South Africa in New Zealand 2011-12 March 19, 2012

Lack of second-innings tons costing New Zealand

A lack of second-innings centuries is blighting New Zealand's ability to compete for longer periods in Test matches

The capitulation inside three days in Hamilton again highlighted a lack of runs when New Zealand return to bat in the second innings. There could be a number of reasons why this occurs: pitches can deteriorate markedly by the time a second innings starts, batsmen can be weary against fresh bowlers after a long stint in the field, the position of the match can mean quick runs rather than sustained, controlled knocks are required or, put simply, there can be a lack of application.

New Zealand's slumps in the latter part of Tests are dire if the number of second-innings centuries in the last decade are used as a barometer. There have been six in 66 innings. Of those half-dozen tons, none have helped win a Test. To find such a feat it is necessary to go back to New Zealand's victory over Sri Lanka in Colombo in May 1998 when Stephen Fleming made 174 not out and Craig McMillan 142, as part of 444 which brought pressure to bear on Sri Lanka's fourth-innings chase.

New Zealand second innings centuries in the last decade (April 2002 to March 2012)
Player Score Opposition Result Venue Year
Brendon McCullum 225 India Draw Hyderabad 2010
Brendon McCullum 104 Australia Loss Wellington 2010
Ross Taylor 107 India Draw Wellington 2009
Daniel Vettori 140 Sri Lanka Loss Colombo 2009
Jacob Oram 101 England Draw London (Lord's) 2008
Mark Richardson 101 England Loss London (Lord's) 2004

Brendon McCullum's 225, which helped New Zealand save the Test against India in Hyderabad in November 2010, was the last time a New Zealand batsman made a second-innings century. Compare that to the five second-innings centuries scored by New Zealand's opposition in six Tests this summer.

Compounding the problem is a dearth of second-innings centuries by New Zealand batsmen against South Africa across Test history. It is an exclusive club with just one member - John Reid. In 37 Tests against South Africa, there have been 14 centuries but Reid's 142 in the fourth Test of the 1961-62 series is the only time triple-figures came in the second dig.

The current circumstances are not helped by the New Zealand batsmen facing arguably the world's best bowling attack. They are also a batsman down, as they toy with four rather than the more conventional three-seamer Test attack. This theory is sound, provided the batsmen do their job. Kane Williamson went a considerable way to doing his with 77 across four hours and 13 minutes in Hamilton. That innings, combined with Brendon McCullum's dogged efforts at No. 3 and glimpses of form from Ross Taylor and Daniel Vettori in the series, show New Zealand should be able to produce more runs. However, Vettori at No. 6 is more a pragmatic than ideal solution. Bringing in another batsman (or promoting the wicketkeeper up the order) may be more realistic.

While first-innings efforts should always be the focus, extra concentration on defence and occupation of the crease are required for the third test in Wellington. More second-innings centuries would make New Zealand a more credible Test force and give scoreboard attendants a well-deserved breather.

Andrew Alderson is cricket writer at New Zealand's Herald on Sunday

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