Sunday, December 11, 2011

So, two days, 169 to get, ten wickets in hand

In the absence of solid rain I guess you'd be looking at a cakewalk.

Taking 7/87 in the two and a half hours before lunch, of course, set things up nicely, starting with Ponting's second sljp snare that removed Kane Williamson from the equation. At four for with Brownlie in early on a day that looked like the ball was going to continue to do things you'd have been fairly upbeat, but I find it difficult come up with any description other than threw it away after watching the Black Caps' tail fold.

In a situation that literally sreamed for occupying the crease, grabbing any runs that were there and turning the runs required/remaining time quotient as much in your favour as you can manage, the batting from the lower order after Pattinson removed Taylor and Brownlie suggested that we were somewhere around lunch time on Day Four rather than Day Three, another hundred runs to the good and the key factor was getting Australia back at the batting crease ASAP.

Overall, I thought Australia bowled well in a situation that involved drying up of the run rate and picking up chances as and when they arrived.

Under the old regime this would have involved working back of a length and waiting for a mistake, but the keep it pitched up and look for the nicks policy came good, Starc's bouncer unsettled Brownlie and Lyon rolled up the tail as the Kiwis did their best to co-operate by seeking out Hussey at deep long on.

This Australianattack is still a work in progress, but at least it's a work that's progressing towards a target. Siddle is actually getting the ball to swing, Pattinson will hopefully be around for a long time, Lyon looks the best finger spin option we've had in a long time, Starc looks a viable option to Johnson and Bollinger and we've got a number of contenders on the sidelines waiting for their go.

So we're looking good in that department.

When it comes to the batting, it's a matter of looking at the way we pad out the bowling order, and where we go from there.

There's an obvious need for a batting all-rounder, and Watson's the walk-up starter in that role, with Daniel Christian as the fallback and Mitchell Marsh as an emerging possibility for the same role.

It's not beyond the realms of possibility to see the three of them in the same side on the subcontinent, with Pattinson or Cummins as the specialist quick and two specialist spinners and part time tweaking from Clarke and Warner. In that sort of line up you'd have Marsh or Christian at Eight, the keeper at Seven and t'other one at Six.

But that's getting a bit ahead of things.

First up it's a matter of sorting out what happens with Watto, where he fits into the batting order, how much he bowls and whether he needs cover.

Hughes has looked better second time around, but he's no good thing for Melbourne, regardless of how many he scores this time around.

On a game by game basis a hundred to Hughes might save his spot, but the same questions are going to be asked, and somewhere down the track they're going to be asked by an attack that's a bit more penetrative than the tradesman-like Kiwis. At that point we'll be playing someone in the upper echelons of the Test rankings and it's going to count.

So there's the message to Messrs Ponting and Hussey. We're heading for Number Three in the Test rankings. That's going to involve beating at least one out of England, India and South Africa, and we need to do that both at home and away.

Seriously, gents, how long do you see yourself fitting into that long-term picture? Time for a press conference in Hobart and another somewhere around Perth at the very latest.

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