After a lot of pre-match discussion around a novice Australian bowling attack and brittle batting order, it was New Zealand who massively underperformed, allowing Australia to stroll to a nine-wicket win with five sessions to spare. In both innings the New Zealand top order was blown away, mainly due to a series of dismal shot selections. The first time round Dan Vettori and Dean Brownlie bailed them out, but second time round there was no such redemption. In between, they also dropped a number of catches to allow Australia to (initially) grind and (eventually) flourish their way to a substantial lead.
For Australia the fears about having a novice bowling attack and no Shane Watson safety net proved unfounded. James Pattinson overcame a nervy start to produce an excellent spell on the final morning, Nathan Lyon bowled very tidily (finishing with match figures of 7/88) and Peter Siddle led the line effectively enough. Mitchell Starc was the only one who looked a little overawed, while still picking up a couple of wickets with filthy wide deliveries. He’ll go far.
With the bat things were a little less clear. David Warner and Phil Hughes both looked like the T20 biffers that they are, rather than Test batsmen. Usman Khawaja continued his run of Ramprakash-esque scores, while Ricky Ponting and Michael Clarke both rode their luck on their way to decent knocks. Brad Haddin’s 80 proved key in getting the first innings lead and will delay the debate about his position for a little while.
New Zealand left the Gabba with plenty of questions to answer. The top order pretty much failed en masse and will need to massively improve in Hobart, where the pitch is traditionally full of runs. Daniel Vettori was the bright spark in both innings before crazy dismissals – an utterly needless run-out and then steering Mike Hussey’s innocuous dobbler to slip in the last over before lunch – while Doug Brownlie played two controlled innings.
It was in the field that New Zealand really let themselves down, dropping Michael Clarke twice (and bowling him off a no-ball) to let him make a match-winning hundred. Had any of those dismissals actually counted it was perfectly plausible for Australia to be bowled out for less than 300 – Peter Siddle at number eight brought back disturbing memories of having Caddick-Martin-Tufnell-Malcolm from eight onwards – and from there it would have been very much game on.
Australia’s army of walking wounded are unlikely to be fit for the second game, starting on Friday. Indeed Ben Cutting, cut from the original twelve, has since picked up a muscle tear and is definitely out. Dan Christian, the South Australian all-rounder, may come into consideration for the flatter Hobart wicket, although it’s not obvious who he would replace. Usman Khawaja could open, with Dave Warner or Phil Hughes left out, but it seems unlikely.
New Zealand aren’t exactly blessed with options. They could tinker with the bowling attack, perhaps bringing in Brent Arnel or Trent Boult for Doug Bracewell, but it seems that they will more likely stick with what they have and try to produce a much improved performance.