I couldn’t really come up with a series prediction before this one got underway, but I definitely didn’t go for 2-0 to the Aussies as I would have a few years ago, when they were in their heyday. Unfortunately they are not. Which is what folks like Mark Nicholas and Ian Healy must realize sooner rather than later. Channel 9’s broadcast is usually pretty watch-worthy, but their commentators have to move on with the times. It ain’t an effing funeral when Australia have lost, mate!
New Zealand’s media is arguably the opposite. They on the other hand, don’t know how to handle a win. When Chris Martin has bowled one of the Aussie top order rookies through the gate, it’s always a case of it being a poor shot and never a good ball. This, as well as New Zealand always turning up against the Aussies usually turns what should be a dull contest on paper, into a riveting sledge-fest at times.
Day 1 of Brisbane was an anti-climax. After I had woken up at 3 AM to watch. Disappointingly, the Kiwis seemed to be in limited overs mode. None of those balls that got rid of their top order was ever going to hit the stumps, they should have been left alone. The shots were horrendous – usually seen employed in the death overs of an ODI, not at the start of a five dayer for crying out loud! The frustrating McCullum fell to – you guessed it, a square cut. The other guy who made minced meat of the Aussie A side at the practice game – Jesse Ryder, succumbed to the same fate at a stage when he should have been rebuilding post the Lunch session. And captain Rossco managed to drag one on from outside off stump. All that avoidable carnage left them at 96-5, and Dan the man Vettori stepped out to save them as always. He made 96 himself, before an unnecessary run forced him to make his way back. Still, it was as much as the top order had put together.
On the other end was a Dean Brownlie, half-Aussie, whose runs through the series proved to be invaluable. He upped the total to 150 in a similar Kiwi first innings implosion at Hobart, before bravely proclaiming that it was enough on that greentop. Right he was, as the Kiwi quicks polished Australia off for 136. New Zealand’s second innings effort ebbed and flowed, with everybody getting a start before falling prey to the difficult pitch on offer. Ross managed to clock up a valuable 56 though, and even Chris Martin managed 2*.
Which took us to Day 4, one of the more exciting days of tests I’ve seen this year. After Australia’s 47 all out at Newlands a coupla’ months ago anyway. Chasing 241, David Warner held one end alight right through the end only to see his ten teammates collapse one by one at the other. Phil Hughes’ awful technique ensured that he was c Guptill b Martin four times out of four this series, and 72-0 became 159-3, and 194-7. Clarke and Hussey both made ducks, and New Zealand grasped the game then and there. Ideally you never give the Kiwis a sniff in any form of the game – else they’ll choke you. The Aussies did, losing the match by 9 runs. Pure theatre right at the end, as Warner and Lyon tried hard to get over the line. Good on New Zealand, winning a test against Australia for the first time since the early 90s, and for the first time in Aussieland since the mid 80s. Hope they can keep this up for the summer against South Africa at home.
The Vodafone man of the match poll was flawed. Bracewell deserved it, but Warner got it thanks to the tons of Aussies who voted in. What a joke.
So where do Australia go from here? They have a summer against India coming up, and they must see it out with a drawn result at least. Phil Hughes must be dropped – he simply has to fix that godawful technical flaw he has, edging to slip every third ball. It’s getting very difficult for Ponting not to be dropped for good, and Hussey has had a horror show since Sri Lanka though I’d say he still has some credit left thanks to his exploits prior. Clarke is pretty alright at #5, and he seems to be leading well with the bat. The bowling presents a slightly better picture, if inexperienced. Nathan Lyon is the Aussies’ thirteenth spinner since Warne and he seems to be a keeper for the time being. Pattinson has impressed, but Mitchell Starc is just like that other Mitchell he’s replaced, and he should aim higher. As for Siddle, pitch. it. up. mate.
Australia v India and New Zealand v South Africa should be corkers. Can’t wait.
By the way, to those of you slamming the Hobart pitch, get a life. If you don’t like attritional test cricket, don’t watch the sport. Simple.