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Cricket: NZ spearheads need to prove their mettle

Tim Southee and Trent Boult struggle more against Australia than any other side, writes Andrew Alderson.
Trent Boult and Tim Southee, the country's finest opening partnership since Hadlee and Collinge, have added to those legacies. Photo / Getty Images
Trent Boult and Tim Southee, the country's finest opening partnership since Hadlee and Collinge, have added to those legacies. Photo / Getty Images

• Tim Southee
Overall: 165 wickets @ 31.61 (47 tests)
vs Australia: 24 wickets @ 46.50 (10 test)

• Trent Boult
Overall: 144 wicktes @ 28.59 (38 tests)
vs Australia: 19 wickets @ 35.26 (5 tests)

Cricket offers few more compelling narratives than pace bowlers hunting as a pack, building pressure on batsmen's techniques until they unravel and wickets are seized.

Every so often New Zealand test bowlers deliver moments like this. Take Richard Hadlee and Richard Collinge scything through England for 64 to secure New Zealand's maiden win over them at the Basin Reserve in 1978; or Danny Morrison and Willie Watson working Australia over for 139 in the first innings at Eden Park in 1993 as part of the country's last home test win against the transtasman rivals; or Shane Bond, Iain O'Brien and Chris Martin alternating to dismiss Pakistan 33 runs short of a 251 target at University Oval in 2009.

Such vignettes are woven into New Zealand's cricketing tapestry.

Trent Boult and Tim Southee, the country's finest opening partnership since Hadlee and Collinge, have added to those legacies but their most memorable chance might come in the second test against Australia in Christchurch, starting on Saturday.

If ever a time has come for the duo to prove their tandem value, the Hagley Oval spectacle is it. In 33 tests together, Southee has 128 wickets at 28.23 and Boult 134 at 27.32. Southee gets a wicket every 59 balls; Boult every 55.

However, Southee, who recently recovered from bone bruising to his foot, has struggled to penetrate against Australia in four tests this summer.

The 27-year-old has eight wickets at 56.25 with best figures of four for 97 as Australia eased away in their second innings at Perth. He has struck every 107 balls.

Boult has fared better against Australia with 15 wickets at 39.33 since November's 2015-16 opener in Brisbane. The 26-year-old secured his best figures against Australia with 5-60 in the second innings at Adelaide when New Zealand came within three wickets of victory in the inaugural pink ball test. Nevertheless, those statistics are well shy of his test average of 28.59.

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New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said one of the few positives from the innings and 52-run opening test loss was that Boult had "stepped up with more sustained pace" but the coach laid down a challenge to his spearheads in Christchurch.

"We haven't exposed them [the Australians] on surfaces [all summer] because we haven't been able to move the ball. Even this test we weren't able to move it off the straight. That's something we need to work on over the coming days."

Contrast that with Australia.

Their accuracy in the first innings in Wellington saw New Zealand slump to 51-5 on the first morning. They seized on the best bowling conditions, delivered straight and reaped rewards from the deviation. They impressed with reverse swing both ways in the second innings.

"[The Australians] quickly identified the ball wasn't swinging conventionally," New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum said of the lessons learned.

In another area for Boult and Southee to reflect, Australian captain Steve Smith said they made a conscious effort to prepare the ball.

"There were a couple of [used] wickets either side of the block which you could get the ball into and we got lucky. Someone hit a cut shot and it really scuffed one side, so that got it started for us."

- NZ Herald

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