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Black Caps collapse as Australia claim first test

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 3 Mar 2024, 1:21PM

Black Caps collapse as Australia claim first test

NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Sun, 3 Mar 2024, 1:21PM

All the action from day four of the Black Caps’ defeat by Australia in the first test in Wellington.

- New Zealand resumed on 111-3 in their record chase of 369.

- Rachin Ravindra scored a half-century before becoming Nathan Lyon’s third victim.

- Tom Blundell fell for a three-ball duck and Glenn Phillips was trapped for one.

- Lyon secured a 10-wicket bag in the test as Australia completed victory.

History is against the Black Caps - only 10 teams in 150 years of test cricket have completed a chase this imposing.

But the hosts have reason to believe the historical record will count for little on the decisive day of the first test against Australia.

New Zealand will this morning begin at the Basin Reserve on 111-3, Rachin Ravindra (56no) and Daryl Mitchell (12no) together at the crease.

The equation is simple. Seeking a ninth test victory in 61 attempts against Australia, another 258 runs are required to reach a target of 369.

Their chances a little more complex. New Zealand’s best test chase was the 324-5 they managed in 1994 against Pakistan, a nation who nine years later turned the tables to set the top Basin Reserve mark of 277-3.

That means victory today would be unprecedented for both country and venue, vaulting these Black Caps into exclusive company.

But amid that gloom, some optimism: of the 10 successful test chases of 369 or more, four were achieved in the last decade.

Considering the vast recent changes to cricket generally and the five-day format specifically, that number is much more relevant than what happened a century ago.

“The style of the game and mindset of players around the world now, they don’t fear having to chase a 300-plus total,” said New Zealand batting coach Luke Ronchi.

“That’s just the nature of cricket now; not just internationally but domestically. These younger guys coming into the game are a lot more confident they can chase down any sort of a total.”

While the hosts lost their two most experienced batters on the third afternoon - Kane Williamson and Tom Latham removed by Nathan Lyon for a combined 17 runs - a couple of those confident young guns remain.

Rachin Ravindra acknowledges his 50 on day three. Photo / Photosport
Rachin Ravindra acknowledges his 50 on day three. Photo / Photosport

Glenn Phillips awaits at No 7, coming off a counter-attacking 71 in the first innings and rapidly becoming the Black Caps’ best multifaceted test player.

And Ravindra, playing a maiden test in his hometown, recently spent an entire World Cup establishing himself as a batter undaunted by any occasion.

“That’s his nature,” Ronchi said of the 24-year-old. “Growing up in the cricket he played, he wanted to be that person, and you want to see players taking that opportunity to be a person who’s making meaningful contributions to helping their team win.

“To see someone going out there and trusting their game plan against a particular group of bowlers is always nice.”

Still, this particular group of bowlers is about as formidable as they come. The pace trio of Mitchell Starc, Josh Hazlewood and Pat Cummins will be well rested, while Lyon has already added another six scalps to a test tally now standing at 523.

With Mitch Marsh and Travis Head also among the wickets in Wellington, Australia have several levels to pull and plenty of runs to defend.

Ronchi promised the Black Caps would be positive in their approach, with tentativeness leading to nothing but dismissals on a surface offering something for everyone.

“Being positive is understanding that if Nathan bowls a good ball, you’re in a strong defensive position,” he said. “It’s not just about scoring runs or hitting boundaries — it’s about being comfortable leaving a ball off a length, rotating strike, all those sorts of things are being positive.

“You’re going to have phases where the opposition are on top. But if you keep believing in your style and game plans and being positive in whichever way you’re going to do it, then hopefully it flows through the rest of the group.”

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