Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Wise heads needed to cope without Bond

Shane Bond's shadow yesterday hung large over the second test at the Basin Reserve starting today.

The New Zealand speedster, rubbed out of the remaining two tests against Pakistan with an abdominal tear, had a profound influence on events at Dunedin last week.

His man-of-the-match winning eight for 153 played a sizeable part in the 32-run victory which has put the bit firmly between New Zealand's teeth as they chase a series win.

Pakistan coach Intikhab Alam must have been tempted to dance a little jig, but he was magnanimous, and accurate, yesterday.

"It is bad luck for New Zealand. He is a matchwinner and New Zealand will miss him dearly," Intikhab said.

Unless New Zealand captain Dan Vettori got his smoke signals badly wrong yesterday, Daryl Tuffey will take Bond's place, rather than the late callup, Tim Southee.

Tuffey - "the first cab off the rank", Vettori said - missed out to Iain O'Brien in the Dunedin win but is poised for his first test appearance in five years.

The big Aucklander has large shoes to fill.

Bond's extra pace and ability to hurry the best of the Pakistani batsmen - their captain, Mohammad Yousuf, one of the great batsmen of the modern age, rated him among the very best bowlers he had faced - added a fresh dimension to New Zealand's attack.

Vettori admitted consideration had been given to playing Bond in Wellington and having him sit out the third test at Napier next week.

"The problem with Shane is he wants to play and bowl all the time so it's hard to douse those competitive fires, which is great," Vettori added.

"You want that in all your cricketers and he's such a wonderful player. Hopefully he'll be right for Bangladesh [in early February]."

Having been restricted to indoor training since arriving in Wellington, Vettori said there was unlikely to be a change to the basic composition of the side, a six batsmen-four bowler split.

Making judgments on how the batsmen were coping after a wonky performance in Dunedin was more difficult because of the weather-imposed restrictions.

So it is likely the order of the top six will stay intact, and four of them - opener Tim McIntosh, Daniel Flynn, Peter Fulton and Grant Elliott - will be sweating on getting some sorely-needed runs.

If New Zealand are sent in today they could face a spicy first few hours.

The pitch has been under cover on four of the past five days, so bet on it giving the seam and swing bowlers considerable early assistance.

In less favourable conditions, young left-armer Mohammad Aamer didn't need much help, nor much urging, to tickle up the New Zealand batsmen with some fiery work in both innings at Dunedin.

However, groundsman Brett Sipthorpe has a reputation for producing decent pitches at New Zealand's most successful test venue.

He was confident yesterday that, despite a trying leadup period, things would be okay once the weather cleared up.

"It's hard, and will quicken up once a bit of sun gets on it. But we've had five days without any wind in Wellington, which is unheard of," he said.

Strange days indeed in the capital, but Vettori wants his players to recognise an opportunity when it presents itself.

He remembers the England series two summers ago when New Zealand won the first test, "then rested on our laurels" and lost the next two. That slide started at the Basin.

There might be a sub-conscious thought that with Napier's McLean Park expected to be its usual buffet for the batsmen, if defeat can be avoided at the Basin the series victory will be a giant step closer.

That would be unwise and negative thinking.

Pakistan have a decent record in New Zealand - eight wins to five by New Zealand in 25 matches going back to 1965 - and will go hard this week to get level against Bond-less opposition.

Subscribe in a reader

No comments:

Post a Comment