Vettori seeks more application from batsmen
Daniel Vettori has ten days to instill a Test mindset into his players after they resembled a misplaced one-day line-up during their 0-2 loss to Australia. The series between the world's No. 1 Test team and the group ranked seventh was as one-sided as could be expected, but both camps now move on to what should be much more closely-fought matches.
New Zealand could not take Australia to a fifth day at the Adelaide Oval having also fizzled out inside four days at the Gabba last week, and the losses mean they have slipped to eighth on the ICC Test rankings. They fell below West Indies, who they take on in a Test series starting in Dunedin on December 11, while Australia will shortly be challenged by the No. 2 team South Africa.
New Zealand will also have a new coach, Andy Moles, for the West Indies games and the immediate task is to convince the top order to take a longer-term approach. The batsmen lacked patience in Brisbane and again in Adelaide their shot selection was flawed as they could not make Australia bat twice, failing to learn from the resolve shown by their opponents, Michael Hussey and Michael Clarke.
On the fourth day at the Adelaide Oval, New Zealand needed to stay firm at the crease. Instead, Aaron Redmond flayed at a wide delivery from the second ball of the day and was caught at point, Jesse Ryder prodded lazily to cover and Ross Taylor nudged a nothing shot back to the bowler Brett Lee. In both matches New Zealand have looked not like a Test team but like a limited-overs side being asked to play for five consecutive days.
"Application is the big key because we all acknowledge that they're pretty talented guys," Vettori said. "The top six are all extremely talented players. We need to find a way to turn that talent into consistency, scoring runs, and in the end it does come down to application."
Part of the problem could lie in the order in which the men are sent out. Ryder at No. 3 and Taylor at No. 4 are naturally attacking players, while the next men in, Peter Fulton and Daniel Flynn, prefer to defend. It is a setup that works best when the openers make consistently strong starts, but the Redmond-Jamie How combination averages 26.64 before the first wicket falls.
A loss by an innings and 62 runs was a disappointing way for John Bracewell to end his tenure as the national coach but Vettori said it was symptomatic of the way the Test side had performed under Bracewell. During Bracewell's five years in charge, the team did not win a Test away from home against anyone but Zimbabwe and Bangladesh.
"That's not anything to do with him," Vettori said. "He's always set up the right plans for us...it's the players who have let him down with this performance and probably a lot of other Test performances under him. We've thrived under him as a one-day team but just haven't managed to put in the same application in our Test match performances."
It was always going to be difficult to turn that around in his final matches at the helm against the world's highest-ranked team. Australia were coming off a frustrating series loss in India, where players like Brett Lee and Brad Haddin had struggled for impact, and captain Ricky Ponting was pleased to see those men return to form ahead of the South Africa Tests. But Ponting said the team needed to keep a win against New Zealand in perspective.
"We've got to be realistic with ourselves," Ponting said. "I think we were that after the Brisbane game as well. We won that Test convincingly by 150 runs but when I spoke to the guys coming into this game I felt there was a lot of room for improvement and I think we've all seen a great deal of improvement from most players in this game.
"We know we have to play at our absolute best if we want to win the series against South Africa and I think the last couple of weeks has been a good step for us. Right through India we were a fair way below our absolute best. We were a bit off our best in Brisbane and we've taken a step closer here."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo