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Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Johnson bows out as Test fizzles out in draw: T2 D5

Australia 9/559 dec & 7/385 dec (103ov, Smith 138/185b/18x4, Voges 119/240b/16x4, Nevill 35, Johnson 29, Starc 28*, Warner 24, Southee 25-4-97-4, Boult 2/77) drew with New Zealand 624 & 2/104 (28ov, Taylor 36*, Williamson 32*, Johnson 2/20): T2/3 D5/5 at the WACA, Perth. Australia lead series 1-0. Player of the match: Ross Taylor.

Steve Smith and Adam Voges batted Australia to a comfortable position before Peter Nevill and Mitchells Johnson and Starc took them to safety. New Zealand had little chance of chasing down 321 in 48 overs, so the players went through the motions until rain interrupted and then, after Johnson's two wicket last hurrah, bad light ended the Test.

After their mauling at the Gabba New Zealand would have been very pleased with their revival, and satisfied with a drawing a match thanks largely to Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson's batting. Australia will need to make changes for Adelaide because of Johnson's retirement (a pity we won't see him here) and Usman Khawaja's injury: there is debate about who the replacements should be (I think Peter  Siddle should be one of them). The Kiwis should, if they wish, be able to field an unchanged side, but their attack remains weak and the tail long, and they may not have the underpinning of big innings from 
Taylor, Williamson or perhaps Brendon McCullum to keep them competitive.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Taylor 290 takes NZ to lead before Smith & Voges punch back with tons: T2 D4

Australia 9/559dec & 2/258 (63ov, Smith 131*/170b/17x4, Voges 101*/180b/15x4) lead New Zealand 624 (153.5 ov, Taylor 290/374b/43x4, Richardson 166, Starc 37-7-119-4 , Lyon 3/107) by 193 runs with 8 2nd inns wkts in hand: T2/3 D4/5 at the WACA, Perth.

Another high scoring day saw Steve Smith and Adam Voges regain the initiative for Australia after Ross Taylor's magnificent 290 took New Zealand to a 65 run 1st innings lead. 

The pitch has deteriorated little and the bowlers of both sides struggled, though Mitchell Starc less so than the others, to cut through. Yet this shouldn't detract from Taylor's achievement: a quality innings which brought his team back into the Test and series and which showed Australians just how good a batter he is. He deserved to make 300 (and might have reached it had Tim Southee and Trent Boult been able to give him more of the strike).

As Smith, especially, and Voges became more assured against an at best steady NZ attack my thoughts turned once again to whether either side can win from here. Much as I'd like to see a close finish, I can't see it happening here unless Australia set the Black Caps a tempting target which their aggressive batsmen can chase down or fail in the attempt as the home bowlers combine to cut through them. I'll venture to predict a draw.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Taylor's 235* turns Test: T2 D3

New Zealand 6/510 (129ov, Taylor 235*/308b/34x4, Williamson 166/250b/24x4, Latham 36,  McCullum 27, Starc 2/83) trail Australia 9/559dec by 49 with 4 1st inns wkts in hand: T2/3 D3/5 at WACA, Perth.

Ross Taylor batted through the day, adding 265 for the third wicket with Kane Williamson and another 158 with the middle and lower order, turning the Test, if not on its head then certainly denting Australia's hopes of victory (and exposing the error of my prediction).

After a poor first Test and a scratchy beginning on D2 Taylor played himself into form against Australia's attack,which was persistent rather than penetrative on a very flat WACA wicket. His cover driving was excellent: so many strokes timed and placed to beat the field and speed to the boundary. He gave little indication of fatigue: today was not as hot as the first two days, but he has been on the field almost throughout the match. 

Williamson continued in his First Test mode: judicious aggression with barely a false stroke. So it was surprising to see him miscue Josh Hazlewood on 166 when it looked as if he'd go on forever. At that point-  3/352- New Zealand, with a long tail, weren't out of trouble but Taylor and Brendon McCullum briskly accumulated another 80, then Taylor mustered the others to take the total beyond 500.

The pitch is still playing well so it's hard to see a result other than a draw: neither team may be inclined to take the risks which would probably accompany a full throttle pursuit of victory. 

Saturday, November 14, 2015

At last a more even day- but Australia still on top:T2D2

New Zealand 2/140 (42ov, Williamson 70*/121b/10x4, Latham 36/ 85b/ 6x4,Taylor 26*/44b/5x4) trail Australia 9/559b (133ov, Warner 253/286b/2x6 24x4, Khawaja 121, Voges 41, Burns 40, Marsh 34, Craig 3/123, Bracewell 2/81, Henry 2/105, Boult 2/123) by 419 with 8 1st inns wkts in hand: T2/3 D2/5 at WACA, Perth.

