Tough calls for desperate Vettori
At the end of the third day's play, with New Zealand 70 for 3 and facing the daunting task of chasing down the fourth highest fourth-innings score, Daniel Vettori was a confident man. Shortly after New Zealand were bowled out for 263 during the second session on day four to lose the Test, Vettori's tone was far more terse as he turned the heat up on his batsmen following another poor display.
"It's pretty simple. It smacks us straight in the face that that first-innings batting performance put us in the position that we are in," he said. "To bowl a team out for roughly 250 in both innings was a fantastic achievement but we couldn't back it up with the bat. That has been our problem for a long time. We're searching for ways to address it but not getting it right."
"There was no excuse for our first-innings performance," he said. "It can't be explained and you can't apologise for it. It was devastating for our bowlers to do so well and then to only bat for 36 overs. In my mind I have to balance not being too scathing with trying to give these guys some confidence going in to a deciding Test match. There's no point getting down because if you get another chance, you have to take it."
A volley of possible reasons for a recurring theme were thrown up to Vettori at another monotone post-match press conference. Was it a confidence issue? Was it just a simple lack of self belief? Or was it a matter of technical shortcoming with the batsmen?
"It's probably all of those," he said. "Guys have fought their way back into the team with strong first-class performances so they should be in a good space about their form, and others have got some Test-match performances under their belt ... but I think if we could pinpoint it that would make a huge difference. At the moment, of our top six Ross Taylor is the only one who is stepping up and leading."
As a selector, Vettori must now sit down with his fellow decision makers this evening and take some tough calls before the third and final Test in Napier next week. Tim McIntosh, who came into the series with some good first-class form, continued a disappointing trend of failing to get a start. He has scored 37 runs in four innings, including a first-ball dismissal in the first innings of the first Test. Martin Guptill has twice been dismissed in the first over of an innings and averages 18.75. Daniel Flynn, seen at one stage as a long-term candidate for No. 3, has 57 runs in four innings. Grant Elliott, taking Jacob Oram's spot at No. 6, has not inspired much confidence either.
"A couple guys are going to come under severe scrutiny ... and that's only right," said Vettori. "That is the nature of Test cricket. You get some chances but not too many. Some of the guys are going to have some tough news but there are three other selectors to consult on that. The team will be out either tonight or tomorrow morning."
Napier has a reputation of being a flat batting track, and there is a chance that a few players will be given another shot to try and bat their way into form and confidence. "This was a pretty good deck too, so if you couldn't score on this then it's frustrating," said Vettori. "Particularly for the guys at the early stages of their Test careers, maybe that will weigh in their favour."
Vettori said he would have to sit down with his fellow selectors before he could name possible replacements for a shaky middle order, but confirmed that bar Taylor, "the top six would be scrutinised". Pressed to name individuals, Vettori singled out those in form in the four-day Plunket Shield - Craig Cumming, BJ Watling, and Neil Broom - and said that "anyone scoring runs would be considered".