Today’s New Zealand collapse came in the first hour, while the churches were still open to pray for them. Six wickets were lost for 49 runs in 13 overs.
Doug Bollinger was the main destroyer, with five for 28, his best test figures. Vettori and McCullum were both out playing attacking shots. It’s the way both play, and people love it when it works, but today the situation demanded more circumspection. Guptill got the ball of the morning from Bollinger, one that lifted and left him to be caught behind for a fine against-type 122-ball 30.
Daryl Tuffey’s dismissal best illustrated the disparity between the two sides in attitude and ambition. He pushed a ball into the offside and set off for a single, which he regarded as safe. He didn’t run at full speed and failed to extend the bat into the crease as he neared the other end. Nathan Hauritz at cover saw not a safe run, but a wicket-taking opportunity. He swooped on the ball and threw down the stumps, running Tuffey out by a couple of centimetres.
Inept use of the referral technology finished the innings. Tim Southee attempted to hit the cover off a ball from Mitch Johnson (a reasonable approach with Chris Martin at the other end). The Australians appealed for caught behind and umpire Ian Gould concurred. Southee asked for a referral. Endless replays from all angles and Hotspot were scrutinised by third umpire Aleem Dar (they were shown on the big screen too, a commendable change of policy which probably won’t last when it reveals the official to be blundering, as it did here). It soon became clear that:
i. there was air between the edge of the bat and the ball and
ii. there was no sign of contact on Hotspot.
Yet the decision was confirmed, apparently because of a rogue noise which sounded like an edge. Aleem Dar is agreed to be one of the best umpires in the world on the field of play which, on this evidence, is where he should stay.
The referral system also confirmed the first wicket of New Zealand’s second innings (the follow-on was enforced) with Watling out lbw to Bollinger for the second time in the game. The decision was correct, but reached only after interminable viewings of the evidence by Aleem Dar, whose preference appeared to be to adjourn proceedings for a day or two. The good news for home supporters was that the wicket fell with the score on 70, the most resolute opening partnership we have seen for some time.
Progress during the afternoon session was sedate, the run rate hovering around two an over, but nobody seemed to mind. The enthusiasts were engrossed in some good, tight test cricket, while the rest enjoyed a balmy afternoon in the sun.
Tim McIntosh was playing his finest test innings. He reached his 50 from 167 balls, but no criticism about slow scoring was merited today. New Zealand needed crease occupancy, and that is what he provided. His confidence and scoring rate improved after tea. He took ten from three balls from Johnson in the over before he was out, an inside edge onto the pad taken by Katich at short leg off Hauritz. McIntosh was disappointed to be out for 83, but he has secured his place in the test team for some time to come.
The day finished with New Zealand 115 behind with five wickets remaining. Not even the Wellington weather, a doughty and consistent performer over the years, can save them.