Daniel Vettori.
Daniel Vettori. SMP Images - Chris Tippelt

Black Caps look for positives

IT'S ONE of those times when New Zealand are clutching for a scrap of anything remotely positive to take out of their nine-wicket drubbing from Australia in the first test at the Gabba.

So leave aside the batting of two-cap Australian-born Dean Brownlie and the usual hefty contribution in a time of difficulty from Dan Vettori.

Look instead at Australia's top order at Brisbane.

David Warner was on debut but his partner Phil Hughes was playing his 16th test.

Twice he was undone by senior seamer Chris Martin, with balls running across him; twice he was caught by Martin Guptill at gully, making 10 and seven.

Australian skipper Michael Clarke spent time fending off questions both before and after the test on whether the 23-year-old lefthander was justifying his place and whether he should be retained for the second test starting in Hobart on Friday.

He has, but with Shane Watson and Shaun Marsh both tipped to return to the top six for the opening test against India, starting in Melbourne on Boxing Day, the heat is on both Warner and Hughes.

So New Zealand captain Ross Taylor gladly took the chance, amid a pile of desperately negative bullet points out of the Gabba from their point of view, to twist the knife a touch after the test.

"If he plays in Tasmania obviously Chris Martin will be bowling at him - and hopefully Martin Guptill takes a third catch as well," Taylor said.

"I'd love him to be in their team."

Martin, whose four wickets in the test took his record to 206 in 62 tests at 34.69 apiece, has invariably had success bowling at lefthanders, with his ability to slant the ball across the bat. The inaugural winner of the Sir Richard Hadlee Medal for his form last season remains, at 36, the leader of the attack.

"The way he bowls, they find it hard to leave him," Taylor said.

Hughes' numbers are 1048 test runs at 36.13 from 16 matches. But of more relevance, in seven tests this year he is averaging 29.

His first-class figures are impressive, 5452 runs at 48.67 with 17 centuries and Clarke, his fellow New South Welshman is championing his case.

"It's not concerning for me. I'm confident he will come out in Hobart and perform," Clarke said.

"He's probably not as consistent as he'd like to be but every one of us has deficiencies. It's no different for any other batsman but I'm confident he'll put his hand up in Hobart."

New Zealand coach John Wright yesterday focussed on the shortcomings of his team's batting and fielding in the first test. The bowling, led by Martin, he reckons is in decent shape.

Certainly with a top three of Warner - beaten by a beauty from Tim Southee in the first innings - Hughes and relative newcomer Usman Khawaja, there is scope for New Zealand to cash in.

"I think we have the bowling attack, if we catch accurately to put Australia under pressure, provided we make enough runs," he said.



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