Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Preview, 1st Test, Australia versus New Zealand, GABBA, Brisbane

In any normal circumstances, if you were to suggest that Australia might lose the 1st Test of the season at the fortress Brisbane. You would logically get strange stares, as if you were a schoolboy, who had grown a beard. Taking it a step further and suggesting those chirpy birds from across the Tasman, the New Zealanders were a chance to win......

Well expect a knock on you door, and a few burly men on the other side about to strap you into a strait jacket



Saving you from this fate, is the fact that Australia is a shadow of its former self, and then missing crucial men from its line up in Shane Watson and Ryan Harris. Adding to the absence of these stars is a very adequate support crew of young up and comers in Shaun Marsh and firebrand Pat Cummins also being unavailable Leaving the side lacking most of its class against a Team that always lifts against them.


Lets look at this test in greater detail


The Pitch


We have been hearing all week that the GABBA pitch might be a 'greentop', but this has little credibility. After the same reports prior to the Ashes Test of last year, where we saw match figure of 1365/22.


So, any talk of a 'greentop' seems a bit far fetched, and though we can expect the pitch to not be the disgraceful 'road' that it was last year. It will more than likely revert back to a traditional GABBA pitch, that is an excellent surface for all types of players, who are Test calibre


Australia


Likely Team


Due to the injuries to incumbent Test players, this will be one of the most inexperienced and unproven line up that Australia has put out for years. It will not only feature a new opening partnership at the top in David Warner and Phil Hughes, but a bowling line up that could feature as many as 3 debutantes. There has been talk of including an all pace attack, but on the recent scutterbug from the Aussie camp, it seems sense has prevailed, and a spinner will be included. Leaving the only query being a choice between the local quick in Ben Cutting or Mitchell Starc. Understanding the Australians desire for a left armer in its bowling line up, it seems Starc will get the nod. Leaving this as the likely line up


David Warner, Phil Hughes, Usman Khawaja, Ricky Ponting, Michael Clarke, Mike Hussey, Brad Haddin, Peter Siddle, James Pattinson, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon


The Keys for Australia to Win


The biggest issue for the Aussies will be how they are able to overcome the loses of key men in their line up. This in the knowledge that it leaves the side with a very inexperienced and unproven look about it, and whereas you can get away with this in the shorter forms of the game. In Test Cricket, this leaves a Team that is in a rebuilding stage in a very fragile state and there for the taking.


I say this supported by a bowling attack that has a combined 30 Tests and 94 wickets. Led by Peter Siddle, who has averaged 45.22 with 9 wickets in his 4 Tests in 2011. It will contain two new boys in the line up, and a huge burden will fall on them if Siddle continues with his recent struggles. People will point to the success of Pat Cummins in his debut as a ray of hope for the new boys, but with all respect to all three of the potential debutantes. They aren't a phenomenon of the calibre of the lightning quick Pat Cummins.


The best chance of success for the bowling unit is to adhere to the basics of bowling line and length. In the knowledge, that the Kiwi batting line up is full of precocious talent, but so undermined by a lack of temperament in the Test arena. So if the Aussies keep it simple with the ball in hand, their job will more than likely be made easier by some typical Kiwi flashy ODI get out shots.


If they cannot provide this pressure on the batsmen, and struggle with the demands of Test cricket and its associated pressures. Then the Kiwi batsmen are all symbolised by their flashy attacking styles, and are good enough to maul them in the sincerest manner


Away from the concerns of the bowling, the batting is hardly a source of belief either. The injury to Shane Watson means that a new opening partnership of David Warner and Phil Hughes will appear in this match. A partnership that pits two players with real question marks over them together. Firstly in Phil Hughes regard, a player with a technique as loose as a weight watchers girdle, and so easy to exploit in Test Cricket. Then, Warner who I believe will adapt and duly dismiss his unfair T20 specialist tag by being a fine player in Test Cricket, but here in his debut game on a pitch that might suit bowlers. It would be a surprise to see him excel.


If they fail, it exposes Usman Khawaja at three, who is still trying to establish himself in the Test arena, and a vastly diminished Ricky Ponting, who has averaged 24.25 in 2011.


So the burden will fall heavily on both Michael Clarke and Mike Hussey to carry the batting. Also heaping the pressure on these two outside of a bone chine fragile top 4 is the concerns still over Brad Haddin's batting at 7. Then in the absence of Mitchell Johnson, who has contributed valuable runs at number 8 of late. It leave the Team having a very long tail.


Ultimately, if the Team pulls off a victory here, it will be a huge surprise with them looking to avert defeat here, and then retool with some key men for the 2nd Test, and a full on assault on the tourists


New Zealand (Kiwis)


Likely Team


The Kiwis in comparison to the Aussies have a relatively settled line up with few questions over who will be in the team. The biggest interest in the Team will be the performance of the young fast bowling all rounder in Doug Bracewell. Who has been labelled by his Captain Ross Taylor as having the potential to be one of the best all rounders in the game

Martin Guptill, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Ross Taylor (capt), Jesse Ryder, Dean Brownlie, Daniel Vettori, Reece Young (wk), Doug Bracewell, Tim Southee, Chris Martin.

The Keys for New Zealand to Win

In looking at the Kiwi's chances, most would point to the ability of their bowling line up to get 20 wickets. I would usually be in agreeance of this, but aiding their cause is the relative fragility of the Aussie line up allowing the bowling unit to feel confident against it. If Tim Southee can unfurl his lethal outswingers, and be supported by the big hearted Chris Martin and the precocious Doug Bracewell. Then you can see them reaping havoc with the new ball.

Which, duly will allow the excellent Dan Vettori to bowl his left arm spin in an attacking manner with wickets as his goal. Rather than the bane of his cricketing career having to bowl as a run saver in an attempt to stop the bleeding due to inadequate pace attacks.

In my mind, the key to the Kiwis having a chance of an upset win will be there batting. Which looking at on paper has a real appeal about it, but when you delve into the histories of most of the top 6. The thing you discover, that undermines them constantly in Test Cricket is the lack of temperament. They get on top of the bowling, and have a huge score at their mercy, but then inexplicably play a flash get out shot that makes you fume.

If they can marry a bit of discretion into their natural attacking instincts they should enjoy this very undermanned Aussie attack.

A key in the success of their batting will be the resolute Kane Williamson at three. Who is an old time Test player, that plays risk free batting, that grinds bowling attacks into the turf. Allowing the host of stroke players to excel around him.

Prediction

In my mind Australia are there for the taking in this game, but are the Kiwis good enough, and possessing enough Test calibre to take a golden chance?

I think yes, due to their cause being greatly assisted by the inexperience and fragility in the Aussie line up.

Meaning a shock win for New Zealand


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