Australia are confident Shane Watson will return for the second Test in Hamilton, which would mean the axe for Phillip Hughes despite his final-day blitz at the Basin Reserve. Hughes raced to an unbeaten 86 from 75 deliveries, dominating Australia's successful chase of 106, but will probably have to wait for his eighth Test after the team's physio Alex Kountouris rated Watson a "better than even-money bet" to play at Seddon Park from Saturday.
It was only Watson's hip injury that allowed Hughes to come in for the first Test and he impressed the captain Ricky Ponting by giving Australia a bright start in the first innings and then guiding the chase. Hughes had not passed fifty in a Test since he struck two centuries in Durban last year and Ponting said he could take plenty away from his performance in Wellington.
"Every opportunity and every bit of exposure he gets is going to be good for him in the long run," Ponting said. "He's just such an exciting player. When he gets in that frame of mind there when the ball's in his area, it's going to go. If he keeps getting off to starts like that in Test cricket, it really sets up games. I'll encourage him to keep playing that way.
"Someone like Virender Sehwag is a fairly similar Test match opener to what Hughesy is. Being that sort of player you will have your ups and downs but when you are up you win games and you give your side a good chance to win games."
The success of the No. 6 Marcus North, who entered the match under pressure and made an unbeaten century, means Hughes and Watson cannot fit into one side this week. Just as important as Watson's batting is his role as a fourth fast bowler, which could be more relevant than usual when the next team is selected.
Both teams have only three days between Tests and the fast men will be particularly exhausted after spending four consecutive days, totalling 787 minutes, in the field. It was especially difficult for the debutant Ryan Harris, who toiled into the harsh Wellington wind for most of his 41 overs, having played no other first-class cricket since early December, when he took part in his only Sheffield Shield match of the season.
"He's definitely feeling the pinch, as is Dougie [Bollinger]," Ponting said. "Mitch [Johnson's] workload over the last couple of years has been exceptional anyway, the way he's managed to get through and keep presenting in a really good shape. We have to manage them really well in the next couple of days.
"[Watson] just gives us so much better balance in our side, the fact that you can throw the ball to him and he can get his 10 or 15 overs out per innings. Every team in the world is after someone who bats in the top six and can bowl like he does. He has shown since he has been in our side just how important he is, so hopefully we'll get him back. If we do it means the bowlers won't have to do as much next week."
It was the fast bowlers who ran through New Zealand's lower order on the fifth morning and ensured a small target of 106 for Australia. Harris began with the key wicket of Brendon McCullum and collected two more, before Johnson finished the innings by bowling Chris Martin.
The result justified Ponting's decision to enforce the follow-on for the second time this summer, a call that began to look a little questionable on the fourth day when McCullum and Daniel Vettori put together a frustrating partnership of 126. However, Ponting said at no stage did he regret declaring so early or bowling again, as the unpredictable Wellington conditions meant he had little choice.
"The declaration had a lot to do with what I knew about the weather coming," he said. "We could have batted on and got 600 or whatever we wanted to, but by doing that and losing the majority of the day yesterday, it would have been touch and go whether we would have got a result in the game. For me and the Australian cricket team it's all about giving ourselves the best chance of winning.
"We've done it really well. I'm happy the way the bowlers have stuck at it the last couple of days. We've been in the field for four consecutive days, so they're all a little bit tired and sore in the rooms and we'll give them a couple of days off and make sure they're in as good a shape as they can be for the start of the next one."