Andrew Alderson

Andrew Alderson is a sport writer for the Herald on Sunday.

Cricket: No risk Punter showed us how

The just-retired former Aussie captain was a master of controlled aggression, writes Andrew Alderson

Ricky Ponting retired earlier this month but someone in the New Zealand team needs to download the video of him batting in the inaugural Twenty20 international at Eden Park on February 17, 2005.

The former Australian captain's 98 runs off 55 balls remains the consummate T20 innings; strokes all around the park, few, if any, hit in the air or across the line. It was a batting masterclass in less than half his team's allocation of balls.

What a contrast to the "over-aggressive" (read flaccid) 110-ball New Zealand effort at Kingsmead yesterday morning which resulted in an eight-wicket loss with 47 balls to spare. New Zealand's series of baseball swats were better suited to the sand off Durban's nearby Golden Mile.

New captain Brendon McCullum identified the problem as being "overly aggressive" but finding a remedy by tomorrow in East London or even by Boxing Day in Port Elizabeth is something even Santa might struggle to conjure up.

McCullum was unapologetic over his team's approach: "We played some aggressive cricket and missed a couple of fundamentals on the way," he said of his team's collapse to 86 all out after winning the toss, with several of the batsmen falling to over-ambitious strokes.

"That is the way we are going to be, that is the way we are going to put them under pressure. We were probably a bit too keen, we were outplayed," added McCullum, who said he expected a better performance tomorrow.

The first four batsmen went out playing shots across the line. There seemed an almost pathological determination to hit in the air.

Sure, T20 cricket is not like tests where you can get a gauge for the wicket by leaving balls outside off stump but, as McCullum pointed out, the New Zealanders were "overkeen to put pressure on from the outset". Perhaps that could be done through the offside.

Rob Nicol (18 T20 internationals) stepped out to hit Rory Kleinveldt's first ball over mid-on and got an edge. Peter Fulton (12 T20s) clumped a tame delivery to mid-on. McCullum (55 T20s) hooked to short fine leg. A ball may or may not have brushed the glove of James Franklin (31 T20s) as he tried hooking Ryan McLaren.

There were a lot of Channel Nine duck impersonations as they traipsed off. Over 17,000 fans and their rand were easily parted; whether East London fans are as keen remains to be seen.

South African (and former New Zealand) bowling coach Allan Donald seemed to give away the Proteas' secret in one mid-match sentence.

He spoke about owning the first six overs, increasing the pressure through quick, short-of-length balls with no width and forcing the batsmen to try to hit out. Bingo.

As a result of the top four's demise, pressure mounted on the inexperienced middle order of Colin Munro (who coped well in the circumstances to top score with 23 off 18 balls), Corey Anderson (5) and Jimmy Neesham (10).

At one stage, New Zealand were 36 for six in the ninth over. The best partnership was 21 for the ninth wicket between Doug Bracewell and Roneel Hira.

To make matters worse, the fielding was sloppy; a couple of ones and twos turned into fours. In addition to Munro's innings, the other slight positive was an aggressive opening couple of overs from Mitchell McClenaghan.

He dismissed Richard Levi in a wicket-maiden opening over. Sadly, he was spanked for 16 by South African captain Faf du Plessis in his third. That's what happens when you bust a gut with only 86 runs to bowl at.

It was hard not to think of the casualty scroll as New Zealand flailed: Martin Guptill and Trent Boult (stomach complaints), Ross Taylor (captaincy complaint), Tim Southee (thumb complaint), Jesse Ryder (personal issues) and Jacob Oram (parental issues, now just released from his New Zealand contract, which effectively ends his international career).

Sky Television is promoting the series under the voice-over banner: "Our boys need to use all their survival instincts in a big game hunt against the best team in the world."

They were certainly more hunted than hunters in Durban.

Time to rack the Ponting video on the hotel internet bill, buy some popcorn and have a movie night between now and tomorrow.


- additional reporting from AP

- Herald on Sunday

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