Vettori calls for significant improvement
Daniel Vettori has experienced a strong sense of déjà vu over the past five days. A first-innings team failure, an admirable but futile second-innings fight and a heavy reliance on the lower-order batting have been recurring features of New Zealand's Test play over the past few years. But despite being bundled out for 157 and being made to follow-on, Vettori is not convinced bolstering the batting for the second Test in Hamilton would make any difference.
"I think it needs a run-scoring extra batsman," Vettori said when asked if the team needed another specialist. "It's all well and good to pick someone. Most of our runs came from Brendon [McCullum] and myself, so if we brought another batsman in it would just push us down. Whether that is the right answer or not, I'm not sure."
He has a point. Apart from the 83 from Tim McIntosh in the second innings, there weren't many contributions of note from the top five in the ten-wicket defeat. Peter Ingram will be under pressure to hold his place after making 5 and 1, BJ Watling's second-day golden duck was followed by an unconvincing 33, and Ross Taylor and Martin Guptill made middling contributions without really having an impact.
New Zealand will choose their squad for the second Test on Wednesday and it is unclear if the balance of the side will be altered. Batting at No. 6, Vettori made 46 and 77 while McCullum scored 24 and 104, but it is first-innings runs that New Zealand need to find.
However, a strong bowling line-up is just as important for a team that took only five wickets for the match. "We obviously need to lift a lot, particularly our first-innings efforts," Vettori said. "We fought hard in that second innings but we need to show more penetration with the ball in that first innings and then stand up a bit more with the bat.
"It's been a trait of ours, particularly at the Basin, to get bowled out cheaply in the first innings and then fight pretty hard in the second. We can't afford to do that. We can't afford to be on the back foot at any stage against Australia in Hamilton."
The challenge is replicating the effort that New Zealand displayed on the weather-affected fourth day, when they lost only one wicket and pushed themselves into a strong position to save the match. The same fight could not be repeated on the fifth morning and they lost their last four wickets for 19 runs, allowing Australia a comfortable chase of 106.
"The fourth day was obviously our best day of the Test match," Vettori said. "It's something that we need to replicate over the whole five days to give ourselves a chance against Australia. Unfortunately we weren't able to build that pressure for long enough. After what we did yesterday it was a little bit disappointing to front up today and lose quick wickets. We wanted to bat for a long period of time but that's the nature of the game."
The key wicket was that of McCullum, who began the day on 94 and required only three balls to bring up his fifth Test century. In the fourth over McCullum edged to slip and was disappointed not to go on and bat New Zealand into a better position.
"I was pleased with how I was able to adjust my game from the way I played in the first innings and to try and give us an opportunity to put a partnership on with Dan and then Daryl [Tuffey] as well," McCullum said. "Against a very good team it rates as my best Test century. But when you lose a game it doesn't quite have the same feeling."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo