Australia face tricky chase to knock off Kiwis

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    Phil Hughes was the victim of a bouncer, but is there a real danger to bowlers as well? (AP Photo/Chris Crerar)

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    Australia is well placed to win the second Test at Bellerive against New Zealand today, but must undertake a tricky run chase this morning to defeat the Kiwis and secure the series 2-0.

    The Black Caps were in a strong position heading into day three but missed a golden opportunity to set the Australian side a more challenging total when its middle and lower order failed to fire yesterday.

    New Zealand lost its last six wickets for just 55 runs and were all out for 226, leaving the Australians to chase a fourth innings target of 241 runs for victory.

    The Australian bowlers shared the second innings wickets, with James Pattinson’s star continuing to rise in just his second Test match, taking 3-54 and finishing with match figures of 8 for 105.

    Peter Siddle bowled tightly for large parts of the Black Caps second innings before some lusty hitting from the New Zealand lower order took the shine off his figures, finishing with 3-66. Nathan Lyon cleaned up the tail, claiming 3-25.

    The best Australian bowling line-up is starting to become clearer, with Pattinson, Siddle and Patrick Cummins (when fit) the best three quicks in the land, while Lyon has cemented his spot as the side’s spinner. Shane Watson also lends some experience to the bowling line-up when his body is up to it.

    With the Australian bowlers having done their part, it then fell to openers Phil Hughes and David Warner to get the locals off to a good start.

    Hughes was very lucky to survive the early part of his innings after gloving a ball down the leg side to keeper Reece Young off the bowling of Chris Martin before he had got off the mark. The Black Caps appealed but Hughes was given not out, and New Zealand captain Ross Taylor chose not to refer the decision.

    The fact that the replay clearly showed that Hughes had gloved the ball and yet remained at the crease suggests that the referral system still requires some tweaking. The use of technology in sport is designed to achieve a greater accuracy of decisions, but in this instance it has failed.

    It is true that Taylor declined to have the decision reviewed, but surely this misses the point. If the technology exists which clearly demonstrates that a batsman should have been given out, there should be a mechanism whereby it is used and the correct decision is made every time. Otherwise, leave decisions entirely in the hands of the umpires and get rid of the technology altogether.

    Hughes appeared nervous at the batting crease from the start of his innings, aware he cannot sustain his run of poor form on home soil for much longer, and finished on 20not out when rain stopped play. While Hughes was circumspect in his batting, his opening partner Warner took the opposite approach.

    Warner punched the ball through the New Zealand in-field at will, finishing the day’s play on 47 off 50 balls. He looked in excellent form, and will be out to secure a century on a fourth-day wicket which looks to be flattening out.

    It was hard to escape the fact that the two New South Welshmen are in a bat-off to retain their spot for the Boxing Day Test, with Shane Watson likely to resume his place at the top of the order when he returns from injury. Warner looked far more comfortable at the crease than Hughes, whose name was once more trending on Twitter after he survived the gloved chance down the leg side.

    Questions remain over Australia’s batting line-up, and a strong showing is required today in chasing the remaining 169 runs for victory. Australia’s first innings total of 136 was its lowest innings total against New Zealand on home soil, and was the fifth instance of the Australian team being bowled out for under 150 since July 2010. Of those five, three were sub-100 innings totals.

    The Test is Australia’s to lose, and they deserve to be strong favourites heading into day four, but a few early wickets this morning will send tremors through the batting line-up. While the best bowling quartet is becoming clearer, there remain a number of batsmen with question marks over their position in the side. A solid showing from the top order today will go some way to addressing that.

    You can follow Michael on Twitter @MichaelFilosi

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    The Crowd Says (33)

    • December 12th 2011 @ 8:22am
      hog said | December 12th 2011 @ 8:22am | ! Report

      A better effort by the kiwi’s they can match it for a session or two but as the game wears on Australia’s class comes into play as in Brisbane NZ simply do not have enough quality players that can match it with the Aussies

      • December 12th 2011 @ 2:57pm
        WQ said | December 12th 2011 @ 2:57pm | ! Report

        How is that comment going for you now hog?

    • December 12th 2011 @ 8:28am
      Ken said | December 12th 2011 @ 8:28am | ! Report

      No question Hughes was lucky to get away with gloving that ball but I quite like the way the DRS is implemented. It’s a game within the game, if the players think they have been hard done by they can put their money where their mouth is and challenge it. They umpire missed it and the NZ players had the choice to challenge but obviously they didn’t really think he was out either.

      I don’t really follow the all or nothing argument – the idea that the technology must be in use constantly or not at all just doesn’t add up. Surely if the current implementation eliminates most ‘shockers’ while adding an interesting bit of theatre to the game then it’s having a positive impact. Conversely having them check every delivery for a no-ball and possible dismissals to ensure nothing is ever missed sounds like a recipe for boredom to me.

