Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Zealand v Pakistan, Second Test, Basin Reserve, 16 January 2011 (second day)

A pleasant if pedestrian day finished with Pakistan 222 runs behind New Zealand with eight wickets standing.

It was Daniel Vettori's day. First, he scored a century that took his team to a respectable total, then bowled a tight bowling spell that culminated in a wicket at the end of the day; he might have had two more. He fielded splendidly too.

What's more, he took it upon himself to act as the human manifestation of Reece Young's conscience throughout their 138-run partnership for the seventh wicket. Young played with great resolve, but occasionally strayed into temptation and essayed a cross-batted swish, whereupon Vettori would advance from the non-striker's end to deliver a brief lecture, presumably along the lines of “do as I say, not as I do”, as he continued to wander across the stumps, premeditate shots and generally irritate the bowlers by sending the ball to unlikely corners of the ground. I have written before about how much Vettori reminds me of Alan Knott when he is batting well.

Young could not be sheltered from harm forever, and became another victim of the flay outside the off stump, as irresistable to New Zealand batsmen as Cleopatra was to the Caesars.

Southee and Arnel did not last long, and it fell to Chris Martin to support Vettori to his century. The cheer that erupted as Martin survived the last ball of an Abdur Rehman over when Vettori was on 99 was as loud as that which greeted the captain's century.

Martin is not (quite) as bad a batsman as some say. As he demonstrated here, he leaves the ball quite efficiently, and plays reasonably straight, albeit only coincidentally on the line of the ball. Also, I had the pleasure of reporting on his highest first-class score, 25 in Gisborne a decade ago, so have always known the heights he is truly capable of reaching:

Vettori's sixth Test century again raises the question of where in the order he should bat. I have advocated that he should be at six, but when he was eventually promoted he suffered his worst run of batting form for some years. Just as Adam Gilchrist became the game's most best-ever batsman-keeper from No 7, perhaps Vettori is better rescuing the innings at No 8.

After the loss of Mohammed Hafeez (incorrectly given out caught behind; the case for the decision referral system is overwhelming), Taufeeq Umar and Azhar Ali settled in comfortably against New Zealand's affable medium-fast attack. Martin was the most economical of them, Southee asked most questions. Only when Vettori brought himself on in the 26th over did the scoring rate drop below three an over. In his first over he had Taufeeq Umar caught behind off an inside edge at the fourth attempt by a juggling Young, but the appeal was half-hearted and the batsman survived. Later, Franklin was in a few metres too far to get under a skyer from Azhar Ali.

On the face of it the pitch is too batsman friendly, but criticism should be reserved. Both attacks are under-powered, and the home team's propensity to fold like an origami expert could make it look silly. But rain is forecast for the last two days, so a draw looks the most likely result.

The gale was stronger than ever this morning. The umpires abandoned their Panamas in favour of caps, but the wind would not be thwarted, and twice Rod Tucker pursued his cap and his dignity across the outfield. He was forced to resort to yesterday's method of grasping the peak firmly between thumb and forefinger, which gave him the appearance of an enthusiastic, permanently saluting boy scout.

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