Saturday, February 20, 2016

New Zealand v Australia, First Test, Basin Reserve, Third Day, 14 February 2016

If yesterday’s play was pedestrian, today’s was a pleasant saunter in the sun, fast enough to keep the scenery changing sufficiently to maintain interest. The Basin was perfect: blazing sun, the breeze no more than a rumour. There was even a bushfire on Mt Victoria to make the Australians feel at home.

Voges was last out, for 239, with Australia’s lead 379. Perhaps my judgement of Voges after the second day was a little severe. A test double century—a chanceless one too, the phantom no-ball aside—is always an achievement, even if (to borrow a phrase from Robertson-Glasgow’s Cricket Prints, purchased from the Basin bookstall) he overdid the tranquillity at times. He scored only 26 in the first hour, but once he passed 200—completed in the same way as his century, off a Craig full toss—he became more expansive and hit three sixes. Like Khawaja he could have a significant test career in the afternoon of his playing life. On the other hand, he could retire now with an average of 97 and have his name follow Bradman’s for eternity.

There were four caught-and-bowleds in the innings. I can’t establish whether this is a record, but am sure that I have not seen so many before. Anderson’s to dismiss Lyon was even better than Boult’s against Marsh yesterday. He had to change direction in mid-follow through, a move that necessitated the execution of a half somersault as he scooped up the ball fingers brushing the turf.

New Zealand had to face one over before lunch. Did they consider a lunch watchman? Of course not, but would such a thing be any less illogical than a night watchman? Steve Waugh got it right by banning this pessimistic and fearful notion during his captaincy.

After lunch, Martin Guptill hit three fours to the mid-wicket boundary off Siddle’s first over. As in the first innings, Guptill looked untroubled until he got out. Nathan Lyon gave an exhibition of how an off spinner should bowl on a flat pitch. He was accurate with variations of flight and pace. These induced false shots and running catches to dismiss both Guptill and Latham. The contrast with Craig’s performance was stark.

The fall of Latham brought in McCullum, for the last time at the Basin. We stood to applaud him all the way, the moisture in our eyes sufficient to quench the bushfire. There were a couple of chancy fours, then he was pinned on the back leg by Marsh. Umpire Kettleborough took a long time to raise the finger, apparently as keen as we were to find a loophole in the prosection’s case, but the review showed it to be a sound decision. So we rose again and McCullum acknowledged the ovation. Then he was gone.

The company on the back row of the lower tier of the RA Vance Stand was excellent. If you ever come to the Basin for a test, that’s the place to head for. I particularly enjoyed meeting two Australian visitors. There was Michelle from Sydney; the Basin and Hagley Park are her 36th and 37th test venues as a spectator. When I made reference to Jason Gillespie’s famous double hundred at Chittagong, she said “yes, I was there for that one”.

And there was Max from Wagga Wagga, who recently spent Aus$16,000 of his redundancy money on a copy of the rare 1916 edition of Wisden. He pretty well cleaned out the bookstall at tea time, and I was pleased to give him a lift into town at the end of the day rather than see him risk injury staggering down Kent Terrace with his haul. I was only sorry that my Khandallah correspondent was not present to gain an appreciation that I am really at the lower end of the cricket book collectors’ spectrum.

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