Paul Lewis: Read all about it - Kiwis learn to fly

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Australian cricketers look on after being thrashed at Eden Park. Photo / Getty
Australian cricketers look on after being thrashed at Eden Park. Photo / Getty

In its time, England's Sunday Sport has foisted some never-to-be-believed headlines on readers: 'Three inch dog ate my missus' was one; 'Monkey lands plane' was another repeatable effort and an old favourite: 'Aliens turned son into fish finger'.

The Sport, you may have gathered, may not be a publication which has a great deal to do with the old journalistic tenets of truth and accuracy. Those of us professionally bound to such qualities sometimes look with stress-relieving fondness on an outlet which manages to entertain and take the mickey out of its readers (some of whom may even believe this stuff, delicious to contemplate).

It also pokes the ribs of tabloid journalism, with headlines like: 'Lovesick gardener marries lettuce' and the sad sequel a week later: 'Greenfly ate my wife.'

But here's a headline even the Sunday Sport may have found impossible to get away with:
'Black Caps Stuff Australia.'

Even more wondrously, the sub-header could have read: 'Aussie fast bowlers smashed.' While all the attention from last Wednesday's 159-run hiding of the mighty Australians was on their suspect batting, the other feature was the comparative dearth of something the planet seemed never likely to be without: fearsome Australian fast bowlers.

Here's a bit of a roll call of those blokes - Mitchell Johnson (retired); Ryan Harris (retired); Mitchell Starc (injured); James Faulkner ... OK, maybe not fearsome but a skilful bowler who yorked Brendon McCullum in full flight (injured); Pat Cummins (injured); Shaun Tait (recalled to national T20 duty); Ben Hilfenhaus (dropped). Featuring in the test series against the Black Caps will be Peter Siddle (now 31); James Pattinson (returning from injury); Jackson Bird (not quick but chosen for New Zealand conditions) and Chadd Sayers (ditto).

In the Australian ODI side are Josh Hazelwood, Kane Richardson (it was one of his deliveries which Martin Guptill deposited on the roof of the Eden Park stand), John Hastings (30) and Scott Boland. If you thought, 'Who?' for those last three names, be not ashamed - you are not alone.

Boland played against the Indians in the recent 4-1 ODI series victory - his return from four of those matches: 39 overs, 252 runs, one wicket (though he claimed McCullum yesterday). Hastings and ODI regular Mitchell Marsh escaped the slaughter then and bowled tightest again yesterday - but I am sure you are picking up the pattern now.

Even given the batsman-friendly conditions these days, one for 252 at 6.5 runs an over from four matches doesn't exactly make you soil your trousers. Dennis Lillee and Jeff Thomson would be spinning in their graves if they were, er, dead. Thomson recently spoke of the folly of 12-months-a-year cricket and said of the current fast bowlers: "Why wouldn't they break down?"

Injury is part of it but chairman of selectors, Rodney Marsh, old Irongloves himself, is under pressure. Australia had lost their last five matches in a row before the second ODI. Not so long ago, Marsh was talking about Australia's depth in quicks, saying there were 20 on his "depth chart".

But he has also confused his audience, talking about the priority need for speed (hence Tait's return; even though he will be 33 this month, he still hurtles the ball down at express pace in that trademark frog-in-a-blender delivery).

Marsh then chose swing bowlers for the New Zealand tour (other than Pattinson, who can crack the 150km/h barrier), saying it wasn't just about speed.

There was little evidence of swing (from anyone) on Wednesday at Eden Park and it will be fascinating to see if Australia's fast bowling stocks recover.

This is a development side, as much as Australia ever fields one. Terrifying the bowlers ain't and man-for-man, even without Tim Southee and Ross Taylor, the Black Caps may even be a stronger side. However, before we get carried away, it's important to remember (a) Black Caps fans have anticipated glory before only to watch them perform the cricketing equivalent

of diving into an empty swimming pool and (b) Australia are at their best when people like me are hailing their misfortune. They are canny losers. They take it on the chin and, perhaps unparalleled in sport, apply the lessons. Hard. Like yesterday.

If they soon field Starc, Pattinson, Siddle and Cummins in the same test, that will be a fearsome combo. However, there is no doubt they are vulnerable right now. We might even dare to contemplate another never-before-seen headline: 'Black Caps beat Australia in both series.'

There's probably more chance of another old Sunday Sport favourite coming true ('Man fights off shark with wife's false teeth') - but there may never be a better opportunity.

- Herald on Sunday

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