That’s Real Entertainment!

Owing to illness, Peter Flynn was unable to provide his scheduled report.

 

For those marketing types on constant lookout for ways to repackage cricket as an ‘entertainment product’, this match should hopefully serve as a reminder that cricket has long offered one of the best entertainment packages there is to be had in sport. Viewed from a narrow commercial perspective, the fact that Test cricket requires five days to be set aside may seem like some arcane Victorian-era relic. But it is precisely because Test matches are played out over such expansive time frames that they so often provide dramatic twists and turns of plot, regularly demand sustained excellence of performance, and linger in the memory as something substantial in a throwaway age.

The two sides competing in Hobart are a long way from the best to ever represent either country, but they combined to provide a compelling contest. With both Australia and New Zealand seeking to rebuild their stocks, it was a nail biting result that could have significant ramifications for both camps.

Having wasted an advantageous position on Day 3, New Zealand were probably fortunate rain came yesterday to stop the momentum of an Australian opening partnership that threatened to steal the match away.

A sunny fourth morning would have brightened Australian prospects, but they soon dimmed when Phil Hughes completed a quartet of caught-Guptill-bowled-Martin dismissals without a run added. Given Hughes’ current insistence on following outswingers with an open blade, it seems inevitable there will be many more Guptills in his cricketing future.

Usman Khawaja joined David Warner at 1/72 and resumed his tentative approach of the first innings. Warner had started cautiously. On 49, it seemed a pivotal moment when he edged to where third slip should have been, the resulting gap allowing a boundary to bring up his maiden test fifty.

Undeterred, Warner continued to punch shots through the field, utilising strong forearms and wrists to generate power from compact swings that seemed ideally suited to the pitch conditions. Khawaja joined in with a couple of flourishing drives and a 50 partnership was raised in the space of 14 overs. Warner’s main concern appeared to be a sore back, which gained relief from the physio’s pill box.

To this stage New Zealand had struggled to maintain pressure. The ball was swinging, though not as consistently as before. The pitch still offered something, but the Kiwi attack was lacking the precision of the first innings. Overthrows and misfields fed frustration. They were reduced to placing 7-2 fields and bowling outside off stump. Ross Taylor’s tactics revealed anxiety about the diminishing target.

It came as a surprise when Khawaja chased a Boult delivery and edged to Taylor. Taylor hung on despite the distraction of a diving Guptill crossing his vision. 2/122.

Ricky Ponting was soon reprising the exaggerated forward lunge that has been his response to LBW woes. Like all the great Australian batsmen, Ponting has been a strong back foot player. With his batting balance now precarious, what was formerly a strength has become problematic. He advanced unconvincingly to 16, taking the total to 159, before he attempted to drive Bracewell off the back foot. He might claim the ball held up off the pitch. His skewed weight distribution in attempting the shot was a more likely cause of the gently spooned lob to cover.

A proud man, Ponting will be galled by two embarrassing dismissals in this game. But he is not by nature a walker. The feelings of the selectors are yet to be established on this matter.

Doug Bracewell had begun the decisive bowling spell of the match. Swinging the ball away, he enticed Clarke to drive nervously outside off stump. Taylor juggled another catch. Hussy was beaten by a first ball inswinger. The LBW appeal was rejected by the umpire but affirmed upon video review. 2/159 had become 5/159.

Warner continued to look less troubled than any other batsmen in the match. He was 95* at lunch, supported by Haddin.

Brad Haddin has shown a general disinclination to trim his sails in pressure situations. He is Australia’s most fervent advocate of ‘playing your natural game’. He saw Warner through to his century, but was resolved to play his shots.

Tim Southee has had a lacklustre time of it. This seemed set to continue when Haddin edged through slip to the boundary. The very next ball Haddin chanced his arm again and Taylor snaffled another chance. 6/192. Siddle lasted 3 balls before edging low to Ryder. Suddenly, Southee’s day was looking up. 7/194.

Pattinson couldn’t reproduce his previous resistance. He survived an LBW ruling courtesy of the third umpire, but quickly edged Bracewell to slip. Starc was bowled two balls later. Australia had lost 7-40 either side of lunch.

All this time Warner had played superbly. He’d passed 100 in a game where the next highest individual score was 56. Now he was left with only Lyon, and still 41 to get.

Just a short while ago in Johannesburg Nathan Lyon had sat in the dugout while Australia snuck home. Then, he hadn’t seemed to relish the pressure. Now he looked calmer. Warner didn’t appear to share this tranquillity. He swished and swatted without connecting. The Kiwis gave Lyon a few wide ones to sight. Bracewell dropped short and Warner pulled him to the fence. He tried a repeat and a top edge landed barely safe. Warner lofted Southee down the ground, prompting Taylor to empty the slips and scatter the field.

With 25 to get Southee struck Lyon on the pads. The umpire raised his finger and Kiwi celebrations began.

But wait, the Aussies were reviewing. After an agonising pause the ball was deemed to have pitched barely outside leg stump. Australia still lived. Then 4 leg byes came.

In all this tension, the arrival of the Gatorade Segways was surreal.

Lyon clipped the first ball after drinks to the long on fence. Then he snuck a single. Warner almost holed out to deep cover. Eight now needed to tie.

Bracewell began the 10th over of his spell, only broken by lunch. Lyon had turned Warner into a believer. He took a single to deep mid wicket. Lyon had played across a few. The 4th ball of the over nipped back and beat the closing bat face. At the rattle of the stumps Lyon sank to his haunches, crestfallen.

Again the Kiwis celebrated. As if to prolong the agony the umpire wanted confirmation of the delivery’s legality. This time there was no drama.

New Zealand had won their first test on Australian soil in 26 years by 7 runs.

Amongst their celebrations, Warner’s effort bore examination. He’d carried his bat in only his 2nd test. He’d scored 123 out of 233. His innings was more than twice what any other player managed in the match. It is to the considerable shame of his teammates that his effort wasn’t enough to secure victory.

Doug Bracewell comes from a cricketing family of considerable pedigree. In only his third test his final spell of 9.4 overs reaped 6-26. During it, Australia declined from 2/159 to all out 233. His innings analysis was 6-40, giving him match figures of 9-60. That Man of the Match was awarded to Warner by public vote is a farce. As great as Warner’s innings was, it was Bracewell’s effort that won the match.

Credit must go to the visitors. The conditions for this game likely reminded them of home, but they bowled well and caught superbly. Their shaky batting line up eked just enough runs to secure a win. And they did it without their best player. Ironically, Vettori’s absence allowed Boult’s promising debut. New Zealand haven’t played much test cricket of late. This was obvious in Brisbane. As they try to rebuild their side, this win will be a great fillip.

Australia will be strongly criticised for another fragile performance, but these two tests haven’t been a complete loss. Pattinson has been a revelation. Siddle seems to be relishing the role of senior bowling pro. Lyon provides a realistic wicket taking spin option. Starc has shown promise, but looks likely to need more development. It will be hoped that Harris is available for the Indians.

But we are no surer about our best batting line up than when we began. Injuries have contributed to this. The selection panel’s options will be predicated on the fitness of Watson and Marsh.  By talent spotting in the recent past, rather than consistently valuing Shield form, Australia is now awkwardly placed selection-wise. The new panel may have to decide whether to prioritise the Indian series or look to building for the next Ashes campaign.

Only Clarke and Warner of the batsmen should hold much certainty on their places for Boxing Day. Ponting has two recent half centuries to back him up. But he looked terrible in this game. The team isn’t strong enough to support a number four averaging less than 30. Hussy was the only backbone the batting had last summer, but approaching 37 years of age he can’t afford flat patches. Thus far this season he has been flatter than the Nullabor. Khawaja has youth on his side, but no compelling run tally. Hughes looks haunted and lost. Haddin is lucky Tim Paine is injured.

As I discussed after Day 2, it is no shock that the Australian batting couldn’t handle a moving ball. This is an ongoing affliction.

Much improvement will be needed if we are to cause the Indians any worries.

 

About John Butler

John Butler has fled the World's Most Liveable Car Park and now breathes the rarefied air of the Ballarat Plateau. For his sins, he has been a Carlton member for more than 30 years.

Comments

  1. I’m sure it was engaging watching the close finish, I find it less enthralling from the distance of hourly updates from a work desk. There is a macabre fascination in watching a drunk stagger to the door, fumbling with his keys. Will he make it or won’t he? But unless I consumed the red myself, I don’t think I’d pay to watch the spectacle or think it represents excellence. There is a racing saying about ignoring bunched finishes from future form consideration – chances are they are all no good.
    You say Hussey “can’t afford flat patches.” I suggest he use his IPL winnings to bribe some groundsmen “to afford him flat pitches”. We should sack Micky Arthur and engage Brad Scott. Its Captain Oates time for Mr C, Punter and Hadds. They can do a noble Cameron Mooney and concede that they ‘may be gone a little while’. What point is there to retaining them? They are like Farnsy, Barnsy and Olivia doing their umpteenth farewell/reunion tour. We all have the CD’s and Video memories of their glory years imprinted on the memory bank.
    My memory shifts back to the early 70’s when the team had become moribund under Bill Lawry’s leadership. He was a truly great batsman like Punter. The establishment ignored the enfant terrible’ in Ian Chappell until the pain of continued losses was too great. With Chappell on board the old order was chucked overboard and the new of Lillee, Marsh, Greg C, Mallett etc started to flourish.
    Clarke shows leadership flair. Give him a team of like mind and age to mould.
    “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately… Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”
    Oliver Cromwell’s Address to the Rump Parliament (20 April 1653)

  2. John Butler says:

    PB, it was a fascinating contest to watch, even if the participants weren’t of the highest order. Warner and Bracewell stood out.

    If our batting stocks were bountiful then the selectors should be wielding machetes. Sadly, there aren’t many pressing their case that strongly. I’m resigned to the fact that we’re an ordinary side with no quick fixes. That’s the product of a couple of years wasted kidding ourselves.

    But I find the commentary line that blokes should be persevered with because ‘they’re working hard in the nets’ to be bemusing at best.

  3. JB – it was fascinating listening to the wickets fall yesterday. In times like those the future can often be seen. Warner enhanced his reputation as did Lyon, and the older blokes commenced their fade outs.

    Our Prime Minister must have known something; she’s just created a new Ministry for Robert McClelland – The Minister for Emergency Matters. His first job might be at the ACB.

  4. John Butler says:

    Spot on Dips.

    These two games have unveiled Pattinson and Warner, an improved Siddle, and a viable Lyon.

    That’s a lot better than the wasteland of last summer.

  5. JB
    At the risk of repeating myself ad nauseum…I cannot understand the
    argumentt that either Ponting or Hussey or both must stay in the side
    to provide “experience”. If they are not providing runs, they must go.
    End of story.

    I have always been a huge fan of Ponting’s batting (not his captaincy!),
    but he has now turned into a caricature of himself….how many balls
    will it take until he falls across the line and gets rapped on the pads etc.

    As for the line “they are batting well in the nets”…not too many Test
    100’s are made in the nets! Hussey was interviewed on ABC raido after
    rain ended Day 3 early. Iit was a little sad listening to him trying to
    convince the interviewer (and himself!) that he was hitting the ball well.

  6. Great analysis JB.

    Hussey made a truckload of runs in Sri Lanka, so he has some relatively recent form. I would expect Ponting to be lining up in the Boxing Day Test, though I’m not sure he will see out the summer. Though I agree – there are no obvious candidates to come into the team. Ed Cowan is making runs, Ferguson made a ton recently, though prior to that was averaging 20 in shield cricket. Shaun Marsh has a terrible history with injury. Looking at shield results, there are many instances in recent years of batting teams collapsing and failing to grind out scores against the moving ball.

