By Roger Childs

Perth test 1The size of the victory tells the difference between the two teams – Australia won by 296 runs. Even though New Zealand is ranked number 2 in the world – Australia only 5 – we have an inferiority complex when playing our trans-Tasman rivals on their home pitches. After the recent series win over England the Black Caps travelled to Perth with a degree of confidence. Now it’s back to the drawing boards as the second test looms in Melbourne, starting on Boxing Day. 

Strong all round performance

Perth test century maker LabuschagneBatting first the Australians scored 416 in their first knock at the WACA (West Australia Cricket Association ground) but surprisingly their two star batsmen – David Warner and Steve Smith – only scored 43 each. However, Marnus Labuschange (above) continued his fine form from the two tests against Pakistan to score his third century on the trot, this time 143. He added 50 in the second innings and must have run pace bowler Mitchell Starc close for the “man of the match” award.

Starc is one of the fastest bowlers in the world and mesmerised the Kiwis taking 5/32 in the first innings and 4/45 in the second. He was well backed up by off-spinner Nathan Lyon who had a double of 2/48 and 4/63. New Zealand’s pathetic batting scores of 166 and 171 made for a humiliating defeat. 

The Aussies are never short of self confidence and this was the result they anticipated.

Any positives for the Black Caps?

Definitely – we bowled well and some batsmen showed some fight. The Australians were 310 for 4 in their first innings and a score over 500 or 600 looked on. But they lost their last six wickets for 115. Similarly in the second innings they slumped from 148 for 2 to 217 for 9.  But these collapses didn’t matter, because New Zealand batted so poorly in both knocks . 

The star bowlers were Tim Southee – with 4/93 and 5/69; and Neil Wagner who bagged 4/92 and 4/59. Unfortunately for the Black Caps, their fastest bowler, Lachie Ferguson, was injured in the first innings and star paceman Trent Boult wasn’t available. (He will be back for the Melbourne test.)

Perth Test Neil Wagner bowlingThe batting was the big letdown for the New Zealanders. Openers Jeet Raval and Tom Latham scored a pitiful 20 runs between them, and only Ross Taylor with 80 in the first innings scored a half century. Unfortunately after making reasonable starts, Kane Williamson with 37 and 14, and Colin de Grandhomme with 23 and 33, couldn’t kick on to  make the essential big scores to keep New Zealand in the match.

What’s needed in Melbourne?

MCGThe batting has to be better. Hopefully, the Kiwi batsmen will have studied the Perth tapes and analysed their weaknesses. The Australian attack is seriously fast and the Black Caps top and middle order needs to adapt to the extra pace and short-pitched deliveries, and build big innings. Five of the specialist batsmen got starts at the WACA and showed they could handle the pace, but they must go on to make big scores at the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG).

The New Zealand bowling attack showed they were definitely up to it in Perth and they will be strengthened with the return of Boult in Melbourne. 

Fundamentally, to be competitive at the MCG the Black Caps must score 400 plus in the first innings. Here’s hoping.