Black Caps win a cricket Test for the history books

Spiro Zavos Columnist

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    New Zealand players left to right captain Ross Taylor, Reece Young and Jesse Ryder. AAP Image/Dale Cumming

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    Defeating Australia in a cricket Test is the equivalent for the Black Caps of winning a Rugby World Cup tournament for the All Blacks. It is 26 years since New Zealand has won a cricket Test in Australia, two years longer than the All Blacks RWC drought.

    Like the All Blacks in RWC 2011, too, the Black Caps achieved their historic victory without their best player.

    Daniel Vettori, with his splendid spin bowling and his gusty and productive run-making, is New Zealand cricket’s Daniel Carter.

    He was watching on in the dressing room, out of the match with a pulled hamstring.

    One of the oldest truisms of cricket is that ‘bowling wins Tests.’ Batting sets up wins.

    But successful bowling clinches the victory.

    If there are no declarations, the winning side has to take 20 wickets to secure a victory. There is no limit or limitation on the number of runs needed to win a win.

    David Warner, 123 not out, became only the second Australian opener to bat through the the fall of 10 wickets in the second innings of Test. He is in splendid company with Bill Ponsford and Bill Lawry.

    But it was ludicrous that he won the ‘Man of the Match’ award. His innings, valiant and occasionally brilliant though it might have been, did NOT win the Test.

    The Test was won by a youngster with great cricketing bloodlines, Doug Bracewell, with his 6 for 40 off 16.4 overs. Bracewell’s last spell in which he took 6 wickets for 26 runs was the stuff of Richard Hadlee, in his prime.

    Of course, there is the element of good fortune always in historic outcomes like this. In my opinion, two factors in particular worked for the New Zealanders.

    The first was the incredibly sportive pitch prepared by the groundsman. The Test pitch was a dark green seamer’s delight. Several metres away on the far side of the pitch block, a prepared pitch (for a one-day match?) was very much lighter in colour.

    I would argue that if this drier pitch had been used, Australia would have won the Test.

    The reason for this is that New Zealand never win high-scoring contests. And on a dry pitch, a lot of runs would have been scored (probably by the Australian batsmen). But on green pitches, with the ball swerving and lifting off a length, New Zealand can generally scrap together enough runs to be competitive.

    And this is what they did at Hobart.

    I have some New Zealand friends who had tickets for all the days of the Test series. I told them that my definition of a super optimist is someone who buys tickets for the fourth and fifth days of a Test involving New Zealand.

    The second factor was Michael Clarke’s decision to put New Zealand into bat.

    The effect of this decision, especially after Australia’s poor first innings total, was that the Baggy Green Caps had to bat last. My guess is that Australia has not won too many Tests chasing 241 runs in the last innings of the match.

    When the last pair came together, 42 runs were needed to achieve victory. Never in Australia’s Test history has the side chased down this number of runs successfully with a last wicket pair.

    The best 9th-wicket chase was 38.

    It is a credit to the courage and resilience of Nathan Lyon and David Warner (together with a huge dolloping of luck with two outs over-ruled) that the last pair got so close, within 7 runs of glory.

    What Clarke’s decision to bat second did, aside from making it likely that his side had to bat last, was to give New Zealand some freedom at the end of their second innings to hit out. No one knew what would be a competitive score for Australia to chase. The feeling in the commentary box was that about 300 behind would be difficult but not impossible.

    So the New Zealand tailenders threw their bat at the ball when their side was collapsing. What did they have to lose?

    They seemed to be short of a decent target for Australia to chase. The last pair made nearly 30 or so, even though Chris Martin (‘the worst batsman in the history of Test cricket’ according to Tony Greig) was part of this partnership.

    This partnership pushed out the chase to the difficult task it proved to be.

    Clarke has to take a lesson from Mark Taylor who invariably batted first when possible and W.G.Grace who pontificated that ‘you should sometimes think about putting the other side into bat, and then never do it.’

    We get now to the sad case of Phil Hughes.

    Readers of The Roar will know I have been his champion ever since I saw him play his first first-class match at the SCG a couple of years ago. But he has to be dropped.

    What has gone wrong?

    Ian Chappell reckons that he faced the task of making a small remedial adjustment which would have allowed to play his smashing shots through point or a major adjustment that took this shot away away from him.

    Chappell reckons the small adjustment, just learning to leave the higher bouncing ball alone, would have been enough to retain the special qualities of his style that made him such a dangerous opener.

    By opting to give away the slight shuffle to leg as the ball is being bowled and replacing it with a shuffle across to his off stump (which took away the trademark slash through the gully area), Hughes has reduced his play to the mediocrity we saw at Hobart.

    I reckon Hughes should get away from the batting coaches who have given him poor advice and go to Chappell (Ian not Greg) for the real thing. And that advice is to go back to the former method that lighted up his play so early in his career.

    This defeat has made the task of the Australian selectors much easier. One of Ponting and Hussey should stay on to give some seniority to the batting top order. But it may be time for both of them to go.

    If everyone is fit and available the Test team to play India should be:

    Warner, Watson, Marsh, Khawaja, Clarke, Hussey, Christian, Haddin (until Tim Paine is available), Siddle, Pattinson, Lyon.

    In time, Ed Cowan might be brought in to stiffen up the batting, but only if Shane Watson begins to bowl again. If Watson bowls, there is a case for Cowan to open and Watson to take Christian’s place as the batting all-rounder.

    Spiro Zavos
    Spiro Zavos

    Spiro Zavos, a founding writer on The Roar, was long time editorial writer on the Sydney Morning Herald, where he started a rugby column that has run for nearly 30 years. Spiro has written 12 books: fiction, biography, politics and histories of Australian, New Zealand, British and South African rugby. He is regarded as one of the foremost writers on rugby throughout the world.

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    The Crowd Says (32)

    • December 13th 2011 @ 7:41am
      The Grafter said | December 13th 2011 @ 7:41am | ! Report

      Apart from penning how well Bracewell played Spiro, it would be nice to hear from the Australian media about the courage of the other NZ players, the ability to hang in under pressure and against the odds, and the youngsters handling a couple of late ‘rejections’.

      All Ive heard/read is how bad Australia were/are.

      Both teams had to play on the same surface, and with Clarke (the next Taylor if you believe the commentators) putting in NZ (he had the choice), the advantage on a green top should of been with Australia. Now if I can return to Friday afternoon, the knives were out for the NZ batsmen, hopeless, pathetic, no wonder they only play 2 tests etc etc.

      You are right regarding the man of match. What a poor way of ‘selecting’ this. Has cricket gone that commercial the ‘powers to be’ (is that a certain TV channel?) have to make funds from text in your mates/favourite players name? That is cheap, woeful and does the great game no favours.

      • December 13th 2011 @ 6:02pm
        bestywins said | December 13th 2011 @ 6:02pm | ! Report

        I agree 100%, great points gratfer

        I was embarrassed by Michael Clarkes sullen sulky crappy speech at the end of the game. He only gvce credit to a couple of aussies then totally ignored the kiwis. They took some hot chances in the slips and deserved credit for bowling good line and length. All we heard was how bad the aussies were. I remember our media blowing up at Richie Richardson when we beat the windies in 95 and how negative and disgraceful his losing speech was. Well MIchael Clarke was NOt captain material at all , both with the bat and after the game. As an Aussie it pains me that we are such sulky little kids after we get spanked. Gracious in defeat NOT

        • December 15th 2011 @ 8:43am
          Tom Callaghan said | December 15th 2011 @ 8:43am | ! Report

          Quite right. Australians, with the possible exception of John Eales, have never been gracious sportsmen have they?
          Bitter losers.

    • December 13th 2011 @ 9:25am
      cruyff turn said | December 13th 2011 @ 9:25am | ! Report

      Interesting line-up Sprio, though I think we need THREE recognised fast bowlers – rather than relying on Christian and a fragile Watson. Harris must come back in, if fit.

      Also, have Watson and Khawaja switch spots in the batting order, with the latter opening with Warner. They could work well together as an opening combination. No. 4 may end up being Watson’s best position, it gives him a break between innings and will allow Clarke to bowl him more often.

      • December 13th 2011 @ 1:45pm
        Tommy said | December 13th 2011 @ 1:45pm | ! Report

        Totally agree Cruff turn. Spiro, your dreaming if you think we can get away with 3 specialist bowlers & Watto / Christian as support. Even though our batting has been terrible, adding an extra batsman would be a very short term & negative solution while putting even more pressure on our injury hit bowlers.

    • December 13th 2011 @ 9:49am
      Tom Callaghan said | December 13th 2011 @ 9:49am | ! Report

      From an English sporting perspective I’ve just got to say: It just gets better and better’ It really does!
      This is just a number of lamentable sporting debacles for Australia in 2011.
      Can it get any worse (better)?

      • December 13th 2011 @ 10:01am
        jameswm said | December 13th 2011 @ 10:01am | ! Report

        At a team level true, but when you count in individual performances by Cadel Evans, Sally Pearson, Sam Stosur, James Magnussen etc, overall it’s been a terrific sporting year for Australia.