    Great test match though!

  7. John Butler says:

    Smokie, if I was being paid as much as these blokes I’d be working hard in the nets too.

    Doesn’t mean I should be allowed near a baggy green.

    Pat, you identify the problem. It’s not like there’s Lehmans and Siddons out there banging down the door.

    There will be an element of risk in whoever they pick (presuming they make changes). Doesn’t mean they shouldn’t do it.

  8. Peter Flynn says:

  9. John Butler says:

    Brad Haddin’s luck continues to shine.

    Terrible news for Tim Paine.

    http://www.espncricinfo.com/australia/content/current/story/545306.html

  10. Is this the 1,000,000th comment? Do I win a car?

  11. John Butler says:

    Live in hope Dips. :)

  12. JB,
    Re Haddin: I was amazed by Merv Hughes’ comments yesterday
    that M Wade is not yet ready for Test cricket. Well Merv, he has
    now played 50 First Class matches and is averaging over 40.
    Just when will he be ready?
    Warner and Cummins were not too bothered by their lack of First
    class experience.

  13. John Butler says:

    Smokie, one of the problems with selection in recent years has been that different reasoning and standards seem to be applied to different cases.

    If (ex selector) Merv is going to make statements like that, he should be made to back it up with specifics. Why wouldn’t Wade be ready?

  14. pamela sherpa says:

    Hi all, I had the thrill of seeing the Indian team practising in the nets at Manuka this arvo .Took a pic of Tendulakar and Dhoni plus got Dhoni’s autograph afterwards at casual press conference. What a buzz to see them up close and practising . Just back from the Almanac launch at the press club. Good .

  15. pamela sherpa says:

    Tendulkar

  16. John Butler says:

    Thanks Pamela.

    Glad to hear the launch went well.

    Were the Indians visibly quaking at the prospect of facing the Aussies? Perhaps not.

  17. pamela sherpa says:

    No John , they weren’t quaking in their boots . They looked very focussed, relaxed but serious in the nets. Someone asked Dhoni what he thought of the Australian team and he was very diplomatic and said, what the team is on paper is one thing but how they play is the real matter.
    Tendulkar was giving Sharma a lot of advice about his bowling – kept muttering something about line and length and walking up the pitch to give him instructions. The batsmen had 3 very new bats each they were using. Tendulkar was wearings shorts and all the others long pants > That’s all for now ,I’m about to head off to Manuka for the game .Coolish day so hope weather holds.

  18. Richard Jones says:

    PAMELA: re your (and Rocket Rod Nguyen’s) interest in Bendigo and central Vic. footy matters, just a note to let u know I have started research into the early rounds of the 1952 and 1962 seasons.

    So that’ll be 60 years and 50 years respectively as a Look Back — from the 2012 perspective — on Bendy F.L. games from those rounds of yesteryear.

    I can tell you in a little sneak preview that the Michelsen medal winners of those 2 seasons were Kevin Curran (Sandhurst) in ’52 with 23 votes and Ray Willett (Rochy) in ’62. He snagged 30 votes.
    Both gentlemen were ruckmen.

    As the 2012 season unfolds and I do more microfilm delving and diving at the Goldfields Research section of the Bendy Library I’ll be able to tell u the placegetters and total votes for the next 3 or 4 in each season.

  19. pamela sherpa says:

    I’ll look forward to that Richard. If you want to look at the old records I have from 52 let me know.(Might give me an excuse for a trip to Vic during the footy season!)

  20. John Butler says:

    G’day Richard. That sounds like an interesting exercise.

    How’d the cricket look Pamela?

  21. pamela sherpa says:

    Wes Robinson and Tom Cooper had a good day out with the bat.

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