Need at least 300 to compete - Vettori
Daniel Vettori, the New Zealand captain, has told his batsmen they must produce a first-innings total of at least 300 to compete with Australia, but the side's output may depend on who wins the toss on Thursday. Wet weather in Brisbane means the pitch will suit the fast bowlers and there was a feeling around the Gabba that only more of the predicted rain could make the game last five days.
New Zealand carry an inexperienced squad, particularly in the batting order, and Vettori has called on the top six to make heavy contributions. "It's something we've been crying out for, for a long, long time," Vettori said. "Trying to get our top six past the 300-mark, unless you do that, you have no chance against Australia. It's asking a lot from inexperienced guys, but I think we have the talent to do it."
Jesse Ryder, the No. 3, has appeared in only two Tests while Ross Taylor (10), Daniel Flynn (5), Jamie How (14) and Aaron Redmond (5) are the other relative newcomers in an order that relies on the experience of Brendon McCullum. The wicketkeeper, who is fighting a foot injury, is a veteran by New Zealand's standards after playing his first game in 2004.
With a line-up tinged with as much green as the pitch, Vettori was trying not to let his team be swept up in the belief that the contest relied on the coin. "It's a difficult one because I want to keep the toss to myself and not influence the other guys, and put all your eggs into one basket," he said. "If we don't win the toss the game's over - a lot of teams can get into that mindset all over the world."
Vettori said if the pitch remained green he would look to bowl, but if Australia decided to field he wanted his team to fight through the first day. "If we can get through those two to two-and-a-half sessions you do give yourselves a chance," Vettori said. "At the Gabba, watching over the years, if you can bat into the second day you have a chance. I don't want to put too much emphasis on the toss, but we all understand it's going to be important."
A pitch that helps New Zealand's seam bowlers should bring the teams closer together, but Vettori remained wary of Australia being ranked first and his side seventh. "They're always the thoughts when teams enter a game when the wicket is not a traditional flat wicket, that it may bring another side more into play," he said. "We're hoping we can compete no matter the conditions. With the rain and nature of the wicket, if you win the toss and bowl, make some early inroads, it can make a huge difference to your fortunes throughout the game."
The Gabba is Matthew Hayden's home ground and he felt it was like an old-fashioned Sheffield Shield pitch. "It's going to be spicy, there's no doubt about that," he said. After two months in India Hayden said the surfaces had gone from "the Hume Highway to the backyard pitch".
While Ricky Ponting and Vettori spoke in depth about the toss, Hayden was not concerned about whether he would have to bat first on Thursday. "It will be hard no matter what," he said. "It's often harder here on the second or third day when it starts to quicken up, you get committed to the line and it still seams. It will seam around all game."
New Zealand have been engaged for two Tests, the same number as on their previous tour in 2004-05, and Vettori hoped the contest could be expanded in the future. "We have to acknowledge we're a smaller-market side," he said. "We'd love to have a three-Test series against Australia, it's the biggest series for our public back home, and it's going to be the series that enables us to get better quicker. But we also know our place in world cricket."
Peter English is the Australasia editor of Cricinfo