The importance of being Gilchrist
Had he been a cricket writer, Oscar Wilde's novel The Importance of Being Earnest might have been renamed The Importance of Being Gilchrist. He may not possess Wilde's poetic ability but even the great playwright could not deny Adam Gilchrist's ability on the cricketing stage.
Glenn McGrath has shown in this match why he is a living legend but, leaving the immortal Sir Donald Bradman on his rightful pedestal, it is hard to imagine there ever being a more important cricketer than Adam Gilchrist. To put his achievements into Trans-Tasman perspective, if he was a New Zealander, his 14 Test centuries would be second to Martin Crowe's 17.
From 201 for 6, Gilchrist, batting at No.8 after Jason Gillespie was used as a night watchman, guided his team through to 413 and away from danger with a blistering 121 from 126 balls. Before Gilchrist's arrival Simon Katich had given Australia some momentum with a gritty display of attack and defence; after it he proved the perfect foil.
If he was a rugby player Katich would be dubbed a utility. Since his Test debut at Leeds in 2001 he's been both in and out of the side and up and down the batting order. In Sri Lanka he lost his place to Andrew Symonds for two Tests, and in India he was given Ricky Ponting's No. 3 spot before being dumped again for Darren Lehmann.
Katich's effort today was symbolic of why Australia continues to be so successful. Players given a start take their chances and standards never drop. Gilchrist saw little strike for a period after the second new ball was taken and Katich responded with a flurry of boundaries to move rapidly from 68 to his second Test century. The 86 he scored from 20 fours and one six reflected Katich's expertise at punishing anything wayward and exceeded Gilchrist's 84.
Had he fallen cheaply his side would have been in deep trouble but Gilchrist amazed again. Two early sixes in one Daniel Vettori over made it clear to all that Gilchrist's natural game would prevail over the match situation. The pickets were peppered further when Stephen Fleming reintroduced the pace trio of Chris Martin, James Franklin and Iain O'Brien and it was left to Vettori and Nathan Astle to perform a rescue act.
Vettori recovered to outfox Gilchrist and wrap up the tail. His arm ball, especially, was spot on, leading to numerous leg-before shouts and the dismissal of Gillespie. Vettori's analysis of 40.2-13-106-5 continued his outstanding form against Australia: six of his 12 five-wicket bags have been in trans-Tasman Tests.
The challenge for New Zealand is to bat Australia out of the game, something they've had little success with since John Bracewell became coach. Excluding a stroll-in-the-park victory in Bangladesh in October, when they batted third, New Zealand have avoided losing only once from seven attempts - way back in December 2003 against Pakistan.
The 212-run partnership between Katich and Gilchrist was four short of Australia's record for the seventh wicket against New Zealand, which was made at the same ground in February 1977 by Doug Walters and Gary Gilmour. Perhaps it was appropriate that the record was not broken for the final 80 runs of the Walters-Gilmour stand were made after the pair celebrated Walters' century the day before by drinking well into the night. Although New Zealand could do with a similar effort in these professional times, it's unlikely they'll adopt the same preparation.