The greenest I’ve ever seen.
The biggest worry for me at the end of the first day was the Sun coming out early on day two. In Brisbane, Australia were lucky with the overhead conditions. Here, fortunately for New Zealand, overhead conditions were favourable early on, especially after the rain and early close on the previous evening, and they made the most of it.
Chris Martin has hit fantastic form and he would look to take all the confidence to the tests against South Africa. His natural deliveries going away from the left handers, have accounted for all the three top order southpaws. Ricky Ponting walked as soon as the ball hit his pads, even before Nigel Llong raised his finger.
New Zealand have unearthed a superb prospect in Trent Boult and he straight away looks a long term candidate. I now think they have overestimated Doug Bracewell’s abilities. Boult was able to sustain the pressure Martin and Southee exerted and this was something that never happened in Brisbane. Bracewell took some confidence from his spell to Micheal Clarke in the first test and he produced another decent effort today. I don’t think they’ll leave out Vettori, given his batting performances, on wickets like these but even if they had made up the ‘hamstring issues’, four seamers worked out perfectly today. Iain O Brien pointed out that there is a pressure to pick wickets that comes along with such seaming and overcast conditions. Bowlers from both teams have delivered the goods. If New Zealand’s top order is bad, Australia’s has serious issues as well. They were pathetic today.
Although it was refreshing to watch a contest where ball dominated bat, there was the feeling that there is almost no batsman left out to fight and survive such paceman-friendly conditions. I would like to see how Kraigg Brathwaite goes in these conditions.
There was some loose bowling to Pattinson and Siddle, which narrowed New Zealand’s lead. Bowlers’ getting distracted to the tail has become a very common phenomenon and this is a mental issue where the coaches can help.
Another major help for the visitors was the fact that the Sun came out in time for their second innings. McCullum and Guptill still couldn’t survive the new ball. This has been a miserable series for Martin Guptill and I hope they don’t drop him for the tests ahead. The pitches in New Zealand for the tests ahead will be much more placid and he’s too good to be out of this team. Ryder was stumped to Micheal Hussey down the leg side and these are dismissals a test batsman cannot afford, more so, when the team badly needs a big knock from you.
Kane Williamson was all class today. He’s got out caught behind only once out of three dismissals in this series. The other two were pretty unfortunate dismissals. He showed a lot of intent and took the attack to Peter Siddle. He played terrific shots of both front and back foot, and his balance was awesome. Ross Taylor survived the early play-and-miss and he improved through the course of his stay. Both of them have put New Zealand in a very promising position. I will be praying for sunlight early in the morning tomorrow.
For those who couldn’t watch the action, Ian Chappell has called this Bellerive pitch ‘the darkest I’ve ever seen’. ‘Not the greenest but the darkest’.
To my eyes, it is almost as green as the square and if this is not the greenest, wonder how today’s batsmen would have handled the greener ones Ian has seen.