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Match Analysis

Head's need to curb impetuosity mounts in Wade's presence

Travis Head did the hard work in Perth, but then threw away an opportunity for much more

Travis Head is Australia's second-highest run-scorer since his Test debut last October, sandwiched between the golden duo of Marnus Labuschagne and Steven Smith. He has a Test average of 42.45 and passes fifty once in every three innings. And yet he has not nailed down his spot.
Given the prolific nature of Australia's top order this season, it was a stop-start beginning to Head's Test summer after he earned a recall following his omission from the final Ashes encounter. Against Pakistan in Brisbane he skipped to 24 before getting strangled down the leg side off Haris Sohail's gentle left-arm spin. Then Adelaide was one of the great TFC (thanks for coming) performances: Head did not bat, bowl or take a catch. "I actually felt I fielded alright - no fumbles," he joked before heading to Perth to face New Zealand.
However, in the first innings at Perth Stadium, late on the opening day, Australia really needed him. Tim Southee was hooping the new pink ball and had just brought one back at Matthew Wade to take the off stump. There was half an hour left under lights which was a window for New Zealand to make considerable inroads.
Crucially, Head made it through, managing to bring out a couple of strong cover drives late in the day, and the reward was to resume in hot, sunny conditions on the second afternoon with a position to consolidate against a New Zealand attack that had a bowler down due to Lockie Ferguson's injury.
With a sweep off Mitchell Santner he went to his half-century off 86 balls. Australia were beyond the 300 mark as the temperature nudged 40C. Neil Wagner's superhuman nine-over spell had just ended and there was a game to take by the scruff of the neck.
Then Head drove at Southee and gave a catch to the man placed exactly for the shot at short cover. Head threw his head back, knowing a chance that had slipped through his fingers. The value of the innings should not be underestimated given it began under lights but there was the opportunity for much more.
Commentating for channel Seven, Ricky Ponting gave a harsh verdict on the dismissal. "He's got to eliminate these mistakes," Ponting said. "[New Zealand have] got a very straight field set. They've actually set him up for that. They've got a straight catching cover, a very straight extra cover - that's the exact dismissal that they're looking at. He can stand there and hit that as hard as he likes, he's not going to get any runs for that actual shot. He's not going to pierce that field.
"If he takes a bit off that hit and just pushes it squarer out to the deep-point guy, he gets a single and he gets off strike without taking any risk. He's just got to think it through that little bit more.
"It's one thing to be positive, it's one thing to score quickly. Sometimes you just have to look at the game, look at how the opposition are trying to get you out, sometimes you pull your ego back in as a result of that. He's just let another great opportunity go."
Only three times in 24 innings has Head failed to reach double figures. It's a very basic line to draw, but you can just about equate that with having played yourself in. Having fought valiantly against an outstanding India attack last season he rounded out the summer with 161 against Sri Lanka in Canberra (when Australia had been 3 for 28 on the opening day) and then contributed 86 runs across two innings in the opening Ashes victory at Edgbaston.
That was followed by an unbeaten 42 in the second innings at Lord's when England threatened a final-day heist before the returns tailed off at Headingley and Old Trafford - as England's quicks homed in on the front pad - leaving him the man who made way for Mitchell Marsh when the balance of the side was changed at The Oval.
But Langer is a huge admirer of Head's work and, after a tricky start to the Sheffield Shield season, a century against a strong New South Wales attack went a long way towards cementing his recall even though he was involved in the Australia A collapse against Pakistan.
There has already been a suggestion that Australia may want a different balance to their side for the final Test at the SCG - on a surface once again offering help to spinners - although the injuries to Marsh (punching a dressing-room wall) and the highly-rated Cameron Green (back stress fracture) limit the pace-bowling allrounder options. However, using Ashton Agar as a spin-bowling allrounder is not beyond the realms, and if not now then certainly in Bangladesh next year.
In such a change, the player to make it to the side would be Head or Wade. Head earned the points decision here after doing what Wade couldn't - getting through the first evening - but he had the chance to guarantee his name was up for discussion. He'll have more opportunities, but can't keep wasting them.

Andrew McGlashan is a deputy editor at ESPNcricinfo