Once David Warner was dismissed early in the first session - for a magnificent 253- Australia batted on from 3/427 secure in the knowledge that they already had a good score on the board, yet perhaps uncertain of when to declare. When, after a lower order acceleration and consequent gifting of cheap wickets to the long suffering NZ trundlers, the declaration came the Black Caps lost an early wicket but didn't crumble and kept the match alive for another day, or maybe two or three.

Pity that Warner didn't carry on, but 253/286b speaks for itself, and if you'd watched it you'd have  twigged that you'd seen a master at the top of his game - and a few years more to improve upon it. 

Thereafter there were some glimpses of class from Adam Voges and Mitchell Marsh, and some reckless head in the air batting, but no commanding performances. 

That the expected NZ batting collapse didn't happen was due to (you guessed it) Kane Williamson's 70* with support from Tom Latham ( caught off Nathan Lyon for a determined 36) and an initially scratchy but increasingly assured Ross Taylor. The Australian bowlers didn't give too much away, but didn't make the deep incision into the NZ batting body that I'd thought they would. But with a long tail (Mark Craig at #7) and another 369 to make for a 1st inns lead this still looks Australia's Test.

Australia 2/412 (Warner 244*) crush NZ: T2 D1

Australia 2/416 (90ov, Warner 244*/272 b/ 2x6 22x4, Khawaja 121/186b/2x6 11x4, Burns 40) v New Zealand: T2/3 D1/5 at WACA, Perth. Toss: Australia.

On a very good batting wicket on a hot Perth day, David Warner played the innings of his cricketing life (so far) to propel Australia to a dominant position and leave New Zealand's attack once again defanged and the series almost certainly lost.

If you are able, watch video highlights of Warner's innings.

Usman Khawaja, pugnacious against a wilting attack, and Joe Burns, in another century opening stand, did their bit too, as, unfortunately, did the umpiring. 

The Black Caps were ill served by a howler by umpire Llong, who failed to detect an edge to the keeper by Khawaja when there were no review shots left in the NZ locker.  One reason for this was the closeness of at least one DRS decision which relied on Hawkeye to confirm by a whisker an "umpire's call". Why a team which is narrowly deprived of a favourable decision should lose a DRS review seems grossly unfair, as other commentators have pointed out. In this instance the would have hit the wicket, though a fraction more than 50% would have missed it. 

That said, even if that decision, and Llong's blunder, had gone NZ's way the day would almost certainly have belonged to Australia, if more along the lines of 3 or 4/350. In either the real or the alternative scenario there is no doubting who has the upper hand. 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Australia win easily as rain stays away: T1D5

Australia 4/556d & 4/262d def New Zealand 317 & 295 (88.3ov, McCullum 80/80b/2x6 10x4, Williamson 59, Lyon 3/63, Marsh 2/25, Hazlewood 2/68, Starc 2/69) by 208 runs: T1/3 D5/5 at the Gabba, Brisbane. Australia lead series 1-0. Player of the match: David Warner.

Only a go down with all guns blazing run a ball 80 from captain Brendon McCullum and a 46 run last wicket partnership delayed the inevitable Australian win at the Gabba. A draw caused by rain wails have been an unjust result, and the Black Caps, with Kane Williamson dismissed on D4, would have required a lot of good fortune and fortitude to have batted through a full last day.

Australia may have taken longer than they'd hoped, but the bowlers did the job. Nathan Lyon bowled well as I thought also did the Mitchells Johnson and Starc, if not at their destructive best. They must be looking forward to the extra assistance which the WACA pitch may offer them when the series resumes on Friday.

New Zealand have both form and fitness worries. The attack, especially the spearhead Trent Boult, was below par and it seems that the replacement cupboard may not be well stocked. It's hard to see them regrouping from here. 

Sunday, November 08, 2015

New Zealand rely on Brisbane weather to gain draw: T1 D4

New Zealand 317 & 3/142 (53ov, Williamson 59/74b/5x4, Latham 29, Guptill 23, Taylor 20* need 362 with 7 2nd inns wkts in hand to beat Australia 4/556d & 4/264d: T1/3 D4/5 at the Gabba, Brisbane.

As expected, Australia declared at their overnight score, leaving New Zealand an impossible task of making over 500 to win the Test, and an extremely difficult one of drawing it...but for the weather.

Once again the top three,p - Martin  Guptill, Tom Latham and Kane Williamson-.made a reasonable fist of hanging on, with  Guptill's 23/133b stonewalling a standout. But they are all out, Williamson for another classy yet by his standards brief innings, leaving a shaky middle and lower order to hold on, and hoping to hold out for the weather to give them the draw they so richly don't deserve.