Australia v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Adelaide, 3rd day November 30, 2008

'We're way behind now' - O'Brien

Iain O'Brien: "They [dropped catches] take 70 or 80 runs off that, and it's a different scoreboard" © Getty Images

Two dropped catches significantly increased New Zealand's deficit in Adelaide, where they face an enormous challenge to save the Test with two days remaining. On a day when Ross Taylor snared a one-handed blinder at first slip to remove Brett Lee, New Zealand could only wonder how Daniel Flynn and Daniel Vettori put down sitters earlier in the afternoon.

"Ross Taylor's was a beaut wasn't it," the fast bowler Iain O'Brien said with a smile when asked about the team's catching. "They hurt when a guy goes on to bat as positively as he did for as long as he did. You take 70 or 80 runs off that, and it's a different scoreboard."

O'Brien was referring to Flynn's simple opportunity that was grassed at mid-on when Brad Haddin was on 72. The batsman went on to make 169 and Australia's lead of 230 at stumps on the third day could have been much more manageable. Vettori's miss was less costly - he could not hang on to a return chance off Lee - but helped cap off a disappointing day for New Zealand.

Vettori was understandably exhausted after sending down 59.4 overs for the innings, including 30 on the trot on the third day, and O'Brien said it was hard on the captain to expect so much from him. "We came from a Test match a month ago in Chittagong where he basically won the whole match for us," O'Brien said.

"He batted twice and scored 50-plus both innings and bowled a lot of overs and took a lot of wickets. Unfortunately at the moment that's his role. It's tough when bowling from one end is left to one guy and he does it so well, so it's kind of hard to let someone have a go as well."

O'Brien, who ended with the best figures for New Zealand, with 3 for 111, and with series figures of seven wickets at 30.42, is happy with his own form. He was remarkably chirpy after such a tough day in the field but he has thrived on the challenge of playing the world's No. 1 team.

He sent down a string of bouncers to Lee before getting him out - knowing fully well the fire will come back when he bats - and spoke candidly of his day-two chat with Ricky Ponting. O'Brien had Ponting caught at midwicket for 79 and words were exchanged between the pair, but O'Brien said it was "just a bit of on-field humour".

"[What I said] was along the lines of you've missed out there," O'Brien said. "He didn't quite hear me, asked what I'd said, I told him and then he got a bit fiery and a couple of the other boys got a bit fiery and there's nothing in it."

The Australians will have the last laugh if they can wrap up the match on the fourth day after posting 535 - a score that was a batting lesson for New Zealand. "That's the kind of total we should have got first up," O'Brien said. "We're way behind now, but it's a hell of a deck. We've got to bat a long time now to come out of this match."

Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo