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December 13, 2011

Australia v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Hobart

Shocking result? Not really

Michael Jeh
New Zealand celebrate their first Test win in Australia in 26 years, Australia v New Zealand, 2nd Test, Hobart, 4th day, December 12 2011
The Hobart pitch was probably the closest thing New Zealand would find to local conditions at home  © AFP
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Let's get this Hobart Test into perspective then; I don't see it as quite the surprise and quite the train smash that a lot of other Australian writers think it is.

It's not such a bad thing for Australian cricket because now there's a genuine sense of competition and hopefully that will translate into a renewed interest in the longer format. Having said that, I hear that the Test was poorly patronised in ground attendance terms but my gut feeling is that it was widely followed on TV, on the radio and via the internet. I'd like to think Australian cricket fans (as opposed to fans of the Australian cricket team) realise now that every Test match is a genuine contest and well worth taking an interest in.

It's not that much of a surprise because if NZ were going to play well at any ground in Australia, it was likely to be on this greenish Hobart deck with conditions ideally suited to swing bowling too. It is probably the closest thing they would find to local conditions in NZ, with the ball nipping around off the seam and swinging in the air. It's the sort of pitch that suited their scrappy, battling, brave style of cricket, especially against an Australian batting order that refuses to bat in any other way other than to hit the ball on the up and away from the body. On good, hard decks, that works a treat. This was a pitch that required a bit of old-fashioned grafting - whilst Australia were still unlikely losers, it wasn't that much of a shock was it?

New Zealand played smart cricket and most importantly, they held their catches in the slips. Both Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill were excellent in the field and that was probably the difference. Had they shelled any of those catches in either innings, that might have been the difference. They expected the Australian batsmen to try to hit through the ball instead of treating it like the green seamer it was and when the chances came, predictably from players like Phillip Hughes and Brad Haddin, they grasped them. For their part, the Australian batsmen kept throwing hard hands at the ball and looked dismayed when it ended predictably, in tears. Again, where's the surprise in that?

What is of more concern to Team Australia is the issue of how they get their batsmen into any sort of Test match nick before Boxing Day. Perhaps it's just a timing issue or a cluttered calendar or a slight under-estimation of New Zealand's appetite for a battle but from a preparation point of view, the Big Bash League could not have come at a worse time. How do you get batsmen to practice leaving the outswinger alone or not playing across the line when you're in constant Twenty20 mode? It would take an exceptional player to be able to switch from Twenty20 mentality back to Test match style and I'm not sure if any of the players in the gunsights are that exceptional. Well, their form isn't that exceptional anyway.

The bright spots on the horizon are worth celebrating too. James Pattinson and David Warner have both given us enough to be optimistic about. Let's not forget though that Hughes too started off with centuries early in his Test career and he's now the subject of intense technical scrutiny. For a domestic system that lauds itself as being the best in the world, one has to wonder how Hughes' apparent technical shortcomings were not exploited by Sheffield Shield bowlers. How can he score so prolifically in Shield cricket if his faults were that obvious? I'm of the opinion that Hughes is just one swashbuckling innings away from redemption, so long as he reverts to that style of play. He will never be a Katich-style grafter so we might as well move on from that era and accept that he scores in different zones and can self-combust more spectacularly too. The kid scored a Test century just a few months ago in Sri Lanka and came close to another one a month ago in South Africa. Likewise Michael Hussey, who carried the batting in Sri Lanka - he'll come good again. Haddin is the one who probably needs to be looked at because he seems to getting out in the same way without peeling off a big score to warrant the risks he's taking to drive on the up through cover and mid-off.

For an fogey like me who has no interest in the BLL circus with pensioners masquerading as stars, I'm looking forward to the real cricket starting again in Melbourne on Boxing Day. India too have their old men turning out but these guys are deadly serious. Sachin Tendulkar, VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid against the young fast bowlers like Peter Siddle and Pattinson... worth waiting for. All New Zealand have done is to remind us that this Australian team is vulnerable. Very vulnerable. And that's good for cricket.

Michael Jeh is an Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, and a Playing Member of the MCC. He lives in Brisbane

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Posted by Kylia on (December 23, 2011, 13:32 GMT)

At last, smoenoe comes up with the "right" answer!

Posted by Pat GJ on (December 19, 2011, 7:22 GMT)

Great article. Your observation on the way the batsman are playing (on the up, away from their body) is spot on. It is easy to blame this on T20, ODI cricket, etc., which may have some merit, but to me the issue is more fundamental. It would appear that the mindset "to be positive and play your shots", cascaded through all ranks of cricket in Australia does not come without its downfalls. Sure, it is great to follow this mindset when you are batting on flat decks all the time, but it's a different story on a green top. In testing conditions, while it can pay dividends sometimes to keep the same old mantra (Michael Clarke's 150 in the 1st test in SA while all the others struggled was quite something), it can equally have disasterous consequences ([insert Australia's recent double digit innings vs. PAK, ENG, SA here]). Grafting an innings is a test of your character requiring patience, courage and determination. Just hope the "new school" coaches today aren't forgetting to teach this

Posted by buzz on (December 15, 2011, 4:26 GMT)

Parts of this article I disagree with as a Blackcaps fan....there is a misconception that NZ pitches are all seaming greentops which is simply not true...most of our wickets are very similiar to aus pitches..bouncy, fast and a little movement....I hate how everyone is saying nz played out of our skins in hobart....we bowled well no doubt...Bracewells spell was superb....but we batted poorly-Aussie just batted worse-7 runs worse...Looking foward to when our top order clicks and shows the class which they didnt show in oz....

Posted by Paul on (December 15, 2011, 2:46 GMT)

As mike said, coulda looked different if Katich had been on the team in Hobart.

Posted by Iron Kingdom on (December 14, 2011, 18:09 GMT)

Australia are the most watchable team in the world right now, Pakistan have lost their crown! Any thing can happen at any time..... both to them or the opposition...are they going to come good? are there still champions still in the team, are the young guns going to amaze? who will be dropped? why keep with so and so! hell I could go on and on forever and still wouldn't know any of the answers until the end of each game.... up too the last ball even! Should be a major TV drama series instead of test matches.

Posted by john on (December 14, 2011, 14:59 GMT)

Very good article Nz wickets nothing like Hobart Aussies have always struggled on seaming wickets and the swinging ball.Hobart was supposed to suit aussie pace attack but they bowled too short whereas Bracewell was more patient and bowled a consistent line and length as would hae McGrath if he had been there Look at Bracewells for the match 9wicketsfor 60 runs.If nz had held their catches and Clarke had been out on 23 that result could have been alot closer at Brisbane .Now that Warne isnt here to bowl on the last day the wickets may have to be a lot greener to assist your pace attack

Posted by Michael Jeh on (December 14, 2011, 10:36 GMT)

Justin, interesting conclusion you draw from this article. It was never intended to come across like that but you obviously read it that way. Chip on shoulder mentality springs immediately to mind but I'll banish the thought. A chip on both shoulders would provide good balance! There's a job in politics beckoning if you become really good at twisting words and adding your own spin.

Posted by Ali Jaddy on (December 14, 2011, 8:57 GMT)

Nicely written Michael! As a die hard fan of the traditional type of cricket (meaning test matches) I could not agree more! Of all the comments, Siva's are the most pertinent. If, Zaheer, God forbid, lets India down again in the middle of the match with an injury or something and leaving them with three bowlers, I am going to SCREAM! And wish that the selectors do not let him anywhere around an Indian team in the future.

Posted by Rajesh on (December 14, 2011, 8:04 GMT)

As much as the Aussies seem vulnerable, they are playing India at home. With Zaheer not having match practise the load will be between Ishant Yadav and Aaron , which looks to be a bit thin. Ashwin may enjoy the hard bouncy pitches, as he is a Kumble like bowler, but that is that. Kumble became venomous over the years and with experience. On that count its early days for Ashwin. AS bad as their current form might be, I believe Ponting and Hussey will come good in this series. Warner is in the Sehwag mould. Clarke more often than not clicks against India if not with the bat , with ball. And unlike the Indian tail, the Aussies pack a sting and a bite in theirs ..so its going to be tough going for India

Posted by Robert on (December 14, 2011, 8:02 GMT)

What do you expect if the Aussie crowd is given the chance to nominate the man of the match? Do you think that the Aussies will agree to indian crowd nominating the man of the match for matches played in India. Bracewell was robbed. CA are a bunch of idiots to think that the Aussie crowd would be fair. Take the case of Murali.After all the jeering and bad comments, by the Aussies the Aussies want him to coach.Ha Ha Ha

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Jeh
Born in Colombo, educated at Oxford and now living in Brisbane, Michael Jeh (Fox) is a cricket lover with a global perspective on the game. An Oxford Blue who played first-class cricket, he is a Playing Member of the MCC and still plays grade cricket. Michael now works closely with elite athletes, and is passionate about youth intervention programmes. He still chases his boyhood dream of running a wildlife safari operation called Barefoot in Africa.

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