So far only one team remains undefeated in the World Test Championship, and that’s Virat Kohli’s India.
Republican, a respected Roarer, was of the opinion New Zealand would lift for this encounter and Australia’s “weeping willows” middle order would crumble.
John Wright, their coach, comes from Christchurch, as do Hamish Bennett and Brendon McCullum. It was understandable that their minds would have been on anything but cricket.
Chris, another sensitive Roarer, had commented, entirely reasonably, that he doubted that a game could be as important as life and death. On reflection he is right. But if the game in any way lifted the spirits, or even distracted for a moment from the suffering, it would have served a small purpose.
Ponting must have sensed something because he won the toss and sent New Zealand in. Ponting usually likes to bat first. The three Australian pace bowlers showed that when in concert they could be fiery.
It was three different fires.
Lee, searching and precise. Tait, a crackling and out of control bush fire. Johnson, a fits and starts fire.
New Zealand was tentative and the batsmen held back in their crease. McCullum struck two uppercuts against the Tait thunder but perished going for a third. In many ways, the batsmen only heard the thunder and never saw the lightning.
Guptill took 18 balls to get off the mark. In the end he was a victim of nature as the ball kept low. But his fate had been sealed because he was tentative. Jesse Ryder tried to stem the tide and reached 25 with six well struck fours before he wafted without conviction.
Ross Taylor played across the line to a full pitched ball from Tait and looked ruefully at the scattered timber.
Franklin was batting too high at number five and went without scoring soon after the drinks break in the 14th over. Three balls later Scott Styris played a shot as if he was sleepwalking and edged behind.
At 73 for 6, New Zealand were looking for Edmund Hilary!
Jamie How and Nathan McCullum showed admirable resolve and took the score to 121 before How missed a straight one from Smith to be plumb in front. I would not call this a flipper because Smith is not yet that proficient.
Captain Vettori then combined with Nathan McCullum to put on a valuable 54 before Ponting reintroduced Johnson. Nathan missed a fast straight one and was LBW for a gritty 52. At 8 wickets down for 175 Vettori’s mind would have been on batting out the last 8 overs and scrambling to 200. Vettori went down swinging, finally caught behind attempting to pull Lee.
Southee went next ball in Johnson’s over skying one straight up in a last show of spunk.
206 all out was never going to threaten Australia.
Ponting was relentless in his captaincy, and every time a partnership looked like developing, he introduced one of his three strikers. He was also flawless in his fielding and is looking the part.
Watson and Haddin started in a blaze with Haddin being particularly severe on Southee. Southee’s first and third balls were wides and this set the tone. Vettori bowled the second over of the innings and was handled easily Southee was taken to the cleaners in his next over and Vettori could not stem the tide.
Haddin lofted Vettori back over his head and after four overs Australia had raced to 27.
The hundred came up in the 14th over and the two openers combined for 133 in 18 overs before both were out in quick succession. Haddin was out to a slow looping bouncer from Bennett that took so long to arrive that Haddin almost had enough time to make himself a cup of tea.
Watson was out swiping and it seemed he was bored that batting was so easy.
Ponting and Clarke were untroubled till Ponting was stumped off Southee. A good piece of work by Brendon McCullum standing up as Ponting overbalanced. Clarke and White sailed home and Australia won with 16 overs to spare.
By the 16th over of Australia’s innings I was screaming silently to the referee to stop the fight. New Zealand were outbowled and out batted. Their minds may have been in Christchurch but their form on the subcontinent has not been good. They had lost 4-0 to Bangladesh and 3-0 to India not very long ago.
So maybe this is their real subcontinental form.
Johnson bowled well except in his 7th over when Vettori launched a counter attack;he did look like Little Boy Blue in that instant. But he has improved and is not trying to bowl too fast.
He is bowling in the high 130’s and low 140’s and is more accurate as a result. Tait remains a loose cannon and did his job by picking up 3 wickets. Two of them were gifts and batsmen from India and South Africa will not be so generous. Lee was the best and, of the spinners, Smith shaded Krezja.
The crazy one is floating the ball rather than spinning it and needs to put more revolutions on the orb.
It was also ironical that Vettori and Nathan McCullum, both spinners, were New Zealand’s best batsmen. Vettori must have wished he could have bowled at both ends so ineffective was the rest of the bowling. Bennett has potential but here was as wayward as a blind-folded drunk.
Australia proved their pace attack is capable of taking wickets and Watson and Haddin proved they can be match winners at the top of the order.
Australia could have chased 300 against this attack and won easing down to the line. I don’t believe New Zealand expected any charity and they certainly did not receive any.