We're quite happy with 150 - Brownlie
Rarely in Test cricket is a first-innings score of 150 enough. New Zealand have never won a Test having scored so few batting first. But on a pitch so green that it barely qualified to be called a cut strip, they believed their total was competitive. And by nicking out Phillip Hughes shortly before rain ended the day's play, they boosted their confidence further.
"We felt the pitch was doing quite a bit," the batsman Dean Brownlie said after play. "We feel like we've got the runs on the board and to get the early wicket was excellent. We feel like we're in the game."
Brownlie, who made 56 and was the only New Zealand batsman to pass 20, said the pitch was the hardest surface he had played on, considering the quality of the Australian attack. Four of his colleagues were caught behind the wicket as the ball swung and seamed alarmingly, especially early in the day.
After their disappointing performance in Brisbane, where 17 of the 20 wickets lost during the match were caught, and the majority of those were deliveries that need not have been played, it was a more disciplined effort in Hobart. Jesse Ryder and Ross Taylor were lbw and four men were bowled, although three of those played on.
"You had to have a little bit of luck out there, to hopefully miss the ones that moved, and if they didn't move you've got to make sure you hit it," Brownlie said. "In terms of how we approached it, we wanted to make sure we were accountable for how we batted. I thought we did that. It was tough and some guys edged it, and that's part of cricket. We're quite happy with 150 on the board."
Not that New Zealand's total, the second lowest Test score recorded at Bellerive Oval, worried the Australians. James Pattinson, who collected 5 for 51, said the Australians were happy with how thing stood at the end of the day, despite the loss of Hughes leaving Australia at 1 for 12 in the fifth over of their innings.
"I think 150 on any wicket is pretty under-par," Pattinson said. "I don't think it's enough. But saying that, if they bowl really well you don't know what can happen. We've definitely got the talent in our batting to make a big score. Hopefully the sun comes out tomorrow and they get the covers off pretty early. This wicket does change when they get the sun on the wicket."
Pattinson has experience of grassy Bellerive surfaces, having taken more first-class wickets at the venue than he has at his home ground, the MCG. Asked if he had ever bowled on a greener pitch at the elite level, he said it compared to another Hobart pitch but he hoped it would not break up in the same way later in the game.
"We played a Shield game down here at the start of the year which was green with a lot of grass on it," Pattinson said. "But the wicket today was a lot softer. It was a lot wetter than when we played on it last time. Last time it broke up quite a bit. I think that's probably why he [curator Marcus Pamplin] has done that. He's probably worried about the last couple of days on it, breaking up and balls could roll like they did last time we were here."
If the surface stays together, batting should only become easier as the match wears on. And New Zealand will need to defy history to pull off a remarkable victory. Only twice in the past 100 years have Australia bowled a team out for 150 or less in the first innings and gone on to lose the Test.
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo