Need to stick with our top order - McCullum
The Test has started to slip away from New Zealand but Brendon McCullum hopes that at least their inexperienced line-up has learnt from the series so far. Things started to go wrong when New Zealand added only eight runs in the morning for the loss of their last four wickets and a score of 270 was insufficient at a venue where first-innings totals are often double that.
McCullum's own batting effort was uncharacteristically restrained - he said his approach had changed since moving back down to No. 7 - and he was the first to depart when he edged behind off Brett Lee for 30 off 101 deliveries. The finish came quickly and Daniel Vettori was stranded on 18.
"Whilst we haven't got the sort of strength at the bottom of the order to lose 4 for 8 at any stage on a flat wicket is very disappointing," McCullum said. "I was disappointed myself to get out so early at the start of the day. It was a missed opportunity that Dan and I could have got some sort of momentum early on."
The final three batsmen added a sum total of 2 and the long tail is beginning to be an issue for New Zealand. It would be less of a problem if the top order was posting big scores but after only Ross Taylor registered a half-century at the Gabba, Aaron Redmond was the only man to do so in Adelaide. But McCullum said it was important not to expect too much from men like Jesse Ryder, Daniel Flynn, Peter Fulton and Redmond, all of whom have played fewer than ten Tests.
"The guys in our top six, if we can continue with guys for a period of time and get 10, 20, 30 Tests into our top order then it gives us our best opportunity," McCullum said. "These guys are the best players in the country, there's no doubting that, and with experience hopefully you'll be able to see some better results from all of us.
"You're trying to look at guys like Ricky Ponting, Sachin Tendulkar and Michael Hussey. At some point in their careers they had to start off as well. That's the one bit of confidence that hopefully we're trying to glean from a series like this."
They were given a demonstration in Test batting by Hussey, who was the silent partner in his 106-run stand with Ponting. Hussey gradually increased his tempo and finished the day unbeaten on 69 from 178 deliveries.
"I thought the way he played today was pretty much the perfect innings," McCullum said of Hussey. "It was something we can take a lot of knowledge out of and hopefully add a bit of experience to our inexperienced line-up."
Hussey said he found the innings tough work but rarely was he seriously troubled on a pitch whose bite was as dangerous as that of a chihuahua. Seam and swing bowling is usually a thankless task at Adelaide so Vettori became the main weapon and Australia handled him well; his 28 overs for 54 were cost-effective but he could only squeeze out one wicket.
"Dan bowled really well, he's a class bowler," McCullum said. "He's been our best bowler for a long time now. It would be nice if he was able to bowl from well in front in the game rather than constantly having to mix between the defensive tack just to make sure that we limit the damage."
The only breakthrough that came from the seamers occurred when Ponting pulled Iain O'Brien to midwicket and was well snared by Peter Fulton. Ponting exchanged words with the New Zealanders but McCullum said it was simply a matter of being happy to see the end of a hugely dangerous innings.
"I didn't really hear too much," he said. "I was a bit further away from the back at that point. But I guess the excitement from our lads at getting such a class player out as well - three wickets throughout the whole day for us - it's one of the few times you could savour."
Australia finished the day at 3 for 241 and while McCullum conceded New Zealand were "behind the eight-ball", he hoped their spirits would remain high. "You've always got to be positive," he said. "Whilst we're a long way behind in the game at the moment you've still got to have that confidence and positiveness within your unit or you might as well not even roll up tomorrow."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo