Andrew Alderson

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

Cricket: Fragility starts at the top

Dean Brownlie is the only in-form batsman among New Zealand's top six. Photo / Getty Images
Dean Brownlie is the only in-form batsman among New Zealand's top six. Photo / Getty Images

The New Zealand cricketers (labelled by some fans 'Sunday thieves' after 'robbing' them of a satisfying Sunday a week ago) have done far better this weekend but there is still a way to go to persuade fans that the country's ailing batting fortunes are turning around.

The top five batsmen - Dean Brownlie is exempt after his sturdy outings in the first two tests - have three further days in Hobart to show they can continue their new quest to treat the batting crease with respect.

The Gabba and Bellerive capitulations were a prime example of how quickly lip service about application can unravel in pressure situations.

It is easy to bleat about the top order's tendency to fold, albeit before the usual safety net of Daniel Vettori spares further blushes. More disturbing is how that fragility is borne out in statistics since the three-test tour of India 13 months ago.

That tour showed signs of test batting promise. Two of the three matches were drawn and one lost with the then world test No1. Partnerships were built, centuries made and wickets valued.

Pakistan's two-test tour (lost 1-0) in a World Cup summer offered little inspiration and neither did the jittery win against Zimbabwe - although Ross Taylor's brave decision to set them a chase still deserves applause.

The four-day match with Australia A (a team including James Pattinson and Mitchell Starc) demonstrated discipline to occupy the crease but that evaporated in the cauldron of test cricket.

Since John Wright's four tests in charge as New Zealand coach from December 2010, the top six batsmen have made only 60 per cent of the runs. That figure is accentuated by Vettori's prodigious run-scoring, generally further down the order, to bolster totals.

The 60 per cent figure increases to 67 per cent when the test series in India is included. Compare those figures to world No1 England (the top six made 75 per cent of the runs in 12 tests since the start of the Ashes in November 2010) and No4 Australia (71 per cent in 11 tests).

Further details indicate the consistency of England compared to New Zealand (and even Australia) in that 13-month period. England had a batsman score a century in 13 of 17 innings (76 per cent); Australia scored seven in 18 innings (39 per cent) and New Zealand was five in 14 (36 per cent).

Similarly a top six player made the top score in 14 of 17 England test innings (82 per cent); for Australia, it was 14 of 18 innings (78 per cent); for New Zealand, it was 10 in 14 innings (71 per cent).

New Zealand's world ranking of eighth means they are verging on outcast territory as a test opponent. They are considered an easy-beat by the top four teams and if there was no Future Tours Programme, those countries would be unwilling to play for fear of their respective balance sheets haemorrhaging.

Yesterday was more of the right stuff - though there are numerous reluctant broadcasters and uninspired fans out there, especially when New Zealand tests fail to extend to five days.

Scoring comparison

ENGLAND (ranking 1)

Since the start of the Ashes,

November 2010

Tests played: 12

(8 wins, 1 loss, 3 draws)

Runs scored: 7367

Runs scored by top six:

5491 (75 per cent)

Innings: 17

Hundred scored in an innings: 13/17

Top score came from a member of the top six:

14/17 (82 per cent)

AUSTRALIA (ranking 4)

Since the start of the Ashes,

November 2010

Tests played: 11

(4 wins, 4 losses, 3 draws)

Runs scored: 4999

Runs scored by top six:

3557 (71 per cent)

Innings: 18

Hundred scored in an innings: 7/18

Top score came from a member of the top six:

14/18 (78 per cent).

NEW ZEALAND (ranking 8)

Since the start of the Indian

series in November 2010

Tests played: 7

(1 win, 3 losses, 3 draws)

Runs scored: 3804

Runs scored by top six:

2543 (67 per cent)

Innings: 14

Hundred scored in an innings: 5/14

Top score came from a member of the top six:

10/14 (71 per cent).

NEW ZEALAND (ranking 8)

Since John Wright took over

as coach, December 2010

Tests played: 4

(1 win, 2 losses, 1 draw)

Runs scored: 2157

Runs scored by top six:

1299 (60 per cent)

Innings: 8

Hundred scored in an innings: 2/8

Top score came from a member of the top six: 5/8 (63 per cent)

- Herald on Sunday

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