New Zealand v Australia: First Test, Day 1 – The View from the Basin.

The Basin has to be one of the great cricket grounds in the world. Set in a basin at the foot of Mount Victoria it is a great site and on a par with Galle, Cape Town and Adelaide as my favourite ground. From every quarter the playing area is dwarfed by building rising to the sky.

Also happened to pass, on my way to the ground, what would have to be the biggest bridge club in the world. Hell, they must love their bridge in New Zealand.

The ground only holds 8,000 patrons and as expected has been sold out for the first three days. Meanwhile some 10 minutes away the “Cake Tin” (Westpac Stadium) lies dormant despite a capacity of around 35,000. Tradition wins out and thank goodness for that.

Smith wins the toss and decides to bat. Must have been reading the newspapers.

Despite traffic on all four corners of the ground the hush inside is deafening for the opening overs except for the exquisite stroke play of the two batsmen in the first 2 overs.

Hazlewood strikes as Latham (6) tickles one to Nevill and gets his reward when the DRS overturns the umpires decision… 1/17. The ball is doing a bit off the pitch.

They haven’t come into the 21st century yet as ground staff pull a sheet over the sight screen at the bowlers end. It’s a wonder they don’t have Captain Snooze as a main sponsor.

Williamson’s first scoring shot is a magnificent drive of Hazlewood for four. I loved him in Australia and I think the affair will continue if this is any indication. And it is not even St. Valentine’s Day.

His second and third shots of Bird are just as good. I can’t see Bird feathering his nest today. He was a surprise section and his bowling has been ordinary to date.

Thank heavens for Hazlewood as Guptill (18) get a ripper from him and is easily taken at second slip by Smith. 2/38. The young fast bowler has stepped up to the plate magnificently as the number one bowler.

Williamson greets Siddle with contempt but next ball Nevill takes a magnificent catch diving to his left of a thick inside edge. Williamson (18), New Zealand 3/44 and I have torn up my St V’s card.

As Marsh (Rod) said during the week “you must pick your best keeper first”. Nevill is proving it time and time again. Just ask Andrew Faulkner from The Australian.

New Zealand skipper Brendon McCullum receives a wonderful reception from the crowd in what is his 100th Test match and the first man to play 100 consecutive tests.

Australia is not in such a generous mood and he goes lbw to Hazlewood without scoring. 4/47 and in big trouble. Hazlewood has 3/18 and not giving the batsmen an inch. A superb display of swing bowling.

It is becoming a debacle as Nicholls (8) tickles a Siddle delivery through to Nevill. 5/51. Siddle 2/4 with the only score of him being the first ball he bowled.

Smith is ruthless as he keeps Hazlewood on for the kill. He is now bowling his eighth over in a row. Thankfully for him it is a perfect day for bowling.

After 17 fruitless deliveries Anderson on drives Hazlewood for four, his first score.

Both Anderson and Watling are showing some resolve and Bird and Marsh relieve Hazlewood and Siddle after fine displays of bowling.

It is absorbing cricket as the two batsmen try and retrieve the position for their side. No hit and miss as everything they can do to hold the fort is being attempted.

Lyon and Bird in tandem. Is this the first time in test cricket for fauna to be the attackers?

At lunch New Zealand 5/84 and Australia through Hazlewood, Siddle and Nevill have had a wonderful session.

Things did not improve for the Black Caps after lunch and Hazlewood and Nevill combined again to send Watling (17) back to the pavilion. New Zealand 6/88, Hazlewood 4/28 and Nevill 4 catches.

They got even worse when Bracewell (5) hitting out edged to Voges who took a head high mark. 7/97 with Siddle 3/14.

Smith, still intent on all-out attack, bowls his key bowlers until they tire. He has been aggressive today but then again things have been going his way.

Craig and Anderson in an attempt to break the shackles are taking every single possible in an endeavour to build the innings.

The partnership of 40 (the best of the innings) comes to an end when Anderson (38) holes out to Khawaja from the bowling of Lyon. 8/137.

Southee (0) lashes out at Lyon 9/137. In retrospect this innings has set back New Zealand cricket a great deal. They will need to come out with the ball and show us some true grit.

Craig takes to Siddle and with a mixture of swashbuckling shots adds 16 to the score in one over.

Craig and Boult entertain the crowd and put on 46 quick runs (the best of the innings) before Boult (24) holes out to Khawaja who takes a fine catch juggling the boundary and the field between catches. Craig remained not out 41. New Zealand all out 183. Hazlewood 4, Siddle and Lyon 3 apiece.

New Zealand is back in the game. Tim Southee brings them right back by getting both Joe Burns (0) and David Warner (5) caught behind by BJ Watling.

Burns outing was a bit controversial and went to the DRS. After at least five minutes the third umpire overruled the original decision. Surely if it took so long the batsman should get the benefit of the doubt?

Ussie would have to be the most stylish batsman in world cricket today and as usual played the most attractive shots. At the other end SPD seems to be in his own world and looks like he needs a long rest from the game.

The Kiwi’s should have been in a better position as a couple of slips catches went begging from some very good bowling.

Took a walk around the ground which by the way is a public thoroughfare any other day. Must say I was a bit disappointed about the obscene language and racial vilification that was coming from what seemed an Australian precinct. Looked for the police but could not find any. Most disappointing on all sides.

If you where looking for a quick bite, drink or ice-cream then forget about it. Had to wait nearly 25 minutes for my cone and then I nearly forgot what I was ordering. The beer queue was more like a limbo dance snaking around anything in sight.

Smith and Khawaja are not taking any chances but anything short to the latter is caressed away for a four. He really is lovely to watch.

The runs keep coming and Smith on 52 is missed stumping by Watling of Craig. Could prove very costly as whilst Smith is not batting well the scoreboard continues to tick over.

It could be said that the play has been slow but this is a Test Match and both sides are trying to take control. Great stuff in my humble opinion. A full house must mean something also.

Smith (71) plays an innocuous ball back to Craig who takes the catch. As easy as that. Smith hangs around and waits and waits. What for only he would know. Too much of this happeing in our game now. I have written it before but once again a severe waste of time. At 5.50pm local time there are still eight overs to be bowled.

Bracewell bowls Voges who doesn’t play a shot – NO BALL! And that is it for the day. The umpire called no ball straight away and I think Bracewell knew it as well. Replays where not conclusive and the day on review showed many queries. Should we go back to the umpire’s decision and the umpire’s decision only? Heaven forbid I’m starting to agree with the Indians.

The following players stood out on the day for my Brownlow votes – 3Hazlewood, 2 Khawaja, 1 Nevill

Australia at 3/147 are 34 runs in arrears and with the deck flattening out they should have no trouble in building up a big lead on day 2.

About Bob Utber

At 80 years of age Citrus Bob is doing what he wanted to do as a 14 year-old living on the farm at Lang Lang. Talking, writing, watching sport. Now into his third book on sports history he lives in Mildura with his very considerate wife (Jenny ) and a groodle named "Chloe On Flinders". How good is that.

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