
By contrast Warner did not let the bowlers settle, punching through the offside with rare power, though it was an edge over the slips cordon off the bowling of Bracewell that delivered his first Test half-century.
Khawaja provided sound support for a time, but Warner twinged his back when diving for a run-out and was visibly inconvenienced. Perhaps trying to take more responsibility for scoring, Khawaja drove loosely at a wide delivery from Trent Boult and was held by Ross Taylor, who did brilliantly to hold his poise as Guptill dived across him from second slip.
Ponting emerged for what may well be his final Test innings in Hobart, and played himself in with a handful of crisp shots. Warner was regaining some freedom of movement at the other end, and lunch emerged into view with the hosts in apparent control.
However Bracewell had been moving the ball consistently, and varying his pace with intelligence. Ponting was undone by a delivery that stopped on him as he tried a signature back-foot drive, and lobbed gently off the toe of his bat to cover. The crowd offered a generous ovation, but it was not acknowledged, Ponting lost in his own thoughts and frustrations at letting New Zealand back into the contest.
Bracewell had troubled Clarke all series, shaping the ball both ways from his muscular body action, and he now prised out Australia’s captain with an away swinger that Taylor claimed at the second attempt. His next ball also swung, beating Hussey’s bat to strike the pad in front of middle and leg. A not out verdict was referred by Taylor, and within moments Bracewell was on a hat-trick.
Warner top-edged a hook off Martin then drove with conviction to move well into the 90s, and after Brad Haddin survived Bracewell’s hat-trick ball the teams walked off for lunch. When they returned, Warner was swiftly into three figures, laughing and punching the air in recognition of a richly-deserved century.
Tim Southee found some delectable outswing in the afternoon, and Haddin edged perilously wide of the slips. Taylor reinforced the cordon and next ball Haddin duly chased another, snicking straight to New Zealand’s captain. Peter Siddle did likewise, and for the first time all day the visitors were favoured to win.
Bracewell was bending the ball with similar venom, and two balls after James Pattinson survived a review for lbw when he did not offer a shot, a delivery angled across was snapped up by Guptill in the cordon.
Mitchell Starc was too late and too crooked to keep out his second ball, another swerving demon from Bracewell, and all of a sudden Warner had only Lyon for company. A few solid blows brought the target within 25 runs, but then Southee and New Zealand had a moment in which they felt victory was theirs.
A full delivery swung down the line and struck Lyon in front, quickly drawing a raised finger from the umpire Nigel Llong. Lyon’s last-ditch referral looked exactly that, but the ball tracker improbably revealed the ball had pitched a millimetre outside leg stump. To widespread disbelief, the chase resumed.
Next over and the ‘keeper Reece Young encouraged the referral of another lbw appeal against Lyon, only to find that Bracewell’s in-dipper was arcing down the legside, and the No. 11 then unveiled a princely flick through straight midwicket to demonstrate his composure. Warner took a single, Bracewell bustled in again, and found one more tearing delivery to crash through Lyon’s defence.
As New Zealand celebrated, Lyon sank to the ground, disbelieving that the match had been lost. Bad as he felt, it was the batsmen other than Warner who had greatest cause to feel poorly.