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Black Caps deserve credit

Let's give the Black Caps some well-deserved credit

One of British satirical magazine Private Eye’s favourite devices is the mock correction highlighting
a screeching U-turn.

Like this one, purporting to come from Margaret Thatcher and the British Conservative Party after her blue-eyed boy, Cecil Parkinson, was forced to resign over revelations that he’d impregnated his former secretary:

“Statements issued over the past few days may have given the impression that we wholeheartedly supported Mr Parkinson and deplored the intrusion of the media into his private life. We stated at the time that his behaviour could have no bearing whatsoever on his position as a Cabinet minister.

“We now recognise that this was complete crap. We wish to make clear our utter contempt for Mr Parkinson and are delighted to see the back of this oily and deceitful creep who has now become a total embarrassment to the party.”

The Dominion Post did something similar with the Black Caps. After they’d been bowled out for 150 on day one of the second test against Australia in Hobart, the Dom ran a frontpage photo of Jesse Ryder on his
way back to the pavilion. “Day of shame,” thundered the accompanying headline. In case we didn’t
get the message, the subheading labelled the Black Caps “a laughing stock”.

Three days later, the front page had a photo of new bowling star Doug Bracewell celebrating a wicket. “Wizard of Oz,” crowed the headline. “One for the history books.” Meanwhile, Melbourne’s Herald Sun was telling its readers the previous day’s events in Hobart amounted to – stop me if you’ve heard this before – a
“day of shame” for Australian cricket.

This was a perfect example of the media’s black and white view of sport.

Win, even if everything’s in your favour, and you’re a hero; lose, even when the deck is stacked against you, and you’re pathetic. What’s more, you’ve let a lot of people down and probably ruined Christmas for every cricket-mad kid in the country.

The Dom’s scorn was heightened by the fact it was the second time in six days the Black Caps had been bowled out for 150, but the total was all the two innings had in common. The 150 in Brisbane was a poor effort: in reasonable batting conditions – Australia had just made 427 – the top order self-destructed, giving the impression they simply couldn’t be arsed trying to save the game.

In Hobart the green wicket provided disconcerting sideways movement and the ball swung in the overcast
conditions, so it was always going to be a low-scoring game. Top scorer Dean Brownlie’s observation
that 150 wasn’t a bad effort proved a far more accurate pointer to what was about to unfold than the headline writer’s sneers.

New Zealand cricket’s new regime can build on this victory, but it’s worth remembering conditions in Hobart were something of a leveller.

The performance of the young quicks – Bracewell, Tim Southee and debutant Trent Boult – was hugely
encouraging, but they’re still learning their craft, so bowling out good sides on good wickets is likely
to remain a challenge for some time yet.

And as crazy as it sounds, Daniel Vettori’s late withdrawal was a stroke of luck. With Boult coming into the side, the four-pronged pace attack enabled the Black Caps to exert relentless pressure from both ends.

A couple of footnotes: with the fuss over Aussie TV viewers making home-team century-maker David Warner, rather than Bracewell, their man of the match (why was anyone surprised?), little attention was paid to Australian captain Michael Clarke’s graceless post-match comments, which failed to acknowledge the Black Caps’ existence, let alone their victory.

New Zealand last won a test in Australia in 1985 and last beat the Aussies in a test in 1993. The common factor in the three victories is coach John Wright.

That 1993 game was his swansong. He made 33 in both innings, took a catch off his last ball in the fi eld, and
became the first batsman to be given out by the third umpire.