        • December 15th 2011 @ 8:48am
          Tom Callaghan said | December 15th 2011 @ 8:48am | ! Report

          I admire your courageous clinging to the wreckage of sinking Australian… sporting ship jameswm. A home ashes defeat, poor performances at world athletic, swimming championships, no success in boxing,no golfers in worlds top five, cricketting defeat by New Zealand, rugby union defeat by Ireland, successive defeats for womens hockey team by England, etc

          • December 15th 2011 @ 9:39am
            BigAl said | December 15th 2011 @ 9:39am | ! Report

            Well ! – if it isn’t “Tom Callaghan” !

            Welcome back “Tom”.

            People may not realise it, but Tom is himself a world champion sportsman and he has got there, as all true champions do, by choosing his equipment carefully and putting in many, many hours of practice.

            Tom’s field of pre-eminence is barrow pushing – and he has been pushing the same old barrow for years now…

            • December 15th 2011 @ 8:07pm
              Tom Callaghan said | December 15th 2011 @ 8:07pm | ! Report

              Nice to hear from you and may I wish you a happy New Year if our paths don’t cross soon?
              I can’t predict much sporting happiness for Australia in the New Year, though!
              What the bloody hell is ‘barrow pushing’?

              • December 16th 2011 @ 11:30am
                BigAl said | December 16th 2011 @ 11:30am | ! Report

                ‘barrow pushing’? ????!!!! – you jest ! – and you doing it best of all n’all !

                I will return your complements of the season as I’m sure our paths won’t cross.

      • December 13th 2011 @ 3:07pm
        rl said | December 13th 2011 @ 3:07pm | ! Report

        Tom, I’ve little doubt you’re an excellent judge of lamentable sporting debacles, given the current state of England’s football, rugby and hockey teams.

        • December 15th 2011 @ 8:52am
          Tom Callaghan said | December 15th 2011 @ 8:52am | ! Report

          Enlgand’s soccer team is in worlds top five; England’s cricket team is worlds number one, England has beaten Australia home and away in last two rugby union encounters, and England’s women hockey team recently beat Australia on successive occasions in three days
          I think you can judge failure better than I can

    • December 13th 2011 @ 9:58am
      jameswm said | December 13th 2011 @ 9:58am | ! Report

      Spiro I’ve got some serious issues with some of the stuff you’ve put here. There is some odd reasoning.

      1. Phil Hughes does not shuffle to off stump now. His back leg used to shuffle to leg, but now it doesn’t shuffle at all. It does not go to off – well, not before contact. He’s trying to get his back foot across, and it gets there after impact, so he’s in the air and moving at impact. This is why he plays better on the front foot right now – the back foot is fixed when you come forward. You need to freeze frame the TV at the point of impact and you’ll see what I mean. Not getting your back foot back and across means that your head falls to off when you play it on leg stump (hence the leg side worries) and it means you’re not getting behind it properly at just outside off stump. And Ian Chappell is not the man to fix the problems. Sure, Hughes scored some runs early in his career, but once he was worked out, he struggled like he is now. With the leg side shuffle he used to be hopeless on leg stump (where one normally never bowls esp to a leftie), but now he’s just ordinary.

      2. Warner’s MOTM the match award was not “ludicrous”. He was the dominant batsman in the game (Pattinson got one less wicket than Bracewell) and nearly stole a win for his team from nowhere. Many will argue that Bracewell should have got it, with good reason, but you could also make strong arguments for Warner.

      3. Clarke’s decision to put NZ in to bat was clearly a good one. Too few skippers have the guts to do this, spooked by comments like Chappell’s “9 times out of 10 you bat first and on the 10th you think about bowling then bat anyway”. Australia had the best of the pitch for batting and got to bowl at NZ when the pitch was at its worst. The point about allowing NZ to hit out at the end of the 3rd innings is ludicrous. The right call was made, the bowlers did the job, and the batsmen screwed up. The best way to win a test is bowl first, have them gone by the end of the first day, then bat for 2 days to give your bowlers a rest. Batting first and scoring 500 means you have to dismiss the opposition twice in 3 days.

      4. As cruyff said, you can’t pick Christian as a 4th bowler. He’s not good enough. He has to become a good enough bat to justify a spot at 6, or you need a wickie good enough to bat 6 with Christian 7. It’s the same with Steve Smith, who NSW bat as high as 4.

      • December 13th 2011 @ 10:24am
        Justin said | December 13th 2011 @ 10:24am | ! Report

        Spot on regarding Clarkes decision to bowl first. It was a no brainer and Spiro is clearly “after timing” with the benefit of hindsight.

        Australia had the best of the conditions and failed to win. Its as simple as that.This notion that making 238 in the last innings doesnt stack up as they started that last inning on day 3! So it is completely different situation to the majoirty of other chases that go on in Test cricket.

        As for it being like winning the RWC – please give the hyperbole a rest. Rugby is #1, crikcet is nowehere in comparison.

