November 9, 2001

Australian batting class revealed as Kiwis sink

Australia demonstrated what everyone knew when turning back New Zealand's first day-last session challenge in the first Test on a rain interrupted second day at the Gabba in Brisbane.

Only 134 minutes of play were possible as drizzle drifted across the grounds several times. But that was sufficient for Adam Gilchrist (88 not out) and Brett Lee (60 not out) to put Australia firmly in control of this match at 7/435.

The depth of batting talent in the side serves it on occasions such as New Zealand managed to achieve on the first evening when claiming six wickets.

And while they picked up a seventh, Shane Warne, early on the second morning, caught at gully by Mathew Sinclair from Chris Cairns' bowling, that was to be their only success on a frustrating day.

Instead, they had to take a back seat and watch as the world champion home team demonstrated why they are such a quality side, when able to extricate themselves from the trickiest positions.

Gilchrist was outstanding and ended the day in sight of his fourth Test century.

The bald facts of his innings were that he had faced 123 balls but since passing his 50 in 86 balls, he has been scoring at a run a ball as he led the New Zealand bowlers a merry dance. He's hit 13 fours and one six.

Already gone in the record-breaking department is his previous highest score against New Zealand of 75 while he and Lee have achieved a record eighth wicket partnership for Australia against New Zealand of 133 runs. They rubbed Kerry O'Keefe and Gary Gilmour's 1976/77 stand of 93 at Eden Park out of the books.

What was especially frustrating for the New Zealanders was the run rate of 5.05 the pair achieved.

Lee, in his 13th Test, looked like he had realised the rare chance available to do something about moving into the all-rounder category. He's three runs short of achieving his highest score and made light of the attack in reaching his half century off 69 balls, with seven fours and a six.

While the ineffectual bowling made life easier for the batsmen, they still had to contend with the frustration caused by the breaks for the rain. But rather than let it get on top of their concentration, they decided to put the pressure back on the bowlers, who were already having to cope with a ball dampened by the wet outfield.

Despite that, however, there was much to admire in the sheer nature of Gilchrist's attack.

He battled during the early part of the day, but once finding his equilibrium there was no stopping him. While he warmed up with some traditionally hefty pull shots, seemingly fed up to him as part of a regular diet, especially by Dion Nash, he soon flowed into a series of drives and sweetly-timed late cut shots.

The New Zealanders were to find fielding positions to halt the onslaught. The innovative field placings of last night were not reproduced and the plans in force against the middle-order did not seem to have been worked out for Gilchrist and Lee.

It may have been that the bowlers were unable to bowl with the required control, and certainly their efforts did not have the same thought about them.

It is little wonder that Lee enjoyed a batting average of 21.75 going into the Test.

Cairns came in for some punishment, especially from Lee, who at one stage rocked onto his back foot and cut a ball over the third man boundary for a superbly-timed six. In the same over he unleashed a fierce pull shot to the mid-wicket boundary to bring up his half century.

It is tough for Cairns, straight back from injury and already being used as the team's work horse, moreso after left-armer Shayne O'Connor was taken to hospital for a precautionary x-ray on his knee after lunch. Off 31 overs Cairns has three for 123.

The moisture on the ball always meant it was going to be difficult for Daniel Vettori to bowl effectively and his figures of none for 65 from 13.4 overs tell their own story.

Craig McMillan was also brought back to reality after climbing the heady heights on the first evening and he ended with three for 47 from his 12 overs.

Nash has been too inconsistent. He bowled some tremendous deliveries, akin to those when at the peak of his career, but they were too often interspersed with balls short and wide of the required mark.

The pain is not over for the Kiwis and they could still find themselves up against it for an hour or two on the third day with its extended hours. Play will start at 9.30am tomorrow.