By Niall Anderson in Melbourne
The colour of the ball? Irrelevant. The time of day? Immaterial. At the moment, it doesn't matter where or when they play – the Black Caps aren't in the same stratosphere as Australia.
Any aspirations of a competitive series emerging from the first day-night test gloom were brutally dashed on day three of the second test at the MCG today; destroyed by a sensational spell from the best bowler in the world.
The Black Caps were ripped to shreds by Australian superstar seamer Pat Cummins, routed for 148 in a display that would have been as demoralising as it was destructive.
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Instead of forcing them to follow on, the Australian batsmen then came out to extend their lead, sending the Black Caps attack back into the field to deliver another 45 overs, bringing their series tally to a punishing 415.4 overs of toil. Trent Boult also took a blow to his right hand while batting, and while the left-armer bowled in the second innings, he has suffered a fracture and will head home, missing the third and final test.
As always, the bowlers fought admirably, taking four wickets including the quirky sight of Steve Smith being dismissed by Neil Wagner for a fourth straight innings, and for Wagner's 200th test wicket. However, by stumps, their deficit was 456 runs, with Australia likely to declare overnight and give themselves two days to bowl the Black Caps out.
Based on today's effort, they shouldn't need long at all.
Only Tom Latham, with a fighting 50, passed 20 for the Black Caps as they collapsed in the first innings, with the game as good as gone within the first hour of day three.
By then, Ross Taylor had been caught in the slips, Henry Nicholls trapped lbw first ball, and BJ Watling dismissed by a snarling short ball, to reduce the Black Caps to a dismal 58-5.
Cummins claimed the first two scalps, with the world's No 1-ranked bowler at his absolute best as he claimed 5-28 from 17 superb overs, lowering his bowling average to a scarcely believable 21.6 – the best of any bowler this century who has played more than 20 tests.
In a perverse way, Australia's all-around class may be the one saving grace from this tour for the Black Caps. Even the world's best batsmen would have struggled with the express pace and accuracy of Cummins, not to mention James Pattinson (3-34) and Mitchell Starc (2-30).
Yes, the Black Caps should have been more competitive, but since their famous win in Hobart in 2011, only South Africa and India (when Smith and David Warner were suspended) have beaten Australia in Australia, underlining just how difficult a task was being undertaken.
However, none of that hides the fact that the Black Caps have been utterly outclassed, and unlike in Perth, this time there can be no excuses about conditions or preparation.
For all of the runs they piled on at home against sub-par bowling attacks, this series has shown the fallacy behind their batting averages, with the extra 10km/h of pace and subsequent bounce provided by the Australian seamers proving unplayable for many.
Even Latham, the only batsman to emerge with any semblance of credit from the innings, was dropped on nine, and several players may have been given a mighty reality check ahead of the Indian test series in February.
They'll have a chance to redeem themselves in the second innings, but that's all that will be at stake for the Black Caps, after a disastrous day that could leave scars for the summer ahead.