Brisbane: After watching James Pattinson crush the New Zealand top order in a remarkable opening stint on Sunday that netted four wickets and hastened Australia's push towards a nine-wicket victory, skipper Michael Clarke made a sarcastic observation about cricket: "Easy game, isn't it!"
Clarke came into his first home Test series as Australia captain under intense pressure: a spate of injuries ensured he was in charge of the least experienced Australian bowling attack in decades, there were persistent questions over the future of some of his aging teammates — including ex-skipper Ricky Ponting — and the squad had only spent a few days with new coach Mickey Arthur.
In the end, Australia maintained an unbeaten run in Tests at the Gabba since 1988, having bowled New Zealand out for 295 and 150 and posting 427 in between. David Warner (12) guided Australia to the 19 runs required for victory in the second innings, hitting three boundaries from the four balls he faced and finishing it all off before tea on the fourth day of the first Test.
"It's a great start to the summer," said Clarke, who scored 139 in Australia's first innings, his third hundred in the last six innings. Ponting scored a gritty 78 and wicketkeeper Brad Haddin stroked an untroubled 80 to silence their critics.
Clarke's captaincy record now is three wins, two draws and two losses, including the embarrassing eight-wicket defeat in Cape Town last month when his team was dismissed for 47 and pilloried in the media as the worst Australian Test lineup in 26 years.
His run includes a Test series win in Sri Lanka, a drawn Test series in South Africa — after rallying for a two-wicket win in Johannesburg last month — and now a 1-0 lead in the two-match series against New Zealand.
"I'm happy we're winning, no doubt. I said after South Africa it was important we continued building momentum from Sri Lanka, and it is no different at the start of the summer, it was important we started well here," he said. "We know we've got some tough cricket ahead of us, starting in Hobart, but obviously throughout the summer against India as well."
The second Test starts on Friday at Hobart, then the Australians play India in four Tests starting December 26 at Melbourne.
Clarke has back-to-back Test wins as captain for the first time, but it all could have turned out very differently.
After losing the toss, Clarke insisted Pattinson bowl a full length despite being taking for 13 runs in the first over of the match, including three boundaries from New Zealand opener Brendon McCullum. It seemed ominious that a bowling attack that had a combined 30-odd Test caps in experience, including Pattinson and Mitchell Starc on debut, would be bullied by a New Zealander.
Now, it seems, the Australians have an embarrassment of riches in the young fast-bowling ranks, with Pattinson earning the man-of-the-match award for his second-innings' five-wicket haul. He struggled in the first innings, but came to life in the second, taking the first wicket late on Saturday when he removed McCullum to have New Zealand in trouble at 10-1 overnight.
He removed Martin Guptill first up on Sunday and then dismised Kane Williamson and New Zealand skipper Ross Taylor of consecutive balls to be on a hattrick.
Jess Ryder narrowly avoided the hattrick but Pattinson completed a five-wicket haul on his Test debut when he had night watchman Doug Bracewell caught behind. At that stage, his figures were 5-7 and New Zealand's hopes of victory had entirely faded. He finished with 5-27 from 11 overs, with offspinner Nathan Lyon snaring 3-19 to finish the match with seven wickets.
Pat Cummins, the 18-year-old star of Australia's comeback win in South Africa last month when he took six second-innings wickets and hit the winnings runs, was ruled out of this match but should come back into the selection frame soon. Pattinson is only 21.
Regular pace spearhead Mitchell Johnson has been sidelined for five to six months with an injured left foot, but Australia can expect to have allrounder Shane Watson and paceman Ryan Harris back soon.
Pattinson made a good case for inclusion in the next Test.
"It's surreal," he said of his stunning debut. "It hasn't sunk in right now. It is a great achievement personally, but it's great for the team as well."