November 12, 2001

Not all doom and gloom in rain-frustrated first Test

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Frustration with the rain, admiration for Chris Cairns' approach, a welcome return from Brett Lee and the slight possibility of some remarkable Australian cricket still producing a result were offered in newspaper assessment of the fourth day of the first Test.

The Sydney Morning Herald: "Things were just getting interesting at the Gabba yesterday when the dominant player of the first Test blew in for another spell and ruined everything.

"Some time today, the weather should be declared the winner.

"Australia start the final day an improbable 15 wickets short of victory. The first five of them must fall before New Zealand score the further 101 runs required to avoid the follow-on and effectively kill the contest, a weighty task in itself given the positive manner in which Chris Cairns and Nathan Astle were batting when a storm arrived after 50.2 overs had been bowled on day four.

"Before any of the above can happen, it must first stop raining. Miracles aside, Australia are about to draw a Test match for the first time in 26 months.

"Yesterday was at least more rewarding than the previous two. The highlights were a wonderful opening spell from Jason Gillespie, Brett Lee bowling better than he had all series in England, and more cricket being played than on Friday and Saturday combined, when 132.2 overs were lost to the weather."

SMH on Cairns: "In the past this lofty all-rounder has been inhibited by his responsibilities. Ever since he first put on pads the expectations have been high because he was a natural. For years they weighed him down. By way of self-preservation he adopted a happy-go-lucky outlook, an approach that hid inner fears. He had the frame of a big man and the abilities of a top class player but not the state of mind needed to let them loose. Complications in his background did not help. Always he seemed to be searching for stability.

"Inevitably the Australians sensed vulnerability and called his bluff. It took Cairns a long time to come to terms with his talent. He needed to settle before he could release his gift. Whenever the screws were turned he retreated or else put on a show of bluster. Not until these teams met in New Zealand a couple of years ago did Cairns start turning the tables. Suddenly the Australians were confronted by a forthright cricketer bent upon wickets and boundaries."

The Daily Telegraph: "Australia will press the pedal to the floor in an attempt to nail the Kiwis beneath the follow-on, 100 away.

"The wicket is still yielding seam and bounce and will be fresh this morning after the ground was lashed last night by rain as hard as many locals had seen.

"At 7pm last night the covered wicket block was surrounded by 20m puddles fuelled by rain so heavy it looked as if the world was ending.

"Australia's run of 12 successive Test wins on home soil and 23 matches without a draw is likely to end today."

The Australian: "With more than 10 hours of play lost over the past three days in Brisbane, it will take something spectacular, even by Australia's high standards, to claim a victory and continue a sequence of 23 successive results - 20 wins and three losses.

"New Zealand will resume its first innings on 5-186, needing exactly 100 runs to avoid the follow-on to ensure no chance of Australian success.

"But with 105 overs available on an extended day and the weather forecast finally declared fine, the world's best Test team believes it is capable of claiming the necessary 15 wickets.

"Certainly pace bowler Brett Lee, who made an encouraging if not triumphant return to Test cricket in Australia yesterday, is seriously entertaining the prospect.

"A naturally exciting player, Lee was bowling when the most exhilarating moment of a frustrating day look place - but it was all down to Ricky Ponting's fielding.

"In his first ball of the match, Lee delivered short and wide - a scenario seen too often on a personally poor Ashes tour - and Mathew Sinclair, on three, threw his bat wildly at the ball in the hope of some cheap runs when previously there had been none.

"Ponting, charging in panther-like at point, dived instinctively to his left and took the ball with both hands as he twisted in the air.

"There may be another five Tests to play this summer, but Classic Catches has surely already been decided."

The New Zealand Herald: "Entering the fray after [Craig] McMillan had been caught at the wicket off the excited Brett Lee; [Chris] Cairns looked comfortable against the express pace and was quickly into his stride, picking up 10 runs off six Lee deliveries.

"He then turned his attention to [Shane] Warne, striking him for two of the sweetest off-drives as he and Astle carried the attack to the Australians, together adding 39 runs in 7.1 overs.

"While the lost time and the mixed overall performance in Brisbane will frustrate New Zealand, the return of Cairns in such form will be of no small delight, as he rates as one of the most influential players in the world and arguably the best all-rounder.

"As far as the tourists are concerned, he is effectively worth two players, which is why their line-up struggled so badly for balance when he was out of action."