Ross Taylor on alert for extra bouncers
Ross Taylor is preparing for a short-pitched attack from Australia's fast men when the first Test kicks off at the Basin Reserve on Friday. The practice wickets out in the middle have provided sharp bounce and pace, and as the Wellington wind began to howl on Wednesday the prospect of facing a bowler of Mitchell Johnson's speed with help from a gale loomed as a tough challenge.
Adding to the difficulty for New Zealand is the inexperience of their top three - Tim McIntosh has played 11 Tests, BJ Watling two and Peter Ingram one. The New Zealanders have called on the expertise of Martin Crowe to help them get ready and Taylor said he had already provided plenty of advice.
"It's about getting forward until getting pushed back, because Australia in the past can come at us hard and bowl a lot of short deliveries and put pressure on us that way," Taylor said. "Martin has been good for me, I've enjoyed working with him and I think the other guys have taken a lot from him as well.
"Any Australian side likes to use their bouncers and if the practice wickets are anything to go by the wicket will have a bit of bounce - and true bounce at that. We're expecting that, but not only that. Quite often you play the short ball okay but it's what actually comes after the short ball so we've got to be ready."
There is no question that Johnson will bowl with the wind, presumably as first change after Doug Bollinger begins. But the Australians will need to decide which of the uncapped Ryan Harris or Clint McKay, who has played one Test, will join the attack and take on the workhorse role into the breeze or gale. However, Harris has a sore side and is in doubt, with Peter George called in as cover from South Australia.
Johnson enjoyed a good one-day series after beginning with a heated head-clash with Scott Styris, while Bollinger's limited-overs form was poor. Harris and McKay have been productive in their short-form appearances but stepping up to the five-day game is a major challenge.
Taylor said the key for New Zealand was to bat for time and force the bowlers to stay in the field as long as possible. "They've been pretty good, they've used Mitchell Johnson as an attacking weapon and quite often when he's come back he's picked up a wicket and then Ricky has taken him off," he said. "He's going to be a big factor for them and he's bowled very well over the last 18 months.
"Bollinger had a very good Test series over there against Pakistan and West Indies and Harris is yet to make his Test debut. Hopefully we can negate them and take them into four or five sessions and see how they are after being out on the park with that wind blowing around all day."
To get primed for that task, New Zealand's batsmen have been training for longer than usual - up to four hours - and batting sessions out in the middle have been interrupted by drinks breaks and other intervals to simulate a real day's Test cricket. It was hard work for the fast men on Wednesday as the wind whistled across the Basin Reserve, but New Zealand's bowling coach Shane Jurgensen believes it will be even more difficult for the Australians, who are not used to the conditions.
"The wind is a critical factor," Jurgensen said. "It's difficult to adjust. It's about the bowler himself being as balanced as possible as they run in. There's a lot of positives about bowling into the wind - the ball will swing and it's just a matter of trying to create that consistency. It does gust, it's not a consistent wind. One minute it's quiet and the next minute it hurls through."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo