A week, as former British prime minister Harold Wilson once quipped, is a long time in politics, though New Zealand captain Ross Taylor and his young team have also discovered that it also applies to Test cricket.
Before the first Test against Australia, Taylor’s side were brimful of confidence amid expectations in New Zealand they could win their first match across the Tasman Sea in 26 years and their first Test against Australia since 1993.
Four days later they had slunk out of the Gabba after a nine-wicket defeat against an Australia bowling attack that included two pace bowlers making their Test debuts and an off-spinner in his sixth Test who had never set foot on the storied Brisbane ground.
Poor catching, sloppy bowling and a batting collapse in the second innings in the face of a fiery morning spell from debutant James Pattinson led to a players-only meeting this week where “harsh words were exchanged,” pace bowler Tim Southee said.
Taylor said they were now looking to ensure there would be no repeat at the Bellerive Oval when the second and final Test gets underway in Hobart today.
“We’re trying to keep it as upbeat as possible,” Taylor told reporters yesterday. “Obviously, we were very disappointed with the performance we put in, for the fans back home, and everyone’s hurting. As a unit, bowlers bowled well in patches, we’ve just got to be a bit more consistent, and as a batting unit we need to be able to leave outside the off-stump and let them bowl at us. A lot of the deliveries that the Australians did bowl weren’t hitting the stumps when they got us out. So, me included, just [need to] play a lot tighter than we did in Brisbane.”
The New Zealand batting lineup is likely to remain unchanged, with coach John Wright saying earlier in the week that the top six would be given a chance to atone for Brisbane.
Australia are also unchanged for the Test, with captain Michael Clarke keen for his side to keep their foot on New Zealand’s throat as they look ahead to their four-Test series against India which starts later this month.
“I felt we did a good job in both innings at the Gabba, [but] there are definitely areas that need improving and I have made that very clear,” Clarke said.
One of Clarke’s few headaches from Brisbane was the form of opener Phil Hughes, who gave up his wicket cheaply in both innings, but survived the axe after a lengthy selectors’ debate.
The 23-year-old’s poor form and tendency to nick catches behind the wicket has been under heavy scrutiny in Australia, with former players and pundits lining up to encourage or admonish him.
“Phil Hughes would be disappointed with himself at not grabbing his opportunities,” former Australia leg-spinner Shane Warne told local reporters. “For him, it’s all about getting his mindset right. Go out with an attacking attitude rather than a defensive attitude of survival.”
Clarke said overall Australia should be pleased with their past few months, which has included a series win in Sri Lanka and a 1-1 draw away to South Africa.
“We are still working hard on our consistency and I guess that’s the most satisfying thing about winning in Brisbane. It’s been a long time since we won back-to-back Test matches, so that was really pleasing, but we want to win the series, and we are here to win this Test match and that will be a great start to the summer.”