Mental toughness key for New Zealand batsmen - Taylor
The Bellerive pitch was so green it almost had branches growing off it on Thursday, so it was only appropriate that Ross Taylor was keen to talk about leaves. Specifically, he was frustrated at New Zealand's lack of them at the Gabba.
Of the 20 wickets New Zealand lost in Brisbane, 17 were caught. Of the three that weren't, Daniel Vettori was run out and Ross Taylor played on to a wide ball from James Pattinson. The only man who could claim to have fallen to a ball that threatened his stumps was Chris Martin, the worst batsman in Test cricket, who was bowled by Nathan Lyon in the first innings.
The Australians bowled well, especially the debutant fast man James Pattinson, who swung the ball away at pace, but the high rate of dismissals to wider balls was a damning indictment on New Zealand's batsmen. Where was their Test match tenacity? Where was their willingness to respect the good balls and put away the bad?
It is a matter of mental toughness and wise judgment. It has been a major focus of their training over the past four days.
"As a batting unit we need to be able to leave outside the off stump and let them bowl at us because a lot of the deliveries the Australians did bowl weren't even hitting the stumps when they got us out, me included," Taylor said. "We play a lot of cricket now and the mental side of the game is the biggest part we need to [improve]."
There won't be any changes to the batting order in Hobart, but further failures over the next week will give the selectors, John Wright and Kim Littlejohn, some questions to answer. There is a month and a half before New Zealand's next Test, a one-off game against Zimbabwe in Napier, but looming in March is a much tougher three-Test series against South Africa.
Since Wright took over as coach, New Zealand have played four Tests. In that time, their only centurions have been Daniel Vettori and Martin Guptill, while Brendon McCullum has averaged 27.12 as an opener, Jesse Ryder hasn't scored a half-century and averages 13.50, and the captain, Taylor, has four fifties but no centuries.
Taylor was especially disappointed with his efforts in Brisbane. After his needless drive at a wide Pattinson ball in the first innings, he tickled a catch behind first ball in the second, to register his first duck in a Test career of 59 innings, the equal third-longest such stretch by any player in Test history.
"Any captain would want to lead from the front and I'm no different," Taylor said. "A poor shot just before lunch in the first innings and a nervous poke in the second innings - it's disappointing to get out those ways but you've got to try and put those to the side. You never like getting out but you've just got to get out there, front up and get through the first 20 or 30 balls. Hopefully it will get a lot easier from there."
Not that Taylor can expect batting to be easy over the first couple of days in Hobart. The New Zealanders were greeted on Thursday by a hessian-covered pitch with green edges poking out, and whichever captain wins the toss on Friday morning will have a difficult decision to make.
"The overhead conditions are the biggest part I think," Taylor said. "Here in Tassie this year and the past couple of years it's probably played a lot lower and slower, talking to their players and the groundsman. It's been pretty hard on day three, three and a half in a four-day game so a Test match day five will be even tougher. We have to see what overhead conditions come but I wouldn't rule out doing either [batting or fielding]."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo