Australia’s ‘play to win’ mantra tested by Black Caps in Perth

Brett McKay Columnist

By Brett McKay, Brett McKay is a Roar Expert

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103 Have your say

    After Australia racked up 2-416 in Perth last Friday, the first day of the second Test against New Zealand, I’m sure I wasn’t the only pundit or commentator putting the line through the Black Caps.

    After they’d been well beaten in Brisbane the week before, conceding 400 in one day didn’t bode well at all for the Kiwis. And a lot of the criticism was warranted, too, with their attack on the opening day in Perth largely toothless.

    My particular choice of words was, “it really looks like this Test is gone for New Zealand already”. Going back through the live blog comments on stumps, and more again before play began on Saturday, I might have been kind to the Kiwis.

    However, consider this. Since that cracking Day 1 start, Australia didn’t win another session in the Test until maybe the afternoon session yesterday. From the morning of Day 2 until lunch on Day 4, it was all New Zealand, and coming into today – which didn’t seem likely after Day 1 – New Zealand could still win this Test.

    In truth, after conceding 400 in a day, New Zealand should’ve been thumped in this game. Instead, some fairly silly Australian batting at the end of their first innings, and then five sessions of New Zealand cashing in on some similarly generous offerings from the Australian bowlers – Mitchell Starc aside, mostly – means that the Aussies still have some serious work to do to win this Test.

    New Zealand took the early wickets of Joe Burns and David Warner after lunch yesterday, but then didn’t really threaten much after that.

    Steve Smith and Adam Voges’s unbeaten 212-run partnership was as timely as it was imposing. The longer it went on, the less idea New Zealand had about countering, until Brendon McCullum began finding new ways to slow down the game.

    Smith’s century was exactly what his team needed. After sliding back up to number three for the injured Usman Khawaja, it was again the type of ‘follow me, boys’ captain’s knock that he seems to have peeled off for fun over the last 12 months or so.

    Similarly, Voges going with him and registering his own special century on home turf provides an indication of why he was to be Smith’s deputy on the cancelled tour of Bangladesh in October.

    But what does Smith do now to win this Test, and sew up the series before the pink ball lottery Test in Adelaide at the end of next week?

    The lead going into Day 5 is only 193, and certainly not enough to declare on. McCullum, along with Martin Guptill, Kane Williamson, and Ross Taylor are certainly capable of scoring quickly, meaning Australia can’t give them too much time to chase down a total.

    And then there’s this, too. If I’ve piloted ESPNCricInfo’s wonderful Statsguru machine correctly, then Australia’s nine declared for 559 would be the second-highest first innings score in a lost match in the history of Test cricket.

    It would top the 553 posted against India in Adelaide in 2003-2004, and is only bettered by Australia’s 586 against England in Sydney in that glorious summer of 1894-1895!

    Australia have to give themselves enough time to take 10 wickets. And on this pitch, even on Day 5, that’s going to take some doing, particularly the way they bowled for a day and half earlier in this match.

    As sure as Kookaburra have a quality control issue with their Test Match balls, pedestrian bowlers have gone the journey in this match.

    And this is where the ‘play to win’ mantra has already been, and will again be tested by New Zealand. Smith probably erred in Melbourne last year, declaring too late against India, and that may well be on his mind when play resumes this morning.

    I suspect we might learn something about the new skipper today, one way or the other.

    Taylor handshake oversight unintentional, but doesn’t help perceptions
    There’s been a fair bit made across all forums regarding no Australian player offering Taylor a well deserved congratulations after being dismissed for 290 yesterday, the highest score made in Australia by a visiting player.

    Dirk Nannes, an excellent addition to the ABC Grandstand commentary team this summer, was particularly scathing at the time:

    “Probably the biggest disappointment of that session is that after the innings, [Taylor’s] made 290, not one person from the Australian camp went and shook his hand,” Nannes said.

    “In the spirit of the way this game has been played, and the game before, with the exception of that one incident with Mitchell Starc, I can’t help but be disappointed that nobody went out to him and shook his hand.

    “It’s not that hard is it?

    “You don’t have a guy bat for a day and a half out there and just not even acknowledge it, that’s horrendous sportsmanship.”

    Gerard Whateley, commentating at the time, gave the Australians the benefit of the doubt, labelling the supposed snub a “lapse of concentration”, while Simon Katich similarly espoused a thought that it was more accidental rather than intentional.

    I tend to agree with this, and certainly, both Warner and Burns could be seen running off the field to get their batting gear on. I suspect it was something lost in the rush to get into batting mode.

    But I will definitely concede that Nannes made some really good points that I find quite difficult to argue. And they definitely struck a chord with listeners, because social media became flooded with discussion, and indeed Whateley pressed the former Australian left-armer on the issue again in the evening session.

    Nannes’s point was this: with perceptions about the team the way they are currently, with any slight spotfire jumped all over, the Australians should be more conscious of doing the right thing than ever.

    “When you’ve had this image for so long, maybe you do have to go out of your way,” he said later in the day.

    And he’s right.

    If Smith is genuine about wanting to improve those perceptions – and his coming down on Starc after his moment of stupidity in Brisbane suggests he is – then this is exactly the sort of thing he should be mindful of.

    In reality, he should have led the team in the direction of Taylor as they walked off.

    Brett McKay
    Brett McKay

    Brett McKay is one of The Roar's good news stories and has been a rugby and cricket expert for the site since July 2009. Brett is an international and Super Rugby commentator for ABC Grandstand radio, has commentated on the Australian Under-20s Championships and National Rugby Championship live stream coverage, and has written for magazines and websites in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the UK. He tweets from @BMcSport.

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    The Crowd Says (103)

    • Roar Guru

      November 17th 2015 @ 5:28am
      moaman said | November 17th 2015 @ 5:28am | ! Report

      Not just about improving perceptions either Brett; how about learning to be actual good sports?
      Regarding Day 1 perceptions; you were not alone in drawing a line through NZ’s chances in the match—I probably did too and my body language would have seen me slumped and resigned-looking.
      I am really glad the team has shown some grit and no little skill in coming back in from the cold.Today should/could be tantalising.

      • November 17th 2015 @ 6:59am
        JB said | November 17th 2015 @ 6:59am | ! Report

        They don’t sledge, and something else is found to highlight the nasty Australians poor sportsmanship, this is pathological, of all the things you can bash this Aussie team they clapped at every milestone like good little boys, I didn’t hear a sledge for a day and a half like a good little group of supplicants.

      • Roar Guru

        November 17th 2015 @ 8:53am
        Will Sinclair said | November 17th 2015 @ 8:53am | ! Report

        Mate the Kiwis have been great. They’ve showed real grit and determination, and their class batsmen really stood up.

        It’s been a great effort, when many teams would have folded.

      • Roar Guru

        November 17th 2015 @ 11:23am
        Chris Kettlewell said | November 17th 2015 @ 11:23am | ! Report

        Did the whole NZ team chase Warner off the field shaking his hand after his 250? No they didn’t. Both teams acknowledged each others achievements at milestones, and I suspect there would have been handshakes and congratulations after the game and things like that. If Taylor had been dismissed 5 minutes later so it meant lunch was called instantly instead of having a 1 over burst before lunch then everyone probably would have walked off slower and you’d have got hand shakes and well batted comments and things like you do when players all walk off at the end of a day with a batsman having batted really well all day or something like that. But he didn’t, players at that time had to focus on what came next in the game.

        It’s all just rubbish really, looking for anything to possibly have a go at players over.

        As for the match, there’s no reason for Smith to risk too much in a declaration here. Australia is already 1-up in the series. NZ vowing to chase whatever they are set makes sense as they are 1-0 down, they need the win and it’s worth them risking a loss for the win in that situation. If they were up 1-0 in the series they’d be much less likely to risk losing going after a win.

        It’s unlikely anything will happen in the pitch on the last day to make it some minefield suddenly where bowlers have a chance of rolling a team in 2 sessions. You’d want to set NZ a total that was at least 6rpo, maybe closer to 7. If they want to go for it, they can take their chances, but no use risking losing by setting them anything too chaseable.

        • November 17th 2015 @ 11:45am
          Sideline Comm. said | November 17th 2015 @ 11:45am | ! Report

          Australia need to make sure they are not rolled before lunch. Anything under a 300 lead with the kiwis batting before lunch will be a red hot chance for the kiwis to win this test.

          For Australia, I just can’t see us getting the 150 runs before lunch that would be necessary for us to declare and have a stab. You’d say there is basically zero chance Australia can win this.

          As for the sportsmanship rubbish: it’s been done to death. Taylor himself was fine with it; it was just a coincidence.

        • November 18th 2015 @ 2:04am
          Don Freo said | November 18th 2015 @ 2:04am | ! Report

          This line of observation is working against NZ. They….in this case Kiwi Roarers…just sound like precious little indulged children.

          Ross Taylor says it was crazy to expect that from the Aussies. They were on one side of the field congratulating Jon Wells and he “just wanted to get off” to the changeroom on the other side.

          To expect the Aussies to ignore Wells because some precious Roar posters and an irrelevant Dutch cricketer have a non cricket agenda is just ridiculous.

          Just look at the spirit between them at the end of the game. That’s where it belongs in cricket. It is always there. Mateship and lifelong friends are developed in international cricket. Have a look at the games with Warnie, Sachin and their mates in USA. Social media has no clout there.

          Grumblers can have a rest for a week or two.

    • November 17th 2015 @ 5:31am
      riddler said | November 17th 2015 @ 5:31am | ! Report

      win or lose be humble or gracious..

      not that difficult..

      • November 17th 2015 @ 10:45am
        Jameswm said | November 17th 2015 @ 10:45am | ! Report

        So not shaking someone’s hand is not being gracious? Geez, we’re tough markers on the Aussies.

        I haven’t watched for the last 3 days, but tell me this – did the Aussies clap Taylor on reaching 100 or 200? If so, how much applause is he expected to get from the opposition?

    • Columnist

      November 17th 2015 @ 5:32am
      Ronan O'Connell said | November 17th 2015 @ 5:32am | ! Report

      Brett I think Smith will be foolhardy to set NZ anything close to an achievable target. This remains a dead flat pitch which fosters seriously quick scoring and on which each wicket has cost 73 runs.

      NZ have a dangerous top six – Williamson is in God-like form, Taylor fresh from almost a triple ton, McCullum who on any given day can come out and smack 150 from 120 balls, and two very reliable support batsmen in Latham and Watling to partner those other more aggressive guys.

      Australia’s bowling meanwhile is not looking great, with Johnson really poor so far this series and just bleeding runs, Hazlewood struggling for impact, and Lyon not suited by this wicket in the first dig.

      Considering that, and the fact NZ, have a really good top six, what are the chances of Australia rolling NZ in 50 overs on this dead track? I’d say maybe 5%.

      So when you’ve got such a very limited chance of winning, why would you give your opposition any chance of a win and coming back into the series?

      It’s all good and well to go hard for the win when the conditions and circumstances are in your favour, or when you desperately need to win. But this is a dominant batting deck so in a 330 off 55 overs chase in these circumstances I’d rather be the batting side than the bowlers.

      Australia don’t need to win – a draw here and the Trans-Tasman Trophy is all theirs. If possible, I’d bat on for another 40 overs today, get the lead up to 360 or so and bat NZ out of the game…then have a bowl for 48 overs and try to make some good inroads and build some momentum with the ball heading into Adelaide.

      • November 17th 2015 @ 7:26am
        Redsback said | November 17th 2015 @ 7:26am | ! Report

        Why not just aim to get as many runs as possible by lunch and then declare? The best case is that we get a 400 run lead, the worst case is probably a 300 run lead. If we start losing wickets then we can go more defensive and bat beyond lunch.

        We still have at least 7 wickets in hand with a strong tail and a flat wicket – why wouldn’t you go for it early? The only way I can see us landing in trouble is if we declare too early.

        • November 17th 2015 @ 10:55am
          Jameswm said | November 17th 2015 @ 10:55am | ! Report

          “Why not just aim to get as many runs as possible by lunch and then declare?”

          Because McC will slow the over rate right down.

      • Columnist

        November 17th 2015 @ 7:57am
        Geoff Parkes said | November 17th 2015 @ 7:57am | ! Report

        Agree Ronan, I don’t see any reason why Smith needs to give NZ a sniff.

        He’s unlikely to bowl them out in two sessions or less, so it’s all downside only, if NZ are able to get a flyer and pull off a miracle. Unlikely sure, but possible.

        NZ getting the first innings lead yesterday was important for McCullum, it took 20 overs or so out of the game, out of the time they need to bat today, whether going for a win or a draw.

        • Columnist

          November 17th 2015 @ 8:13am
          Ronan O'Connell said | November 17th 2015 @ 8:13am | ! Report

          “He’s unlikely to bowl them out in two sessions or less, so it’s all downside only, if NZ are able to get a flyer and pull off a miracle.”

          And of any team Australia could be playing, and on any pitch they could be playing, this NZ-WACA combination has danger written all over it. If Australia were playing Eng, India, Pakistan, SL, Windies I’d think that a target of say 320 from 55 overs was not risky at all.

          But the presence of McCullum alone makes any such declaration a risk – he’s so wildly unpredictable and could easily explode and make 150 from 130 balls. Add in Williamson’s insane form and a rampant Taylor and a record chase is easy to envisage.

          • November 17th 2015 @ 9:45am
            Gunther said | November 17th 2015 @ 9:45am | ! Report

            150 off 120

      • Roar Guru

        November 17th 2015 @ 9:02am
        The Bush said | November 17th 2015 @ 9:02am | ! Report

        It would be insanity to set anything gettable.

        Let’s focus on winning series and playing good cricket.

        What Voges and Smith did yesterday afternoon was great, showing grit after losing some early wickets.

        The tactic should be this. These two bat like they did yesterday afternoon, if we lose a wicket, give Marsh license to hit the ball a little. However unless he goes crazy and gets us to a north of 400 lead before lunch, don’t declare. If Marsh gets out, Nevill should be told to just anchor the innings again.

        • November 18th 2015 @ 2:19am
          Don Freo said | November 18th 2015 @ 2:19am | ! Report

          Poor Marsh. Everyone wants to give him a licence to have a hit. If he gets out they are very quick to ignore the circumstances and just quote his new average.

          When he does begin to build an innings and gets out on a demonstrable, reviewed no ball, all that’s quoted is his average.

          Be consistent folk. Marsh obviously has no problem sacrificing his numbers for the team. Anti-Marsh folk see it as a weakness not a strength.

          I know all teams appreciate Marsh’s kind of selflessness. Perhaps one of the reasons SOK has never made it.

      • November 17th 2015 @ 10:54am
        Jameswm said | November 17th 2015 @ 10:54am | ! Report

        1. Expect McCullum to slow down the over rate before lunch. If he bowls the full 30, we could score 160, and be 360 ahead with 60 overs to go. Possible declaration there and no time left by using lunch break. Bowl 22, and we might only score 100 odd. No way you’d set them 300 off 68. He’d be forcing us to bat after lunch, and lose the 3 overs of the change over. We’ll just have to live with that.

        2. Get set first thing this morning, then go pretty hard. Lose 1 wicket, and bring Mitch Marsh in to have a quick look around, then go nuts. If we lose a couple of wickets, Nevill and the 4 bowlers are more than capable of steadying the ship.

        3. Don’t give NZ much of a sniff. They need to win this game more than us, as we’re ahead in the series. Set them 7+ an over – eg 380 off 50, batting for 45 mins after lunch. Close enough for them to think about having a crack, which could see us claim a few cheap wickets before they bat normally. If we get 3 quick wickets with them going for it, that’s 3 less we have to grind out.

    • November 17th 2015 @ 5:41am
      Darwin Stubbie said | November 17th 2015 @ 5:41am | ! Report

      Yip it’s definitely a perception thing which they’ll need to beat if they want to be viewed in a better light – this is small one but gets magnified and that is what will continue to happen … good to see (finally) that the Aust media has started to turn as well – far too often the Aust press has been all to ready to make excuses

    • Columnist

      November 17th 2015 @ 5:44am
      Ronan O'Connell said | November 17th 2015 @ 5:44am | ! Report

      On another note Brett I’ve gotta say this series has been played in great spirit from both sides and the Aussies have been very gracious hosts so far – re-instating the beers after the game traditions, always clapping NZ hundreds and regularly seen shaking the hands of NZ batsmen after good innings or at breaks.

      They clapped Taylor at every milestone and several players shook his hand over the course of his innings. So why are people criticising them just because they didn’t shake his hand yet again when he got out?

      This kind of thing is just nit picking and looking for controversy where there is none. Trying to turn it into an issue actually injects negativity into what has been a very vibrant and friendly series so far.

      • November 17th 2015 @ 5:58am
        Stu said | November 17th 2015 @ 5:58am | ! Report

        Not congratulating Taylor after the greatest innings by a visiting batsmen in Australia EVER . Everyone is just nitpicking?

        • Columnist

          November 17th 2015 @ 6:09am
          Ronan O'Connell said | November 17th 2015 @ 6:09am | ! Report

          Aussie players congratulated him repeatedly throughout the innings.

          • November 17th 2015 @ 7:00am
            JB said | November 17th 2015 @ 7:00am | ! Report

            Clapped at every milestone, it seems that is forgotten by plenty of folk here

      • November 17th 2015 @ 6:32am
        Jerry said | November 17th 2015 @ 6:32am | ! Report

        Yeah, the whole “Aus are bad sports” narrative is getting really boring. None of the Black Caps have said there’s been any real bad blood (the opposite actually, they’ve noted the good spirit the matches have been played in) and bar the Starc throw incident – which was immediately dealt with by Smith of course – there’s been nothing of note.

        Taylor himself said there’s nothing in it, he walked off immediately while the Aus team was going the other way to congratulate the fielder. Nothing to see here.

        • Roar Guru

          November 17th 2015 @ 7:06am
          Diggercane said | November 17th 2015 @ 7:06am | ! Report

          It is tedious, I agree.

          • Roar Guru

            November 17th 2015 @ 7:24am
            eagleJack said | November 17th 2015 @ 7:24am | ! Report

            Yep, pretty tiresome. I didn’t see the Taylor dismissal but cringed when I noticed the comments afterwards, knowing this would again be the focus. Rather than the exceptional play by the batsmen and tremendous spirit the series has been played in.

            The teams had beers after Brisbane, and will have beers again tonight. Ian Healy noted on radio how noticeable the lack of chatter is out there, which is normally picked up by the microphones. There is a great respect these two teams have for each other.

            Interesting day ahead DC. Personally I can’t see Smith going for the win as getting 10 wickets in a day, let alone half a day, looks impossible on this pitch. He won’t give the Kiwis a sniff, as I’m sure they would gladly accept the challenge.

            • November 17th 2015 @ 7:44am
              Wasted1 said | November 17th 2015 @ 7:44am | ! Report

              I’m with you guys on this, sure they didn’t go and shake his hand like they did to Williamson at the Gabba but it really is nit picking. This Australian side is far more gracious than previous years. And the way these games have been played has been remarkably similar to the Black Caps vs England Series. Both teams seem to be showing enormous respect for each other it’s great to see.

              The real shame here is that there aren’t more test matches between the two nations.

              I can’t see Smith declaring as well, i’m very certain if he’s to give the Black Caps a sniff, it wont be without at least 350-400 on the board.

              Where as McCullum will still back his team to make at least 300 on a batting pitch like this on the final day if they can get in.

              Either way this last days play will still keep me watching, even if it’s yet another run fest. .

            • Roar Guru

              November 17th 2015 @ 7:46am
              Diggercane said | November 17th 2015 @ 7:46am | ! Report

              Yeah, batted us out EJ, would be surprised to see him set any target to be honest. His bowlers just ramped through 150 overs so why punish them for another 50 or so?

              I don’t think 50 would be enough anyway, unless NZ decide to go hell for leather.

              • Roar Guru

                November 17th 2015 @ 11:30am
                Chris Kettlewell said | November 17th 2015 @ 11:30am | ! Report

                There is a point there. If they don’t think there’s any real chance of pushing for the win, just bat the day out and give your bowlers a rest. Although there is a 10-day break to the Adelaide test, so it’s not so much an issues as it might be in back-to-back tests.

          • Roar Guru

            November 17th 2015 @ 9:03am
            The Bush said | November 17th 2015 @ 9:03am | ! Report

            It’s become incredibly boring.

            Are these guys playing professional sport or comparing friendships on Facebook like 14 year old girls.

            Shake hands, don’t shake hands, congratulate, don’t congratulate. Who cares. As long as they’re not behaving like jerks, I don’t care.

        • November 17th 2015 @ 7:09am
          Stu said | November 17th 2015 @ 7:09am | ! Report

          Do you expect the black caps to say any different?

          • November 17th 2015 @ 10:57am
            Jameswm said | November 17th 2015 @ 10:57am | ! Report

            McCullum said the first test was played in excellent spirit.

            Are you saying he was lying, or forced to say that?

            this is a joke.

        • November 17th 2015 @ 9:18am
          Worlds Biggest said | November 17th 2015 @ 9:18am | ! Report

          Yep well said Jerry, this series has been played in great spirit ( apart from Starc throwing ball ) so lets not even go there. That said I would have liked to of seen a couple of Aussies congratulate Taylor after he got out. It was an absolutely brilliant knock. Anyhoo interesting day coming up. Oz should get a lead up of at least 350 if possible. Don’t give the Kiwis a sniff on this deck.

      • Columnist

        November 17th 2015 @ 8:05am
        Brett McKay said | November 17th 2015 @ 8:05am | ! Report

        I can’t argue with that Ronan, and the series has been played in excellent spirit.

        But the obvious point in reply would be that after acknowledging the milestones along the way – which they did, as you say, and they did for Williamson too – why did they not when he was out?

        As I say, I don’t think it was intentional, but Nannes’ points were worth highlighting..

        • November 17th 2015 @ 9:01am
          JoM said | November 17th 2015 @ 9:01am | ! Report

          From what Taylor said in his interview, the fielders all ran to the far boundary to congratulate the substitute and Taylor walked straight off the other way. He said he wanted to get off as quickly as he could. He, like they, had 10 mins to get organised to go back out there again. The crowd all stood up to clap him off as did the Australian coaching staff. I think Nannes totally over reacted and has whipped up something that wasn’t there to start with.

          • Columnist

            November 17th 2015 @ 9:52am
            Ronan O'Connell said | November 17th 2015 @ 9:52am | ! Report

            Brett I’m sure the Aussies congratulated Taylor later…at the time they were running to the legside outfield to congratulate the substitute fielder while Taylor was heading off the ground in the opposite direction.

            If Taylor had walked straight past them and they’d ignored him then that would be poor sportsmanship.

          • November 17th 2015 @ 11:01am
            Big Steve said | November 17th 2015 @ 11:01am | ! Report

            Nannes was also doing interviews after the Starc incident saying the aussies are bad sports. He clearly has an agenda with this stuff and I don’t know why he has all of a sudden been the moral compass for the Australian team. One rumour suggested he holds a grudge over not being selected for Australia much during his career, and based on his comments this may not be far off.

      • Roar Guru

        November 17th 2015 @ 8:56am
        Will Sinclair said | November 17th 2015 @ 8:56am | ! Report

        Agree 100%. Well said.

    • November 17th 2015 @ 6:11am
      Redsback said | November 17th 2015 @ 6:11am | ! Report

      We’re 190 in front. He can’t bat beyond lunch if he wants to win. To save some time, the sensible thing would probably be to declare at lunch. In another 30 overs with 7-8 wickets in hand, they could easily and without much risk get to 400 in front. On this pitch, I still think it is a carrot. I would prefer 400 in 70 overs, but that is probably not possible. At a minimum, he needs a lead of 350.

      It would be foolish to throw it away in search of victory with the lottery match coming up. 60-70 overs with a high but not impossible total is the right approach for me. If they start to get close, then we can start bowling fast and half a metre down leg.

      In fairness, if the Kiwis want to win the series, then they should be going hard for wickets – even if it costs fast runs, because they can only win with either a batting collapse or if Australia sets a gettable total. They have nothing to win from chasing 350 off 40 overs, but could potentially lose in that situation.

      • November 17th 2015 @ 11:00am
        Jameswm said | November 17th 2015 @ 11:00am | ! Report

        You’re assuming we will get 30 overs before lunch. I’m predicting 23, and no spinner bowling. regular field changes during overs, not that that’s different to usual.

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