      • Columnist

        December 12th 2011 @ 8:39am
        Brett McKay said | December 12th 2011 @ 8:39am | ! Report

        Ken, must agree with your thoughts here. The other benefit DRS has brought with it is that it’s toned down appeals for things that are quite obviouslt not out, especially early in an innings. When 10 blokes go up for LBW and most know that there’s been an inside edge and it’s rightly given not out, they can no longer brood about the decision when they have referrals up their sleeve. If they feel strongly aboutit, they’ll refer it. If they know it was never out in the first place, they quickly resume their positions..

      • December 12th 2011 @ 9:31am
        Matt F said | December 12th 2011 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        Agree completely Ken. The DRS has added another tactical element to the game which can be very entertaining (professional sport is part of the entertainment industry after all.) More importantly it’s doing what it is supposed to do, which is eliminate the shockers. The fact that the Kiwis didn’t refer it indicates that it was a tough decision. If you give the captains unlimited referrals then you might as well get rid of umpires as every decision will go upstairs. Not only will the endless delays frustrate the fans but they’ll have to make tests run for an extra day to make up for the lost time! Of course had the Kiwis elected to use the system nobody would be talking about it so it’s more human error then system failiure.

        • December 12th 2011 @ 10:44am
          jameswm said | December 12th 2011 @ 10:44am | ! Report

          I thought on first glance it was clear of his hip, so had to be out. Martin may have been on his follow-through and not noticed. I think it’s the keeper’s fault – he should have known what it came off and that the ball was clear of the body.

          • December 12th 2011 @ 11:26am
            Matt F said | December 12th 2011 @ 11:26am | ! Report

            Yeah I thought it was out on first glance as it looked like there was a gap between his gloves and hip but those types of decisions are always tricky. I suspect that the umpire just wasn’t 100% sure if he gloved it so gave him benefit of the doubt, whcih was fair enough in my opinion. You’re right about it probably being the keepers fault. He would have had the best angle.

    • December 12th 2011 @ 8:45am
      Terry Kidd said | December 12th 2011 @ 8:45am | ! Report

      I agree Ken, the current system eliminates the howlers …. the Hughes decision was not a howler … leave the referral system as is.

      The batting line up is a problem …. what happens if both Hughes and Warner bat out the innings? Does anyone deserve to be dropped? I think that Warner is now the frontrunner to remain. Does Shaun Marsh deserve to come straight back in or will he get a shield game or two to prove fitness and form? Will Punter retire, allow Hussey to move to 4 and Watson come in at 6? Will Khawaja be dropped and Hussey move to 3 and Watson to 6? Will Watson open with Hughes and Warner move to 6?

      Lots of questions, bugger all answers.

      • December 12th 2011 @ 9:31am
        Justin said | December 12th 2011 @ 9:31am | ! Report

        Terry the only thing I am sure of is that they wont move angeing player like Hussey to open or 3. The rest is up in the air and today will reveal a hell of a lot.

        Marsh has to play a shield game for mine. His fitness is very dodgy…

        • December 12th 2011 @ 11:07am
          Lolly said | December 12th 2011 @ 11:07am | ! Report

          So you think he should just play BBL all summer then? He is playing the 3 day tour match.

          • December 12th 2011 @ 3:36pm
            Justin said | December 12th 2011 @ 3:36pm | ! Report

            Well he is hardly a main stay of the team and seems to get injured doing up his shoe laces…

      • December 12th 2011 @ 10:03am
        CJ said | December 12th 2011 @ 10:03am | ! Report

        Ponting won’t ever retire. He will have to be cut first.

        Watson WANTS to open the batting, and he’s doing a good job so far. Whether this means that a young opener comes in at 6 (Warner, Hughes) or we play Christian at 6 after Ponting/Hussey go; who knows.

        I think Warner has to do a lot to displace Hughes. While Hughes has failed in his last three innings, Warner has done little better in both first innings (the second innings at the Gabba hardly counts either way); which isn’t doing much to make people forget about Hughes’ semi-heroics in parts over the last year.

        • December 12th 2011 @ 10:11am
          Fisher Price said | December 12th 2011 @ 10:11am | ! Report

          Ponting is one stubborn individual and I don’t think the selectors have the guts/sense to drop him.

        • December 12th 2011 @ 10:32am
          Matt F said | December 12th 2011 @ 10:32am | ! Report

          Ponting won’t retire. He might do a Matt Hayden retirement (i.e. get the tap on the shoulder) but that would be all.

          Watto wants to open but has admitted that he’s not sure if he can combine opening with increased bowling effectively. I’d expect him to move down the order whenever we find a solid opening partnership to replace him. Though that could be a long while yet!

