Australia v New Zealand – Adelaide Test Day 2: When the going gets tough, Australia gets lucky

New Zealand 1st Innings 202
Australia 1st innings resumed on 54/2 (SPD Smith 24*, AC Voges 9*)

For all the obsessive speculation over the purported properties of the pink cricket ball, the pitch conditions the new projectile encouraged have proved at least as influential to this inaugural day-night test. The pink ball may be new, but grass on a wicket has known consequences. If the curator was seeking to protect the ball, he did this series a significant favour. With the balance between bat and ball restored, a Day 2 finally presented with the contest poised.

New Zealand would have been delighted that a large portion of the previous evening’s swing remained evident upon resumption. It’s doubtful Australia was similarly enthused. We were soon in territory familiar to observers of the last Ashes series.

Adam Voges would seem flattered by his current test batting average. He looks a likely nicker of away swing. So it quickly proved to be, as he met a Southee outswinger with precisely the sort of angled bat that you would expect to end up caught at slip.

This brought Shaun Marsh to the crease for the latest tortured instalment of his stop-start test career. It has been a career blighted too often by an inability to compose his mind early in an innings. Marsh drove crisply to mid-off. McCullum dived to his left to stop brilliantly, then threw the stumps down whilst prone on the ground. It was an exquisite effort. Rather than opting for the obvious wait call, Marsh had taken the stop-start concept to new heights by stranding himself yards out. Steve Smith’s expression said it all. One hopes there was a selector watching.

Brother Mitch did little to restore family honour, following a Bracewell outswinger better left alone. Australia had stumbled to drinks at 5-80.

Smith and Nevill began the repair job with selective stroke play and lively running. The hundred was raised. Swing began to diminish. There was a sense that momentum was changing. Then McCullum brought Mark Craig on to bowl.

Craig has failed to convince many in this series that he’s a test-standard off-spinner. Steve Smith would seem to be of similar opinion. Having exercised careful discretion to this stage, the sight of Craig loosened the Australian skipper up. With carnage obviously on the mind, Smith set off down the wicket, failed to get to the pitch of the ball, and inelegantly contrived an inside edge that keeper Watling skilfully snared. Smith’s 53 would have felt like a job only partly done. At 6-109 the tail was exposed.

Peter Siddle’s batting hasn’t been improved by his frequent drinks waiter duties. He survived only a few Craig deliveries before patting one to short leg. 7-109. When impressive debutant Santner beat Hazlewood for flight, Australia was in peril at 8-116 as the tea break arrived.

Immediately upon resumption, the DRS came under scrutiny once again. Nathan Lyon tried to sweep Santner. The ball lobbed via his shoulder to Williamson, who claimed it. The question was whether a top edge had initiated the sequence of ricochets. The controlling umpire thought not. New Zealand instantly challenged. As is too often the case, the various technologies failed to completely capture the crucial evidence in frame, which may have confused the third umpire’s thought processes. After a prolonged pause, he ruled not out. Embarrassingly, Lyon had viewed the clear hot spot on his bat’s follow through and walked most of the way to the pavilion in expectation of dismissal.

At a pivotal moment, we once again had a dog’s breakfast, as designed by the ICC. In all likelihood the wrong decision was made. Commentators were quick to condemn Nigel Long, but not so quick to concede that technology had hardly been seamless at the crucial moment. Long would have felt pressured as minutes ticked by, and conscious that any doubt has traditionally gone to the batsman.

Despite the misfortune, New Zealand share responsibility for making this decision so crucial. Having maintained a fine collective bowling discipline to this stage, they loosened the pressure. Lyon now played with the freedom of a man returned from the grave. Nevill had, all along, looked the most composed Australian. He is a neat, unobtrusive, but highly efficient performer.

McCullum had another of those captaincy periods where he lost control. He was too slow to get the quicks back on. He ceased to seriously pursue Nevill’s wicket, setting the field back, hoping for a Lyon error that came too late. When Lyon was eventually dismissed, Mitch Starc limped out. There was no secret what his approach was likely to be. The decision to return Craig to the bowling crease at that moment was a howler.

From a potential 9-118, Australia was resurrected to 224, and a lead of 22. Lyon and Nevill added a critical 74, comfortably the game high partnership to date. Starc smashed Craig for an invaluable unbeaten 24, to compensate in some degree for his absence from the bowling crease. Nevill’s 66 was priceless in the circumstances. He has had an outstanding game.

As crucial as the deficit avoided, Australia’s revival meant the Kiwis only had time to erase the small deficit before the night session. They would have to establish a lead as conditions livened up. But there was no Starc. New Zealand might have hoped to prosper against Hazlewood and Siddle.

Josh Hazlewood had forgettable tests in Brisbane and Perth. Had there not been known fitness issues with Starc going into this match, Siddle might well have taken his place. But pitch and game circumstance now suited him. Maintaining a fuller length, he sustained pressure and induced Kiwi error.

Martin Guptill has impressive one day stats, but his record against the stronger test nations suggests he’s not up to test grade. He has done nothing in this series to persuade otherwise. It seemed inevitable that he would chase one and nick it, as he did not long into the final session.

The younger Latham looks a much better prospect, but has regularly contributed to his own demise once set, having established a series of foundations that never became major innings. Chasing a wide Hazlewood delivery, his dismissal left his team 2-32; the latest in a series of poorly timed dismissals. He will rue a series of squandered opportunities.

The game felt like it hung largely on the next two partnerships. But Williamson and Taylor have both left the suspicion of suffering letdown from their Perth heroics. With barely a week to restore mental reserves, they’ve lacked their Perth intensity. Warner looked similar in Australia’s innings.

Mitch Marsh’s bowling is considerably advanced on his batting at present. Thrust into the role of first-change, he experimented in pursuit of a breakthrough. At first he bled runs, but soon enough he produced a leg cutter to induce a Williamson nick. Mental fatigue or not, it was a delivery good enough to have claimed the Kiwi tyro in any circumstance.

Effectively 3-30, Taylor and McCullum seemed resolved to counter-attack rather than grind. Smith assisted by dropping Taylor off Hazelwood, but the batting never attained surety. McCullum’s 20 came at a run a ball, but it was no surprise when Marsh trapped him with one that seamed back from off. Hazlewood then reaped his due reward as Taylor played around a full delivery and was plumb. At 5-98, New Zealand was only 76 ahead, and in danger of letting the game slip by stumps.

Had Smith grasped the edge offered by Watling off Hazlewood, the jig might well have been up. As it remains, Watling and Santner survived to carry Kiwi hopes into the third day. They need at least another hundred runs. They also need to occupy the crease long enough to require Australia to play a substantial portion of their run chase under lights. It is a precarious position. But they were similarly placed in Hobart in 2011. The ebb and flow of test cricket pressure can never be discounted.

The effect of night conditions will be doubtless be debated in this game’s aftermath. It has certainly presented challenges to both batting teams. But the batting has largely lacked discretion. Batsmen are usually quick to complain when they don’t get it all their way. They are not the only voice that deserves a hearing.

New Zealand 5-116, lead by 94 runs with 3 days remaining

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 is in his 40th year as a Carlton member.

Comments

  1. Pink ball day-night test cricket is great for test match cricket. It is like playing in England. Good batsmen with good techniques must survive the swinging ball and then cash in as it flattens out. Sloggers like Warner McCullum, Mitch Marsh etc will be found short. They need roads.
    If the day night experiment continues how will the variables of pitch, climate, and ball affect the conditions?
    The pitch – next test I doubt the curator will leave so much grass on it as the pink ball has not been an issue.
    Climate – it is Spring in Adelaide and the temperature has plummeted around the second break ( tea, dinner, supper or whatever you call it) Is this why the ball is doing so much in the final session? Would a red ball equally swing in the same conditions? Will the next Adelaide test be a Summer test with hotter days and balmy nights? Will the ball still swing in more typical hot Adelaide Summer weather? The weather this test has been unusually cold.
    Sloggers – Will selectors pick batsmen with solid techniques rather than good eyes, big bats, and swing through the line mentalities? Joe Root would have made runs.
    Pink ball – There will be improvements to the pink ball with time and the need for grassy pitches will settle.
    The pink ball is so easy to see from the stands, and the contest between bat and ball is intriguing. I am a fan as are the other 90000 Adelaidians who have turned out to watch the first two days.
    Has there ever been such a difference in crowd numbers between tests?

  2. G’day David,

    The response of those who have attended seems very positive. It has certainly looked good from a television point of view – some great images. Channel 9 will be in love with the ratings. And it’s nice to hear a positive vibe about test cricket for once.

    I reckon a lot of your points about the conditions will pan out correct. The only problem might be getting the fixture moved to a more reliably warm time of the year. Peak summer seems to be the preserve of BBL and other priorities now, at least to judge CA by their choices.

    Cheers

  3. Whilst we’re on cricket do we have any updates on the Shane Warne charity foundation and its financial status?

    Glen!

  4. John Butler says

    He’s no doubt in for a grilling from Brayshaw, Slater, Lee & Co. Not.

  5. Well played J Butler

    “With carnage obviously on the mind, Smith set off down the wicket, failed to get to the pitch of the ball, and inelegantly contrived an inside edge that keeper Watling skilfully snared. Smith’s 53 would have felt like a job only partly done.”

    That is but one example that had me smiling.
    Love it.

  6. Luke Reynolds says

    Great write up John. The pitch, night/twilight conditions and ball certainly showed a few batsmen up. P.Nevill very impressive in these conditions.

Leave a Comment

*