Vettori, Ponting and bad light..

Conditions in the morning were flatter than those on day one and batting became a much easier art. Pattinson and Starc looked slightly different bowlers but they obviously have enough skill to remain test class bowlers. Vettori and Brownlie continued to prosper and runs came quickly. Bowling teams around the world devise various strategies for various batsmen but they have certainly not realized what kind of a force Vettori can be with the bat. There doesn’t seem to be a specific plan for him and time has come for all opponents to plan and prepare for smart knocks like these. One of the ideas would be to keep bowling a full length on middle and leg (with protection) because he keeps shuffling, and scores a lot through square leg. He makes a mockery of off stump and outside off stump lines by picking those balls early and pulling them to square leg.

Clarke and his men looked clueless till Vettori himself had a brain-snap, when on 96. He had just scored a boundary and certainly wanted to get his hundred in quick time. He had timed the drive to long off well and there was no single on offer. Hussey’s direct hit ended an innings of sheer brilliance, and one which would have taken New Zealand to 350 and more. Peter Siddle was just too good for Reece Young. He was caught on the corridor, edging to first slip. Doug Bracewell was the next man in. He never looked convincing and edged Nathan Lyon to slip. And Ross Taylor’s statements are quickly going to the drain.  Tim Southee played a handy little cameo and helped the total near 300.

Nathan Lyon finished with four wickets and although three of them were tail enders, it was an excellent effort from someone who has never played here. I wonder if not having played at the Gabba actually helped him because Australia generally play four quicks here! Peter Siddle was in good form and Australia will be needing him to fire in the second innings as conditions are likely to get flatter.

 

When it comes to bowling and fielding, world cricket has few teams more efficient than New Zealand. Warner and Hughes had five minutes to negotiate before lunch. Vettori squeezed in one tight over quickly, and they got another over to have a go at the openers before lunch. Southee’s first ball was short, swinging in towards the left handed Warner. The direction and the bounce were perfect. Warner didn’t have time to drop his gloves and the Kiwis had a breakthrough in four minutes.

Chris Martin is more effective to the left handers because he has a natural delivery that goes away from them. Phil Hughes got an edge to one such delivery and Martin Guptill completed a fine catch at gully, diving low to his right. Khawaja and Ponting steadied the ship after the two early wickets. Both of them played to the merit of the ball. Ponting looked to score on every opportunity. The Channel Nine team did pick two or three occasions where his technique looked short of the mark. On one, the head was a yard away from the line of the ball while defending. Too much of his body weight was falling towards cover-point and he was clearly falling over. The encouraging thing for all his fans is that the boundary shots are still coming freely. But surely, he is not as high on confidence as, may be, on determination.

Ponting wanted a single on the very first ball after tea, a single which gave an indication that he wanted to get off strike as soon as possible at the start of the new session. South Africa is the only other team that would have managed to pull off a run out on this occasion. Kane Williamson pounced on the ball, picked it up cleanly and an underarm throw on the dive proved curtains for Usman Khawaja. I am sure more senior batsmen at the other end would have refused the single, because this wasn’t good running but an effort to get to the non striker’s end after a 20 minute break.

That run out sparked off a period where New Zealand exerted pressure on the batsmen, after Khawaja and Ponting had calmed things down. Southee got great shape and maintained good line outside off. Chris Martin bowled a spell of inswingers  at an awkward length that troubled Ponting.  The short leg for Martin was surprisingly absent and on one occasion, he survived a bat pad. The close in fielder did come a few overs later but he should have been there since the beginning. I did wonder if Brendon McCullum should have been given the job now and Taylor a couple of more seasons’ time. McCullum is proactive and is very much involved in the affairs, but as captain, his on-field decisions would be made earlier!

Micheal Clarke looked all class as he arrived. One moment of indecision nearly cost him his wicket. He half- left a ball which eventually took his bottom edge and hit the stumps. But Doug Bracewell had overstepped. I can’t remember any major chance apart from this. Vettori bowled well with his variations but he would be more useful with some turn on this pitch. I don’t know how much effort is being put in to impart turn on the ball as over the years, he’s been picking wickets only with his variations. On the whole, Ponting and Clarke had a relatively easy time as there were only two and a half bowlers, effectively. Martin was easily negotiable and Vettori and Southee were the real pressure bowlers. I will certainly try Trent Boult in place of Bracewell, at Hobart.

First session tomorrow is big. Two early wickets will bring in Haddin and the long tail. Remember, there is no Johnson around this time. If there is bright sunshine in the morning, these two and Hussey could make quick runs and New Zealand could be under pressure in the third innings. Southee holds the key.

There was some debate regarding umpires not having to offer light to the batsmen, and having to take their own call. Mark Taylor said that was absolutely fine as it would only bring in more consistency and reduce controversy. The only thing the umpires should do is, carry on with play under light that is practically free of any danger to the players, instead of simply referring to a value on the light meters and taking decisions.  As simple as that.

 

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