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The Light Roller

New Zealand are monsters. Here's proof

Our correspondent goes behind the scenes to find dirt, and dirt he does find

Alan Gardner
Alan Gardner
"We've got to do better. Third Test and we haven't had a proper kerfuffle in the series yet"  •  Getty Images

"We've got to do better. Third Test and we haven't had a proper kerfuffle in the series yet"  •  Getty Images

Just when we thought we were out, they pull us back in… The Light Roller wasn't alone in wondering recently about the lack of chirpz in Australia-India encounters, and the current tour had certainly got off to an unpromising start amid debutants being welcomed with "Go well youngster" rather than a mouthful of gravel. Post-IPL bonhomie was being slathered thicker than sunscreen.
Sure, Justin Langer briefly threatened to short circuit over India's savvy use of the concussion-sub rule during a T20I in Canberra, but the spray aimed at match referee David Boon looked from afar barely more than his daughters are used to when playing UNO.
Then we reached the final day in Sydney, with the Test series still on the line, and sure enough things started to get a little frisky. Out came the smack talk and the goading. The gabby greens had rediscovered their inner mongrel, and boy, was the little fella ready for a good long spell of yapping. India, backs against the wall, weren't going to know what hit them in the face of a good old Aussie barrage led by enforcer-in-chief (checks notes)… Tim Paine?
In the immortal words of these godless times: "What is this I don't even"
Honestly, it was better the other way. This is why nobody calls him Tim "Bring the" Paine. Not even ironically. The least likely heel turn in cricket history - particularly given the Australia captain's track record on mental-disintegration tactics - was also one of the most short-lived, as Paine could afterwards barely contain his own embarrassment over what we might kindly term jejune attempts at sledging R Ashwin.
The karma police certainly weren't impressed, issuing a dropped catch spot fine moments later. Presumably Cricket Australia also swiftly arranged for Paine to attend some sessions at the Ernie Jones Memorial Indoor Quipping School to rehabilitate his banter.
Even the on-field skulduggery was tepid, betraying just how out of practice Australia have become. Rather in the manner of Captain Renault from Casablanca, Langer declared himself shocked - shocked! - that Steve Smith was being accused of deliberately trying to scuff up Rishabh Pant's guard. And to be honest, we hope this is genuine, because why would you go to the bother of trying to sabotage something most batsmen mark afresh every time they face up anyway?
Let's not get into Matthew Wade's am-dram turn at short leg, which would have earned a rebuke for overacting from the director of Neighbours. The only things less effective than these various schemes were Australia's bowling and fielding, as they managed three wickets to go with four dropped catches on the final day.
Clearly there is a lot of work to do in order to bring back the glory days. The Ashes are less than a year away, and at this rate, the entire Australian team will end up being out-sledged by James Anderson in their own backyard. That might be enough to make Langer kick over a bin and not pick up the contents.


Heart-warming news from New Zealand, where Kane Williamson's side have provided conclusive proof that nice guys can finish first! (Although they get relegated to the support act in semi-humorous monthly cricket columns because, y'know, clicks. Sorry, Kane. You just can't get the readership these days.)
But don't get it twisted - the world's No. 1 Test side have that unmistakable bit of steel about them. In order to prove as much, the Light Roller has been travelling around the land of the long white cloud in a second-hand camper van to root out some of the hitherto unknown excesses engaged in by the squad after yet another politely insistent (emphasis on the polite) display of excellence against Pakistan.
Kane Williamson: Returned home to life as a new father but forgot to buy formula on the way. Later fell asleep on the couch, thus welshing on nappy-changing duties.
Ross Taylor: Reportedly once put recyclable material in with his regular trash. Has been approached for comment.
Henry Nicholls: Gave a four-star rating to his Uber driver in Christchurch - despite the impeccable service - after being mistaken for former England wicketkeeper Geraint Jones.
Kyle Jamieson: Inconvenienced a couple sat in the row behind him at an Auckland cinema. Witnesses said the skyscraping allrounder "could have slid down in his seat a bit further", although conceded leg room was also at a premium.
Tim Southee: Regularly drinks milk straight from the carton.
Trent Boult: Used a family member's login to watch Soul on Disney+. Doesn't intend to pay for a subscription.
Neil Wagner: Much praised habit of running through brick walls for the cause has led to significant repair bill at his local gym.
Rumours that New Zealand are no longer world cricket's most-welcoming hosts and "frequently hand out brutal thrashings" to tourists are being looked into.

Alan Gardner is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick