Australia v New Zealand – Gabba Test, Day 4: Letting it all hang out

Sunday morning, the lawn is mowed, teenaged daughter is off to her part-time job at the Red Rooster and I am sitting on the lounge chair with a prospect of watching the Baggy Green wrapping a comprehensive victory in the first Test of the summer.

Added benefit is I started a new job recently with a well known brewing company and one of the perks of the job is the monthly allowance at the staff bottle shop. It’s going to be a good day.

A lead of 503 would mean the Black Caps would need to smash a world record 4th innings chase under humid grey skies on a wicket which still looks very green.

When you look at the equation the Kiwis have 2 whole days to survive and hold on for the draw. It seems an unlikely task, but if they were to do it, it’s fair to say 500 runs could be scored by the scheduled expiration of the Test. The only number that matters for the visitors is the wickets lost column.

It’s fair to say Australian cricket fans have been spoilt in the past couple of decades. Captaincy looks simple when you can throw the ball to the likes of McGrath, Warne, Gillespie, Harris and know that virtually every delivery is a potential wicket taker.

And whilst the two Mitchell’s have the capacity to do the same, they have both gone through periods of play where they have been made to look very ordinary and are then suddenly unplayable in the very next Test. It’s this lack of consistency that should be what the Black Caps need to be banking on in the hope of lasting the distance.

The first hour the bowling has been very good, but Martin Guptill and Tom Latham have been in survival mode and have seen off the new ball very effectively. Latham cops one of those Starc swinging sandshoe crushers and is given out. Why doesn’t Starc bowl more of these in Test matches, when it seems at least 3 balls of every over in the one dayers is this precise delivery?

Unfortunately for Latham the clouds have gotten darker and the rain is closing in, so the umpires have decided to take an early lunch. It’s definitely the right decision.

After lunch the class of Williamson is on show once again as he is taking easy runs from all the bowlers.

This is becoming a traditional war of attrition which nearly 140 years of Test match cricket is built upon. Such a shame there’s hardly anyone at the Gabba on a Sunday to watch it.

Nathan Lyon has been extracting a lot of bounce and turn off this pitch and is looking the man most likely to break through. And break through he does with a classic arm ball that went straight on to catch the edge of Guptill’s bat and a simple catch by Smith at first slip.

A decent partnership with Ross Taylor has formed but just before tea Williamson has missed a sweep from Lyon and has been given out LBW. He’s asked for a review and the replay shows he was hit well and truly on middle stump. The DRS went on to show the ball would have clipped the bails, so the prized wicket of the New Zealand’s best batsman has been snared.

A nasty couple of overs for Brendan McCullum to survive before the tea break and the score is 3 for 142 as they head in for the 20 minute break.

And now the clouds have gotten darker, thicker and lower. If today was the first time you’ve seen a game of cricket, you would have observed one of the most bizarre things to happen on a sports stage, except for cricket.

The players re-entered the field of play from the dressing rooms, play is about to resume when suddenly the two umpires decide to leave their stations and meet at mid wicket to discuss the conditions and they decide it’s time to suspend play.

Try explaining that to a visitor who has never seen the game before? Not only that, but the floodlights are on, the third match in the series is deliberately going to be played under lights, so why can’t it be played like that now? But alas the rain has started to fall as well.

It would prove to be the final act in the day’s play. New Zealand have lost their top 3 wickets and now have their most experienced pair at the crease when play resumes tomorrow.

If the kiwi supporters started a rain haka last night, they’ll be doing more of it tonight. The Australian bowlers were once again off with their lines. The quicks were too wide while Lyon was too straight. They got it right a handful of times and 3 wickets could easily have been more.

While Mark Taylor, Steve Waugh, Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke did a reasonable job of hiding their emotions when things didn’t quite go their own way, Steve Smith lets it all hang out.

He didn’t hold back when Lyon dropped a sharp chance at point and was also jumpy when half chances taunted Joe Burns in at short leg. It’s refreshing to see.

This new Australian side has clearly outplayed their opponent in the first four days of this Test. So why haven’t they won already? I mean none of the recent Ashes tests made it into the fifth day. Recent converts to the game through Twenty20 would be arguing today was a very boring waste.

Lovers of the traditional game would recognise moments of tension, of pressure moments released and opportunities taken by the batsmen and missed by the fielders.

Tomorrow’s final day will most probably see an Australian win, but it won’t be easy and it won’t be without long periods of frustration. Sadly, the stadium will most probably be empty and television viewing numbers will be low as most viewers will be back at their jobs on Monday.

About Wayne Ball

Tragic fan of the Australian and NSW cricket teams (for those of you outside NSW, there is a difference, despite what David Hookes said). Not a fan of T20. Penrith Panthers are the only club of decency and all which is good in Rugby League, the Waratah's were once the national team of Rugby Union, the first non Victorian team in the VFL/AFL is the Sydney Swans, and they all enjoy my passionate support. Sings for Wanderers. Internationally, I have been to see the Oakland Athletics and Green Bay Packers play. One day, I'll see Norwich City play for the FA Cup at Wembley.

Comments

  1. Callum O'Connor says:

    How DO you explain some of cricket’s more bureaucratic leanings to an outsider?

  2. Brin Paulsen says:

    There were a couple of Irish blokes a few rows back from me at the Gabba yesterday. They were struggling to understand why the batsmen changed ends after every 6 balls so I’m not sure they were game to ask what in the actual hell was going on the rest of the time (although they seemed impressed with the Gabba ground staff’s reaction to cleaning up the rain – I suppose a mobile super-sopper is as foreign as a zomboni).

    You do raise a fair point about ‘bad light’ though, Wayne. Even with the stadium lights on it was apparently too dark to play when the rain had stopped after the tea break. I’m sure the pink ball will help…

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