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New Zealand flops and Australia staggers

December 9, 2011

If New Zealand were hoping to make up for their comprehensive defeat to Australia last week, the early signs were ominous. Firstly,  New Zealand’s best batsmen in the first match and consistent off spinner, Daniel Vettori, had to pull out after  aggravating an already existing hamstring injury during the warm up. He was replaced by left-arm paceman, Trent Boult, who would be making his test debut.
Secondly, on a pitch as green as kryptonite, New Zealand lost the toss and were asked to bat. The disappointment of New Zealand’s captain, Ross Taylor, was palpable.

The pitch would ensure the ball would move around  but maybe more importantly, the pitch would put relentlessness doubt in the batsmen mind. In just the second over, the doubt got to Martin Guptill. Peter Siddle bowled a beautiful length ball, which moved away slightly, Guptill played inside the line, got the edge and went straight to Haddin for an easy catch.

As Guptill walked off he shook his head at the pitch. Most batsmen like to find a reason for why getting out isn’t their fault at the best of times but this wasn’t the pitch’s fault, it was a bad shot. If any batsmen was lacking doubt, Guptill’s reaction to his dismissal would have been sure to implant it there.

Jesse Ryder, a batsmen not known for his discipline, was promoted to number three on a wicket that would require immense discipline. The experiment didn’t work. Ryder, facing his sixth ball,  was hit in the pads by a fullish swinging delivery. Australia went up. The umpire turned the appeal down. Clarke immediately went for the review, which showed the ball hit in line and was hitting the stumps. The only doubt was over whether Ryder had hit the bill before it hit his pads but it was decided that Ryder had instead hit his pads with his bat, so he was gone for a duck. It was 2 for 11.

Captain Ross Taylor came out, needing to stand up after failing twice in Brisbane. Siddle was having none of it. He bowled a beautiful ball, which jagged back sharply and struck Taylor above the pad. The umpire quickly gave it out. Taylor just as quickly went for the review. He thought it unfathomable that the ball could be hitting the stumps if it didn’t hit his pad. The review proved it was the case. Technology wasn’t enough to disprove Taylor’s belief that he couldn’t possibly be out, as he shook his head as he walked off. He was out for six and it was 3 for 25. New Zealand were at crisis point, again and this time they didn’t have Vettori to save them.

It seemed that instead Kane Williamson and Brendon McCallum would play that role. Though, they both had to ride their luck with edges flashing for four and not carrying but they managed to negate Australia’s attack for forty minutes and pushed the score up to 56.

After a sustained spell of bowling a good length and line, Starc bowled a loose full ball outside left stump, Williamson attempted to flick the ball for some easy runs but only flicked it through to Haddin, who took it well down leg side. Williamson’s dismissal for 19 seemed to steel McCullum’s desire to start scoring runs quickly. After playing such a tight, disciplined innings, on the very next ball he faced he went  swinging and managed to get the slightest of edges through to Haddin.

New Zealand now were 5 for 60. It soon became 6 for 60, as  Reece Young, attempted to leave a ball but didn’t get his bat out of the way, so he inadvertently chopped it on to the stumps.

After being overcast all day, the sun them began to emerge, which would only help the batsmen. The problem was most of New Zealand’s batsmen were in the pavilion. Everything seemed in Australia’s favour.

Dean Brownlie, one of the few players to come out of the first test with any credit, started playing strokes, as he needed to, so that at lunch New Zealand were 6 for 83.

After lunch, it was much the same Brownlie continued to accumulate runs and the game was beginning to drift. Siddle, who had bowled well all day, bowled yet another full delivery that swung away from Doug Bracewell, who took a big swing, got a thick edge and went straight to Clarke at first slip. Tim Southee than made his way to the wicket at 7 for 105. It should have been 8 for 105. Siddle bowled a sharp rising delivery, which Southee fended off with his bat, the ball popped up and went between Clarke and Ponting at first and second slip. They looked at each other expecting the other to take it and they continued to look as the ball went to the boundary for four.

Southee took his chance, as New Zealand  began to climb out of the abyss they had thrown themselves into. Brownlie played his way to a classy half century but soon enough, once again, his partners began to run out. Starc bowled a short ball outside off stump and Southee, not known for his restraint, swung with no footwork and edged it on the stumps. Southee and Brownlie had pushed the score up to 146.

Brownlie, now desperate to score runs, struck a four but then tried to cut a ball to close to him and once again a New Zealand batsmen chopped it onto his stumps.

This brought Chris Martin out. The crowd loves to see him bat, the problem is that it never lasts that long. Pattinson, then bowled a cutter that would have troubled the best batsmen. Martin, then, was no chance and he was gone for a golden duck. New Zealand were all out for 150 and James Pattinson picked up his second five for in a row, as he recorded figures of 5 for 51.

It was now to be seen whether the wicket was a horror or whether New Zealand were just batting poorly.

It seemed like it was the former, as the Australian openers were in all sorts of trouble. Phillip Hughes was under immense pressure due to his continual ability to edge the ball early in his innings. Fittingly then, he edged his first ball which flew through the slip cordon. On his fifth ball he wasn’t so lucky as he was  caught edging the ball- again, this time for four

It was hard not to think of what Simon Katich, Australia’s last test opener dropped due to his age, would be thinking. . Khawaja came out and did just about everything but get out. Ball after ball seemed to whistle past his outside edge, as he looked in real trouble.  Just as you sensed New Zealand were moving in for the kill, the rain came. The crowd booed as the umpires called the players off but you can guarantee that Khawaja and Warner weren’t booing, as they would be a sense of relief to get off the ground and regroup.

This regroupment would continue overnight as heavy rain set in, ensuring that Australia would remain on 1 for 12. While New Zealand’s batting display bordered on farcical, there is enough in the pitch and enough fragility in the Australian batting line up to suggest this test is far from over.

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