Before this tour started there was all the talk, the frumpiness, the doubts and the angst about the day-night test in Adelaide. Is cricket ready for a distorted contest, is the technology up to it, and why should test cricket roll over for the desires of broadcasters?
As it happened we did not need to wait until Adelaide to ask those questions. This test was a logistical failure; the 17 minute shifting of the sightscreen, the endless changes of balls, McCullum’s bat breaking and a clearly shonky speedball radar. But none of these technology failures matched that of the WACA pitch. Once the most revered ground in the world, the WACA is now a batting statistician’s centrefold, but not a lot more.
This was a test that, in spite of rather than because of the conditions, offered some good moments of cricket. But as a contest it was a mismatch; highlighted by the first day. Cricket Australia might love a five day test, but this pitch was best described by the word unAustralian.
There was more than just the pitch to blame for that first day. The New Zealand bowling attack was insipid, and not overly disciplined, and Warner has taken his game to a new level. When you are bowling McCullum and Guptill in tandem on the first day of a test match you know you are well beyond Plan A. Six days into the test series and it was all Australia.
From Saturday onwards things changed and with the benefit of hindsight the first session of that day marked a shift in momentum competitiveness. Australia lost 8 wickets for 144, but some of that was due to “declaration batting”. But in that first session on Saturday they made 58/2. That is not declaration batting.
Then there was Williamson, which was pretty much expected, and then there was Taylor which was not. Eight days after playing one of the most out of sorts innings by a top order New Zealand batsman Taylor commenced one of the best ever.
But throughout, apart from the centrefold fun mentioned above, there was something unsatisfying about this form the broader picture point of view. There was a brief moment on Day four when Australia was technically three wickets down and still in arrears, but then the flat pitch and the dull balls took over.
From then, the interest remained around the attitude, or lack of it, from Australia. Even in the first and third test of that famous tour of 2001, well famous in New Zealand anyway, it took until the last hour of the final day before Steve Waugh’s side started playing for a draw. Here Smith shut the gate early on. For example, five runs were scored in 10 overs at one stage against Bracewell and Henry with an old ball.
That sent as much of a message as anything. Admittedly, Australia is one up in the series so they could do what they liked. But if Adelaide is going to be the lottery the doomsday merchants are making it out to be, you would have thought he would have to at least wanted to have the chance to push for the victory, or at least to maintain the psychological dominance. There was none of that.
Some would also argue we are two tests into a five test series too.