Second-innings wickets will be 'tougher to get' - Hazlewood
For the third straight Basin Reserve Test, Brendon McCullum lost the toss. For the third straight time New Zealand were sent in on a pitch that was expected to offer the fast men some assistance. For the third straight time, they were knocked over inside 60 overs. If that scenario seems like it should favour Australia, it is worth noting that in neither of the previous two instances did New Zealand go on to lose the Test; they won one and drew the other.
To that end, the Australians finished the first day pleased with their performance but wary that there remained plenty of work to come. Hefty second-innings partnerships against both Sri Lanka and India got New Zealand out of their previous Wellington troubles, when the pitch had flattened out and become easier for batting. Josh Hazlewood, who took 4 for 42, forecast harder times in the second innings.
"I think while the ball is new at any stage it's going to do a little bit, once the shine and the hardness of the ball is gone it's quite a good wicket for batting," Hazlewood said. "It didn't turn much and once our ball got older it didn't seam much, so I think it's going to hold together pretty well. The next ten wickets that we need will be quite tough to get."
For the second time in consecutive Test matches, all ten New Zealand wickets fell to catches, as they struggled against deliveries that moved just enough, particularly from Hazlewood and Peter Siddle. Jackson Bird, playing his first Test in two-and-a-half years, could not find the right length and served up too many half-volleys and short balls, but Siddle was typically miserly and built important pressure bowling into the wind.
"It does make a big difference, bowling in partnerships," Hazlewood said. "He's done a great job, not only this Test but throughout his whole career of just drying up one end and building those dots and that pressure which obviously ends in wickets, eventually. He was outstanding again today."
There was perhaps not as much swing as the Australians might have expected in Wellington but the ball did move about off the seam, and Hazlewood showed that he had learnt the lessons of his Ashes tour last year, on which he tried too often for the "miracle ball" instead of letting the conditions help him build pressure.
He was well supported in the field. The coach Darren Lehmann had mentioned in the lead-up to this series that fielding was an area in which Australia needed significant improvement. They did not drop a catch on day one in Wellington and took ten, including a sharp take from Adam Voges at slip, a clever boundary juggle from Usman Khawaja, and most impressively a dive down the leg side from Peter Nevill to an inside edge off Siddle that dismissed Kane Williamson cheaply.
"Not much gets past Nev, he has very high standards and that's right up there with some of the best we've seen from Nev," Hazlewood said. "We've done a lot of work over the last few days especially fine-tuning that catching and ground fielding and I think we saw today that we held on to everything and that makes a massive difference."
The same could not be said of New Zealand. On 18, Steven Smith was put down by Mark Craig in the cordon, and the miss cost New Zealand the opportunity to have Australia wobbling at 43 for 3. Smith went on to make 71 before Craig redeemed himself by snaring a good return catch low to his left.
"Looking back I probably owe the boys 50 runs after putting Smith down at second slip," Craig said. "No one likes dropping catches. It's pretty disappointing personally, but we move forward."
Earlier, Craig had been one of the key reasons that New Zealand had not crumbled for something just over 100. He had come to the crease at 97 for 7 and went on to be his team's highest scorer, finishing unbeaten on 41 and compiling impressive fighting partnerships with Corey Anderson and then Trent Boult.
"You've got to give it to the way those Aussie boys bowled," Craig said. "When they got it in the right areas they showed it was very tough to score. We would have liked a few more runs but the game is nicely advanced now.
"The ball was a bit softer [when I batted] and it didn't do as much as what it was doing early in the day ... I wouldn't say it was seaming massively but once they bowled that slightly fuller length it was doing enough to grab either way, grab both edges. It was definitely doing enough with that newer ball, once they got it full enough."
New Zealand's bowlers also made a strong start and two early wickets from Tim Southee had Australia at 5 for 2, but Smith and Khawaja put on a fighting 126 for the third wicket to put Australia back on top by the end of the day. Still, only the incorrect no-balling of Doug Bracewell in the final over of the afternoon denied New Zealand the chance to have Australia four down at stumps.
"If we managed to get one or two more wickets at the end it probably would have been parity, a pretty even day," Craig said. "After losing the toss and getting put in, we'd take them five or six down any day. One or two more wickets and we'd have been really happy."
Brydon Coverdale is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @brydoncoverdale