          Hughes, having just been caught by Guptil, off Martin for the 4th time this series, looks gone now. Warner has passed 50 and with Watto and Marsh to come in it’s difficult to see him holding his spot, particularly with such an obvious technical flaw. He’s got lots of talent, and I’m sure he’ll be back eventually, but a spell at Shield level is probably what’s required now.

        • December 12th 2011 @ 3:38pm
          Justin said | December 12th 2011 @ 3:38pm | ! Report

          Watson is bascially saying HE DOESNT want to open now and he shouldnt. It was a poor decision for s short term gain that now see;s him back on the injured list. He has been battling with the bat for some time now too at the top.

    • December 12th 2011 @ 10:47am
      jameswm said | December 12th 2011 @ 10:47am | ! Report

      I think if Watson and Marsh are both right for Boxing Day, Hughes and Khawaja will go. Not sure where they’ll bat Watto though. Maybe it’d be:
      1. Warner
      2. Marsh
      3. Ponting
      4. Clarke
      5. Hussey
      6. Watson

      How ready would Watto be to bowl though? Maybe he’ll open with Warner, Marsh 3, and push the others down one.

      I think if either Marsh or Watson come back (and possibly even if they don’t), Hughes is gone. Khawaja needs to do a lot to keep his place though. Hughes’s best chance is if Khawaja fails.

      • December 12th 2011 @ 11:10am
        Red Kev said | December 12th 2011 @ 11:10am | ! Report

        I have a sneaking suspicion you’re right. I thoroughly disagree with the selection however.
        In 2011 (before today’s play) Ponting has 329 in 16 innings whereas Khawaja has 240 in 10 innings (which includes the 0* in the second innings of the first test against New Zealand). There’s not much to choose between the two except one is at the end of his career and one the start – it honestly makes no sense to continue to select Ponting.
        I think Khawaja will need to remain not out at the end of this run chase to retain his spot, when in actual fact it should be a no-brainer to keep him.
        Warner, Cowan, Marsh, Khawaja, Clarke, Watson, Wade in my opinion. Lyon as a spinner and whoever is fit of Harris, Siddle, Cummins and Pattinson (outside of those four I would like Copeland in the frame but the selectors do not seem to like him so maybe Heazelwood with Starc bowling like Johnson and Cutting injured).

        • December 12th 2011 @ 12:11pm
          Fisher Price said | December 12th 2011 @ 12:11pm | ! Report

          Indeed, I’m with you on Cowan.

          Ponting ahead of Khawaja is a farce… but that’s what the selectors specialise in.

      • December 12th 2011 @ 11:33am
        Matt F said | December 12th 2011 @ 11:33am | ! Report

        That would be the most likely top 6, though as you said the order might change if Watson continues to open. Depending on fitness those 6 look like certainties now given Hughes and Khawaja have both failed. Ponting wil probably cement his spot for the entire India series if he’s around at the end of this test

        • December 12th 2011 @ 12:15pm
          Red Kev said | December 12th 2011 @ 12:15pm | ! Report

          I remain unconvinced that Khawaja has “failed”.
          In 2011 here are the scores:
          Khawaja 6 matches, 11 innings: 37, 21, 21, 26, 13*, 12, 65, 38, 0*, 7, 23 average of 29.22 (which happens to be his entire test career).
          Ponting 6 matches, 11 innings: 44, 4, 48, 28, 8, 0, 0, 62, 78, 8, 16 average of 26.64.
          If you expand it to include Ponting’s performances in the Ashes (8 more innings with one not out) his average goes down to 22.56.

          I can see the appeal to Australian Cricket of Ponting and Tendulkar in the home series, but I think it’s the wrong call.

          • December 12th 2011 @ 12:33pm
            Fisher Price said | December 12th 2011 @ 12:33pm | ! Report

            Khawaja’s also been in and out of the side, being used effectively as an injury replacement. He looked good in Brisbane until the elephant in the room ran him out.

            • December 12th 2011 @ 1:02pm
              Lolly said | December 12th 2011 @ 1:02pm | ! Report

              He’s had three matches in a row at 3. He’s had four if you count the last Ashes test. He’s hardly pulling up any trees so far.

              The record for Aus batsmen this year is so dire. Watson, Haddin, Punter, Hughes and Khawaja are averaging under 30.

              • December 12th 2011 @ 1:15pm
                Fisher Price said | December 12th 2011 @ 1:15pm | ! Report

                What I meant was that he’s never really been picked on merit and enters each innings knowing that he’ll make way for the injury returnee if he doesn’t score heavily. Marsh, on the other hand, has those two good innings in SL in the bank making him seem more like a world-beater when he’s out injured than when fit. Personally, I don’t see Marsh having a particularly consistent Test career if his first-class record is anything to go by.

              • December 12th 2011 @ 1:31pm
                Red Kev said | December 12th 2011 @ 1:31pm | ! Report

                But Khawaja averages 55-60 in shield cricket. Just because he hasn’t established himself in the test team in a half-dozen tests doesn’t mean he should be dropped (not everyone debuts with a century Blewett-style). He is the best of the shield batsmen that isn’t established in the test team and to be honest deserves more of a run in the team.

              • December 12th 2011 @ 1:59pm
                Fisher Price said | December 12th 2011 @ 1:59pm | ! Report

                The fact that Khawaja has been the best young top-order Shield batsman for a couple of seasons seems to go past a lot of people. He is a player that can string high scores together and one who is likely to score heavily for NSW if he’s not playing Tests, so it’ll be Australia’s loss if they don’t persist with him a while longer.

          • December 12th 2011 @ 12:40pm
            Matt F said | December 12th 2011 @ 12:40pm | ! Report

            Sorry I meant they failed today, like almost everyone actually. I don’t think he’s failed overall, especially when compared to other players in the team, though he does need to go on with those starts more often. I’d personally rather see Khawaja instead of Ponting as he has more upside but I just can’t see the selectors dropping a player with Pontings (admittedly ever fading) record instead of a player who’s averaging under 30 and hasn’t (yet) turned his potential into substantial performances apart from a very good 65 against SA.

            • December 12th 2011 @ 12:47pm
              Red Kev said | December 12th 2011 @ 12:47pm | ! Report

              I agree, I just think it’s the wrong call. Ponting won’t go unless he’s shoved (hard) and the new NSP lacks the collective gumption to do it.

              • December 12th 2011 @ 1:20pm
                Fisher Price said | December 12th 2011 @ 1:20pm | ! Report

                And it doesn’t help that pundits keep insisting on saying that Punter should play against India because of his “experience” and because “no-one’s beating the door down” when Punter isn’t even tapping on the door – which is a slap in the face to batsmen that play first-class cricket and actually make substantial runs.

              • December 12th 2011 @ 2:54pm
                Matt F said | December 12th 2011 @ 2:54pm | ! Report

                FP – The argument that an experienced head will take pressure off younger players is a valid one but when the experienced head is the one who’s not scoring runs it must actually increase the pressure on the new players as they have to make up for his lack of runs.

                Red Kev – The new selection panel has only been in place for 2 tests so I think it’s a bit early to make judgements on them so far. Giving Warner and Pattinson chances ahead of experienced flops like Hilfenhaus showed good intent. The Boxing Day squad will say a lot about the direction they want to head.

    • December 12th 2011 @ 11:32am
      jameswm said | December 12th 2011 @ 11:32am | ! Report

      Has anyone else noticed how much Warner’s head falls across to off when he’s playing one on his legs that’s swung in to him/

      Hughes, Warner and Ponting all have the same problem – not getting back foot across, so their balance is awry.

      Ponting and Warner are more still though, Hughes moves and jumps and his head’s moving. That’s the difference with those on-side shots. Hughes misses so many runs there.

      • Columnist

        December 12th 2011 @ 11:44am
        Brett McKay said | December 12th 2011 @ 11:44am | ! Report

        James, certainly Ponting and Warner do the same thing, moving their front foot toward cover while hitting through mid-wicket (might be an exeggeration to make a point). I suspect when they’re both ‘going’ though, both will step down the line and straight-drive that same delivery…

        • December 12th 2011 @ 12:21pm
          jameswm said | December 12th 2011 @ 12:21pm | ! Report

          It’s why Kat scored so prolifically through there and was so well-balanced in comparison. He gets his back foot across.

    • December 12th 2011 @ 1:18pm
      Rhys said | December 12th 2011 @ 1:18pm | ! Report

      Just by way of ‘left field’ comment on selection policy. I’m sure everyone has noticed that Vodaphone is sponsoring the Test series this summer. The ads being run during Nine’s coverage feature six players (that I’ve noticed) – Michael Clarke, Doug Bollinger, Mitchell Johnson, Brad Haddin, Ricky Ponting & Michael Hussey.

      Clarke as captain (and in pretty good form) will naturally feature as a player in all the Tests this summer (barring injury). Of the other five – Johnson is out for the summer through injury (form would have likely accounted for him otherwise); Bollinger hasn’t, and likely won’t play in any of the Tests. Which leaves three more ‘faces of the Australian Test team’ bombarding millions of viewers – Ponting, Haddin, Hussey. Haddin’s done enough to hang on for a while longer. Hussey has been a rock until recent times. Ponting has been on the decline for almost 2 years (the occasional 50 aside).

      Imagine the following scenario come Test 2 or 3 of the Indian series – only 1 or 2 of the ‘Vodaphone 6’ actually playing in the games. Hardly ideal promotional material.

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