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Debutants day out, as New Zealand staggers

December 1, 2011

The first day of summer saw Australia take on New Zealand at the Gabba. The air of excitement wasn’t just confined to a summer of cricket arriving. Australia arrived with three debutants, opening batsmen David Warner and two fast bowlers, James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc. This was on top of Nathan Lyon playing his sixth test and Usman Khawaja playing his fifth test. There was a sense or perhaps a hope that Australian cricket is undergoing a renewal from the dire stagnation that has been experienced in the past few years

This brave new world of Australian cricket got off to an inauspicious start, though,  with Brendan McCullum thrashing young debutant James Patterson for three boundaries in the first over. That tone was kept in the following overs, despite the Australian bowlers bowling the occasional good ball.  Mostly thanks to McCullum, New Zealand were soon up to 44 of 10 overs.

McCullum’s opening partner , Martin Guptill, though, always looked the more vulnerable one and so it proved to be.  Guptill, seemingly trying to imitate McCullum’s free scoring ways, tried to smash a drive of Siddle  that wasn’t there and the ball flew through to Haddin for an easy catch.

It was a wicket that was sorely needed, as New Zealand seemed on the cusp of establishing an early domination.

The Australian bowlers who hadn’t been bowling badly, had an extra sting in their tail. After learning to not give McCullum any width, they managed to restrict the flow of runs. McCullum, never one to accept  such a state of affairs, was cramped up by Starc but still tried to cut the ball for four and holed out to  debutant Warner at point for his first wicket in test cricket.

New Zealand was now looking vulnerable at 2 for 56. Khawaja dropped a sharp chance at forward short leg, which would have seen skipper Ross Taylor gone. It now seemed only a matter of time before the third wicket fell. So it proved. First Kane Williamson glanced the ball   just past Ponting at leg slip off Lyon. Then a few balls later Lyon bowled a beautiful ball that turned and bounced and Williamson could only edge the ball onto his thigh and it ballooned up to Khawaja, who took a simple catch.

It seemed now that New Zealand could only make runs through edges and mistimed shots, as Australian bowlers applied maximum pressure. Debutant James Pattinson was the beneficiary  of the pressure when he picked up his first test wicket.  Taylor, using sloppy footwork, tried to drive a fullish delivery and chopped it on to his leg stump.

After it had all seemed so promising, New Zealand had gone from 0 for 44 to 4 for 94 at lunch.

It just got worse for New Zealand after lunch, Jesse Ryder, known for his big hitting, was not the man suited to dig New Zealand  out of the hole. Starc served up an average short and wide delivery, Ryder, using minimal footwork,  slashed the ball straight to Warner at point. New Zealand were now facing oblivion at 5 for 96. It could have and  should have been worse, when Dean Brownlie attempted  another poor cut shot and nicked it through to Michael Clarke, who dropped a sitter.

The very next over Warner dropped a sharp chance at point. It was hard to see how New Zealand could last much longer. They needed some batsmen to dig in against good bowling and that is what they got

Former skipper Daniel Vettori, who played some nice if unusual shots and Brownlie who fought and scraped away managed to push the score up to 176 for 5 at a bad-light induced tea break. Vettori on 45 and Brownlie on 32.

The bad light and rain combined to scuttle any chance of further play, which meant  the score remain there. The second day will see Australia come out on top but New Zealand have at least made a fight out of it, with all eyes on whether Australia’s debutants can clean up the rest of New Zealand’s batsmen.

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