Worm turning again in favour of Black Caps

PHIL GIFFORD
Last updated 05:00 27/11/2011

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OPINION: Time to dream again. The Aussies used to think so little of us as cricketers they sent B teams to play ersatz tests matches.

But now, in a turn of events that may not be so much a case of a worm turning, but a worm turning, growing teeth, and ripping anything in its way to shreds, the Black Caps look to have a shot at beating Australia in a test match. Well, OK, maybe just turning.

The last time the Black Caps beat the boys in the baggy greens, in 1993, Jim Bolger was prime minister, an 11-year-old boy, Dan Carter, was in Year 7 at Ellesmere College, and a hot New Zealand movie The Piano featured another 11-year-old, Anna Paquin.

Ever since, when New Zealand play Australia in tests, it's been largely a sad, losing story.

But maybe the stars have finally aligned in such a way that when the first ball is bowled at the Gabba on Thursday the men in the black helmets can realistically see themselves finishing first.

First reason to be modestly confident? Those Australia B teams we were just talking about? I forgot to mention that as well as insulting us, those outfits added injury by beating us too.

So what a pleasure to see, in the Black Caps' warm-up game, first Brendon McCullum smacking the Australia B bowling lineup to bits, and then Doug Bracewell, the latest in a long line of talented bowlers from a great, fiery, often inspired, frequently unconventional, cricketing family, causing some havoc with the up-and-coming Australian batting top order.

Second reason to be modestly confident? The Australian team, after years of swaggering brilliance, seem to be in a strange state at the moment. Ricky Ponting is clinging to his place in the side so fiercely he makes a shipwreck victim grasping for the last lifejacket look casual.

It must be an interesting changing room, too. Captain Michael Clarke came to the job fresh from Simon Katich grabbing him by the throat in a scrap over, of all things, when to sing a team song.

Third reason to be modestly confident? We all know it's wrong to take any solace from an opponent's problems, but front liners Mitchell Johnson, Shane Watson, Shaun Marsh, Pat Cummins and Ryan Harris have had to withdraw from the Australian squad.

On the other side of the coin, there are, of course, the traditional weird ructions in New Zealand cricket, with, this go round, the director of selectors an expert in, ah, Australian lawn bowls.

There is such a tiny pool of talent in New Zealand cricket you feel there's not a wide margin of error available anyway, and surely, even in the bravest of new worlds, a coach as grounded as John Wright will make sure commonsense as well as a mathematical formula are applied.

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Wright is one of that rare breed – a Black Cap who knows what it feels like to win a test against Australia. Now he just might get the opportunity to see how victory feels as a coach.

- Sunday Star Times

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