McCullum rues poor shot selection
New Zealand's batsmen are rightly cursing their shot selection after giving up the first five wickets of the innings with a flurry of poor choices. However, batsman Brendon McCullum believes the visitors are on course to reach a total that will stretch Australia's youthful top order.
McCullum creamed three boundaries from the debutant James Pattinson in the first over of the series, but later cut unwisely to point soon after drinks to expose the middle order to swing and spin. He was frank about the batsmen's failings, but retained hope of a fruitful Test match given the Gabba's potential for rushes of wickets.
"There are some very disappointed batsmen, myself included, all of us are pretty upset to pass up an opportunity to score some big runs on a challenging pitch against a very good team," McCullum said. "When you pass up those opportunities it always disappoints you. But can't stress enough it wasn't so much the deliveries themselves but more-so the build-up of pressure.
"When you see a ball that's not one of the better ones you try to dominate and that's where we came unstuck a little bit. Of more importance is we lost wickets before drinks, before lunch then straight after lunch. We pride ourselves on playing hard cricket during those times and today we let ourselves down before and after breaks.
"That first hour at the Gabba is always going to be the most challenging, and to get through that, to get to drinks and start after drinks and get out in the fashion I did, just before the spinner came on and I thought that would've been an opportunity to put pressure on with one wicket down. The timing of when I got out after putting in that hard work was hugely disappointing."
Grateful to Dean Brownlie and Daniel Vettori for a sturdy sixth wicket stand, McCullum pointed to David Warner, Phillip Hughes and Usman Khawaja, Australia's developmental top three, as an opportunity for early wickets if a total of 280 or more can be raised on day two.
"We still think we're not far away from putting up a competitive total, and if we can eke out a good two hours tomorrow morning then we put ourselves in a position where we're relatively comfortable with where we're at and have something to bowl at," McCullum said. "Hopefully we can expose some inexperience in the Australian top order as well, and try to utilise the scoreboard pressure we might create by batting first.
"Three hundred is competitive, 280's competitive, it's not like every other cricket ground, it is one of those things where if we do hit the right areas, any team can easily have a session where you run through six or seven wickets if you get it right, so we've just got to keep making sure we put ourselves in the strongest position we can."
Though he did not claim McCullum's wicket with a particularly searching delivery, Mitchell Starc had made the opener uncomfortable with earlier offerings, singeing his helmet with one bouncer and cramping his hands with swing and seam into the body.
"I thought I was a bit stiff not to get four leg-byes actually," McCullum said of the bouncer. "I thought he bowled pretty well. In terms of the length he bowled, he was probably the most challenging out of the lot of them. He's left-arm as well, being able to use his angle across you but also [challenging] when he came around the wicket coming from a wider angle as well. He bowled really smart today and got the rewards for it."
New Zealand have only played three other Test matches in 2011, but McCullum denied that had much to do with the batsmen's questionable shot choices. Instead he considered the occasion, against Australia in the first Test of their summer, had affected the visitors.
"We always want to play more Test cricket, but our dismissals today weren't because of our lack of Test cricket," he said. "It was just that we didn't execute the options we took, and pressure sometimes does that, and also the spectacle of playing Australia can sometimes bring that out in you as well. We're slightly behind the eight-ball but we're going okay."
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo