Consistent Katich chases bigger scores
Simon Katich is nothing if not consistent. The 88 that he scored on the first day in Hamilton continued a summer of very good scores for Katich without a big century; six times he has been out from 79 to 99 and once he sneaked to 100 before he was dismissed.
Without his contribution at Seddon Park, Australia's disappointing opening day could have been disastrous. Concentration was required from the batsmen on a surface without much pace, but Shane Watson, Michael Clarke and Brad Haddin were all undone by their desire to attack while Ricky Ponting committed himself to an aggressive run that he couldn't make.
Katich's application got him through the new ball and allowed him to tick the score over at a reasonable rate without taking risks and it was an approach that his team-mates could have copied. However, he defended his colleagues who were caught going hard at the bowling and said impressive New Zealand bowling and the difficult pitch played a part.
"It was probably a little bit slower than the one in Wellington," Katich said. "I think it was probably more the fact that New Zealand stuck to their game plans, shut things down as long as they could. A couple of wickets fell to balls stopping in the wicket so hopefully we can use that to our advantage when we bowl. As the game goes on it'll be interesting to see if the pitch deteriorates or whether it gets better."
Most of Katich's runs came before the 41st over, when the umpires changed the ball, and he said the new one swung more and was harder to handle. Four wickets each to Tim Southee, who found some impressive shape, and Daniel Vettori, restricted Australia to 231 and it was well below what they had expected to post when Ponting won the toss.
"There wasn't a huge amount of spin in the wicket but there was enough variation and pace and bounce," Katich said of Vettori. "He used it to his advantage, he always uses the breeze well. His captaincy was excellent, he kept changing things around, short spells for the bowlers and different plans for our batsmen."
Katich was one of the Vettori victims, caught at silly point while walking across and trying to clip the ball to leg. He hasn't scored a first-innings century since the opening Test of the Ashes in Cardiff and is keen to produce a match-winning hundred sooner rather than later.
"Today was one of those things," he said. "I was looking to get to tea and unfortunately I made an error of judgment and paid the price. The disappointing thing throughout the summer is not so much getting out in the 90s, but not going on when I felt set, getting a big hundred. Once you get a hundred you're still going to be disappointed to get out for 110. It's more about not converting those starts into big hundreds which is probably more of a frustration."
His annoyance at himself eased when Doug Bollinger struck in the first over of New Zealand's innings and the hosts realised that their own batting effort would be tough going. There were no more breakthroughs but at 19 for 1, New Zealand hadn't quite made the start they had hoped for and Katich was confident Australia could turn things around on the second day.
"The key for us tomorrow is to be patient," he said. "We got one wicket. It would have been nice to get one or two more. Hopefully in the morning we'll be able to come out with that new ball and still do some more damage. The Kiwis were patient and kept chipping away at us and it worked. We're going to have to do a bit of that ourselves."
Brydon Coverdale is a staff writer at Cricinfo