Pat Cummins was chuffed to hear Tim Paine rates him as a contender to be Australia’s next Test captain, but the gun paceman says the topic remains a moot point while the keeper is still playing.
Such is the importance of winning the toss, especially in this pink-ball Test, that if that didn’t go New Zealand’s way on the first day, they were going to face a dreadful set of events on the third.
Arriving in Australia, the expectations were sky-high for the Black Caps. They had a superior ranking to the Australians. They hadn’t lost (and still haven’t, yet) a Test series since 2017, but all the positive build-up was overshadowed by their resounding defeats Down Under over the years.
The visitors had a side with all the ingredients in it, especially the maturity they found since their 2015 defeat in Australia during Brendon McCullum’s captaincy.
Nevertheless, as things stand at the end of the third day, optimism about the results this series have been the opposite to their performances.
Their bowling display was lion-hearted, despite being one bowler short. The Kiwi pace spearheads laboured for precisely 146 overs without letting the home side completely get away. Instead, Neil Wagner and Tim Southee made sure to bowl out the Australians in the first innings and caused a late-night collapse in the second.
Sadly, the duo are the ones still keeping the visitors in the game.
It has always been their bowling that has put in the hard yards when they come across the Tasman. The Kiwis managed to script their three victories in Australia to date with sensational bowling performances.
Unfortunately, the overreliance on the attack has continued. Scoring only 160 on what was a relatively easy deck to bat on has left them to facing a large fourth-innings target when the pitch should allow Nathan Lyon and Marnus Labuschagne to spit fire.
Both the sides faced problems with short-pitched bowling. In addition to this threat, though, Nathan Lyon seemed threatening right from the outset in New Zealand’s first innings.
But New Zealand’s pacemen kept digging deeper and deeper in the final session to help their batsmen as much as possible, with their uninterrupted spells of seven and ten overs by Southee and Wagner respectively. It was as if the more he kept banging the ball in short, the more energy and intensity Wagner received.
Should New Zealand wrap up the tail quickly in another sweltering fourth day of heat, their batsmen would have a shot at finishing what Pakistan couldn’t in a similar Test back in 2016.
But time will tell whether it’s a battle of survival or if Kane Williamson’s men soar above the demonic patches in Perth to engrave a new chapter in Black Caps history.