November 11, 2001

Gillespie fires out Kiwi top order in superb display

New Zealand's top order batting frailties were exposed again by Australian Jason Gillespie on another rain-affected at the Gabba in Brisbane today.

New Zealand batted for 222 minutes on the day before storms forced the abandonment just after the afternoon session drinks break with the visitors 5/186, still 101 runs from avoiding the follow on.

But that should prove academic now with only one more day's play left.

New Zealand had hoped that the combination of Mark Richardson and Matthew Bell would provide some long sought solidity at the top of the order for this Test series.

However, they hadn't had the best of preparation in the lead up to the series, and while Richardson looked to offer some hope before being trapped leg before wicket by Gillespie for 26 runs, Bell was undone by a superb ball which flew from the edge of his bat to Ricky Ponting at third slip.

Captain Stephen Fleming got an absolute first ball pearler from Gillespie. There was nothing he could do to avoid getting an edge to wicket-keeper Adam Gilchrist and departing for a duck.

Since scoring 91 in his first Test in Australia in 1997/98, Fleming's Test scores in Australia read 0, 10, 4, 0, 0, 0. He's too good a batsman for that to continue but he must be wondering where his next run is coming from.

It was Gillespie's first exposure to the New Zealand batsmen and he made the most of it, bowling with good pace, great line and occasional sideways movement off the pitch which left no margin for error.

It was an outstanding demonstration of why he is rated so highly and threatened to completely undo the New Zealanders.

Sinclair battled for 61 minutes and 43 balls against Gillespie and Glenn McGrath but having seen them off he succumbed to the first ball bowled on the day by Brett Lee. The ball was wide outside off stump and Sinclair unleashed a huge drive and the ball looked to be flying to the boundary behind point. However, he gave the ball just enough air for a diving Ricky Ponting to fly to his left and snare the ball superbly to send Sinclair on his way for three.

New Zealand were 4/55.

The temptation to chase the new bowler was too much and Sinclair undid himself when a little more patience may have seen him win greater reward for his perserverance.

It was left to Nathan Astle and Craig McMillan to withstand the hovering vultures in the Australian attack. And they did by virtue of sensible batting, taking the short singles when they were on offer, punishing loose balls and growing in confidence as their stand developed.

They went to lunch at 4/115. They played themselves back in after the break and were starting to bat positively when a faster ball from Lee undid McMillan who edged to first slip where Shane Warne made no mistake.

The pair added 92 runs with McMillan out for 45.

Any thought that Chris Cairns might be forced to contain himself were dispelled from the first ball he faced which was hurled to long on for three runs. And in the short time until the rains came, he never let up.

His 25 runs were scored off 25 balls, including some lovely cover drives.

Throughout it all, Astle played a fine anchor role. Statistically it is his best Test innings in Australia. And at 51 not out, he needs another 11 for his best score in all Tests against Australia.

His 50 was scored off 116 balls and took 175 minutes, but he handled all the short balls the Australians threw at him, and in many ways it was one of the more responsible innings he has played for New Zealand.

Warne had reason to be disappointed in the weather. He was shaping as a formidable force in favourable conditions with the Australians going into the day knowing that if they could enforce the follow on they would have around 210 overs to bowl at the New Zealanders in the two days.

He was gaining appreciable turn and bounce, although Cairns was embroiled in a fascinating battle with the leg-spinner when the rains came.

There may not be much hanging on tomorrow's play, especially if there is more rain around, but a lengthy resumption of the Cairns assault and Astle's continued defiance will be huge bonuses for the Kiwis from the game.