Cricket: Black Caps' hopes of avoiding defeat rest on Kane Williamson, Corey Anderson and BJ Watling

By David Leggat

Kane Williamson begins day four on 45 not out. Photo / Getty
Kane Williamson begins day four on 45 not out. Photo / Getty

On the batting talents of cricketers Kane Williamson, Corey Anderson and BJ Watling rest New Zealand's hopes of staving off defeat at Hagley Oval today.

Australia know it; and so do New Zealand, even if they're not saying it publicly.

New Zealand will start the fourth day today on 121 for four, still 14 runs behind Australia overall, and somehow needing to find a way out of a deep hole if they are to go even close to having a chance of winning this test and drawing the series.

They are not without a chance, but it's a tall order, considering Australia yesterday bowled with more bite than New Zealand managed for most of Australia's first innings 505 in the second test, Neil Wagner the honourable exception.

Even then, the bulk of the damage was done before he went on his late innings tear, as he inspired New Zealand to take the last five wickets for 41.

Boil it down further, as Adam Voges did last night, and it's Williamson who holds the key.

"Huge," the Aussie batsman with the Bradmanesque batting average said of the importance of removing New Zealand's best batsman. "It's always a big wicket for us. He played nicely today. We've just got to maintain our discipline and try and keep him as dry as possible."

No surprise there, nor the words from upbeat New Zealand wicketkeeper BJ Watling last night.

"We're definitely backing what we've got left to put a total on the board," he said.

"It's great that Kane's still there. However many that [New Zealand total] is, we're just going to have to come out with the ball and try and win it."

Australia have bossed this match. Put it this way: take out Brendon McCullum's first day heroics and New Zealand would be in a far sorrier state.

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Wagner's six-wicket performance yesterday was reward for wholehearted endeavour, but with good batting conditions yesterday, New Zealand's batsmen slipped up again.

Martin Guptill's batting woes against Australia continued -- an average of 16.3 in 10 innings this summer. The ODI batting champion needs to find a way to transfer his short form skills to the longer game.

Tom Latham got himself set and to 39 before muffing an attempted hook and given a legside catch; Henry Nicholls' attempted drive ended up in second slip's hands and McCullum could not repeat his spectacular Saturday rescue.

In the hour after tea, New Zealand managed 26 off 14 overs. It was a tough grind. Australia's seamers were at the batsmen and far more threatening than their counterparts had been.

Take James Pattinson, who took three of those wickets late yesterday. His no ball clanger on day one gave McCullum a reprieve on 39. He felt coach Darren Lehmann's wrath that night.

"Yeah the coach didn't miss him after play on day one. And that's probably putting it nicely," Voges said.

He bounced back impressively. Josh Hazlewood and Mitch Marsh were similarly unrelenting.

Australia got a warning from the umpires to get their throws in on the full, rather than bouncing them, which may have scuffed the ball to aid reverse swing.

Watling had no beef with it and there was a feeling Australia would still have had the foot on New Zealand's throat anyway.

Williamson has got to 45 with care and concentration; Anderson is coming off a bold 72 in the first innings and Watling has previous for doughty, scrapping, and substantial innings.

But unless New Zealand can get through most, if not all of today, and the pitch starts playing tricks, Australia will be hard to stop.




- NZ Herald

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