Mixed day as both teams lack killer punch

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December 2, 2011 by dixwah

New Zealand is 5-176 in their first innings after winning the toss and batting

The stunning spectacle of Test cricket, demonstrated so brilliantly in Johannesburg and Mumbai last week, put its foot on the break at the Gabba yesterday as New Zealand waddled to 5/176 at stumps on day one of the first Test against Australia.

In what resembled a boxing bout between two middleweight contenders, the rejuvenated but ailing Australian battled against the hardy Black Caps, who both threw a few good punches but lacked the authority to find a knockout blow.

After winning the toss and batting, Kiwi opener Brendon McCullum could have been excused for believing James Pattinson was Santa Claus after the quick delivered a couple of early Christmas presents that saw 13 runs come from the first over of the match.

After all, McCullum had whacked 140-odd against Pattinson and fellow debutant Mitchell Starc in the tour match only days earlier.

But as is their lot, New Zealand were soon in trouble, going from 44 without loss to 5-96 through more poor shots than any spectacular bowling from the home side.

The big three of the New Zealand line-up were easily the most culpable with a couple of disgusting cut shots straight to point from McCullum and Ryder matched by a lazy drive from Taylor five minutes from lunch that went back onto his stumps.

Usual story, and the salvage mission was left to Dan Vettori, who nurdled and knicked the score to 175 with expat Dean Brownlie before bad light stopped play before tea.

Vettori really is a wonder. He has transformed himself from an ugly batsman who can frustrate an attack for a while to an ugly batsman who can change, or in New Zealand’s case keep them in a match. He averages 40 since 2007, Ricky Ponting averages 39.4.

Starc, a fortunate selection in my view, was the most threatening of the quicks, but in a Mitchell Johnson-esque effort he mixed corkers that struck McCullum on the arm and helmet with a couple of freebies. Despite the soft nature of the dismissals, he was the pick.

Of the other bowlers, Siddle was Siddle-like, toiling hard for 1-29, and Pattinson bowled with pace but was expensive.

Nathan Lyon bowled with good loop and got turn and bounce for a first day gabbatoir wicket. It’s more a matter of whether he has the ability to go through a side which is the question mark.

The dark cloud over Test cricket remains the issue of bad light. Cricket, particularly the five-day version, has always been about varying conditions and taking advantage of when you have the better of them. The toss of the coin is an obvious example.

Particularly with floodlights at most major grounds, it’s time to review the light rule and make it so unless there’s a heavy storm, play will go on. Spectators deserve as much. Some players will win, some players will lose. Some will whinge. That’s cricket.

A really interesting series is evolving here. Day two awaits.

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