That was one of the most complete fielding performnces I’ve seen from a New Zealand side. Ten of the side got their name on the credits, and they played with the kind of energy and enthusiasm that only a young side with a real belief in one another can. I think McCullum’s comments regarding the side not carrying the scars of prior defeats with them are very pertinent here, but that runs into the Australian side too.
Their new players are used to viewing New Zealand as poor relation, but we lift to play Australia, and even in defeat have made them work harder than the side’s respective reputations would suggest.
The two runouts were perhaps the most telling parts of the innings, the captain and vice-captain (and the side’s best players) lost to brilliant ground-fielding, and the pressure created by tight bowling and hungry fielding. There were inches in each instance, the kind created by hours of training and maybe the slightest hint of complacency in the Australians. I could be wrong, but each throw (particularly Broom’s) had a zip to it that suggested Travis Wilson’s efforts as a fielding coach have paid mighty dividends already.
Perhaps the most telling moment came with the first ball of the batting powerplay. Hussey had done everything right to that stage, his 49 from 65 balls the only innings of any consequence in the Australian side’s limp effort, but he benignly hit out to Elliott, thus ensuring the batting powerplay – the one ace in Australia’s hand to that point – was neutered from the first.
New Zealand cricket fans know not to expect too much, or to take anything for granted, so I’m not calling this game yet by any means. But we’ve given ourselves the best possible shot of drawing first blood in this series, and done so without Jesse Ryder, perhaps our most fearsome, iconic current player. It falls heavily on the likes of McCullum and Taylor (the only player not to get amongst the wicket-taking; he missed a good runout shot along the way) to bring this home.
If only the tennis wasn’t on I’d be relishing this chase even more; as it is it’ll be frantic channel surfing and hoping not to miss too much for the next few hours. Full report to follow in the morning.