        • December 13th 2011 @ 10:39am
          jameswm said | December 13th 2011 @ 10:39am | ! Report

          Agreed Justin, 240 on day 3/4 on a decent pitch should be pretty simple. I just expected that our batsmen would start scoring, but only one (the rookie) did.

          I’m surprised no one has written an argument about the serious flaw in the “keep Ponting/Hussey/Haddin” campaign. They argue that no one is beating down the door.

          But look at the ones who have been given a test chance in the last 12 months or so:

          1. Dave Warner – a T20 specialist who knuckled down to get a baggy green. Showed up his teammates.

          2. Shaun Marsh – so so in ODIs and a FC record weighed down by a poor first few years. Yet 2-3 tests in, it’s clear he belongs there and has as much backbone as anyone (excuse the pun)

          3. Tim Paine – batted and kept extremely well and with intelligence, dedication and patience in India. When fit, Haddin comes straight back in and reverts to his sloppy keeping and millionaire batting. I’d rather the plucky Paine.

          4. Pat Cummins – too young, but given a go. Fast, accurate and enough movement.

          5. James Pattinson – only 21 and has done well but not brilliantly in FC cricket. But young, skilled and strong, and a fast learner.

          Honestly, almost all those youngsters given a go (Starc the only other I can think of, who has been middling) have done extremely well.

          So why are we so worried about dropping the stalwarts and giving the young and in-form tyros a go?

          • December 13th 2011 @ 11:32am
            Justin said | December 13th 2011 @ 11:32am | ! Report

            Haddin should be gone now. Wade is in great form and needs the chance. If Paine comes back fit and firing then let them the duel it out. Competiton is sorely lacking at the moment across the board.

            If they are waitng for Paine (and I suspect they are) then that is wrong IMO.

            • December 13th 2011 @ 1:37pm
              Tommy said | December 13th 2011 @ 1:37pm | ! Report

              Skull was saying on the ABC that he didn’t think Wade’s keeping was test level or along those lines, which may explain why they are waiting for Paine.

      • December 13th 2011 @ 10:31am
        jameswm said | December 13th 2011 @ 10:31am | ! Report

        My post got moderated (though I like the italics, which I can’t do). A couple of points I tried to make which are now not clear are:

        1. The 9 times out of 10 you bat first… comment is fundamentally flawed. If the wicket is toughest to bat on on the first day, then bowl.

        2. NSW should bowl Smith more and bat him at 6. He doesn’t have the technique to bat at 4 and his future is as a bowling all rounder. He needs more focus on his bowling, so bat him lower.

    • Roar Rookie

      December 13th 2011 @ 10:28am
      Stumpy said | December 13th 2011 @ 10:28am | ! Report

      Some technique and grit is needed in our batting line up, it’s great to see slashing stoke play but there are times when the talent pool due the age/form/etc require a different approach, for Australia we are at such a crossroad.

      Marsh has been sadly missed as has a Katich type player.

      Warner has shown he has the will and concentration to reign in most of his natural compulsions and craft an innings but lets see if when regularly tested with some acurate short bowling and good field placement if he can resist hooking, he was lucky to get away with a couple he played poorly.

      As to Hughes, Ian Chappell, Warren Smith and Bob Simpson would be the names I’d be putting forward as people who he should be talking too, but it’s up to him to listen. You can coach and instruct all you want but the player has to go out and put it into practice each of the men I’ve listed has something to offer in areas Hughes lacks.

      The Kiwi’s were great on the last day and while it is obvious and correct to praise Bracewell he did deserve MoM, he was backed up with some of the better fielding and catching you’d ever want to see at international level, this and Taylor giving his bowlers pretty good fields with just enough protection so as not to bleed runs and yet stay as attacking as possible should be acknowledged.

      Watching Taylor aggressively pump up his charges when the opportunity arose and backing it up with a couple of brilliant pieces of fielding helped keep New Zealand in the game. The highest praise should go to him as a new captain he influenced the game, his team and the result.

      Australia has some simple choices that will taste bitter in making but they need to be made. Like it or not it’s Pups team now give him the clean slate and truly let him stand on his own feet.

      That means dropping Ponting as great as he’s been, his heart doesn’t seem in it and maybe life has conspired against him ( the loss of his Grandmother) but it’s time for him to go.

    • December 13th 2011 @ 10:48am
      CJ said | December 13th 2011 @ 10:48am | ! Report

      I think it’s quite optimistic to think Ponting will step down voluntarily; although admittedly the selectors will have to think harder on it now that Warner has given them a reason to keep him. If Warner fizzes out in Hobart they just drop both openers. Now, I’d gamble that they drop both openers anyway, but at least they think about it first.

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