Where to start, on a topic that at this stage seems more grim than my last post on death. I suppose, I'll go with the logical point and start at the beginning.....
Optimism. The typical feeling before New Zealand commences a test series. This will be the one. The one, where the rag tag group filled with potential comes to realise greatness. All the signs were there. Australia missing the likes of Watson, Johnson etc. The New Zealander's thrashing the players that would be coming into replace them all over the Allen Border Oval. McCullum promptly dispatching James Pattinson's first over in test match cricket for twelve. Then reality struck.
It slapped me in the face the only way 96 for five can. Before the tour began, John Wright promised that this team would be patient. They would not fall in the way their earlier counterparts had in taking the fight to Australia. If only that were true. Our batsmen looked as if they were trying to secure IPL contracts with fantastic strike rates and shots. Instead, they looked poor and were found out by inexperienced bowlers. Luckily New Zealand have a man called Daniel Vettori, who specialises in saving the day. He found an eventually stable and very impressive ally in Dean Brownlie. Together they added 158 face saving runs until New Zealand's lack of ability to do test basics was exposed again. Vettori foolishly ran himself out for 96 attempting to reach his century as quickly as possible when there was no time pressure. Compare this with Michael Clarke, who happily defended the overs before lunch to go to the sheds 99 not out before completing the milestone. Vettori was not the only guilty party, his captain replacement played a horrible shot a few overs before lunch when a leave would have sufficed. Compare this with Brad Haddin who is extremely aggressive but managed to rein it in for the few overs before lunch. This from a man who thought a cross batted slog was a good shot at 18 for five against South Africa. In the end 295 was far more than New Zealand deserved but it did give us a decent chance. Then Australia batted and reality slapped me in the face again.
Australia accumulated runs, left well and showed how to bat in a test match. New Zealand made this a whole lot easier by dropping several catches letting off Clarke several times and even dropping Starc came back to haunt us. New Zealand as per usual played Ponting and Haddin back into form as Australia racked up 427. Vettori was our usual workhorse conceding less than three an over, over thirty seven overs.Martin bowled well for decent reward but Southee without swing looked unthreatening and Bracewell was unlucky but also ill disciplined as he could have had Clarke out cheaply if he had not overstepped.
Then of course New Zealand had to bat again but with only 132 we were in with a chance. But not really. We were destroyed by good pace bowling, which has always hampered our batsmen. Being twenty eight for five showed how we still fail to grasp test cricket. Even when we began our usual middle order fight back, it was ruined by Ryder not being able to control his aggression and holing out. Brownlie and Vettori again put on the highest stand but it was not nearly enough as Australia easily chased down the nineteen required for victory.
Basically, this test showed the huge void between us and our 'older brother' but we definitely need to learn fast. The Black Caps need to look at how England were successful against Australia. Leaving the ball rather than needlessly giving the slips catching practice, being patient, being disciplined and taking every chance offered your way. There were a few positives to take from this test. Dan Vettori definitely still has what it takes to be a test cricketer as he showed how world class he is. This test also revealed the strong technique and temprement of Dean Brownlie as he fought hard in both innings refusing to give up. New Zealand does do well whenever counted out already therefore I'm hopeful that at Hobart we will discover some mental strength. We don't even have to win, just save a little bit of face, please Black Caps. See how one test can turn optimism into pleading for a smaller loss, aint it great being a New Zealand Cricket fan? Oh the summer is young.