At lunchtime yesterday the future of Australian cricket flocked in an orderly style on to the Adelaide Oval for a series of fast-paced games.
The five- and six-year-olds were all dressed in green and gold and one little nipper, only the height of the nearby picket fence, promptly provided the best batting of the morning.
Little Johnny can't have seen the horror show that the New Zealand top order had just performed, or perhaps his mother had told him over his cereal and juice that the young men from across the ditch were only there for entertainment.
Granted the wee bloke played every shot in the book over the space of five minutes but he kept the ball on the carpet, ran like the wind and had his socks pulled up. He looked every bit a cricketer, something no one in the New Zealand top order did yesterday.
Even accounting for their inexperience and the quality of opposition, New Zealand's specialist batsmen were an embarrassment to their country.
The pitch is one of the best batting surfaces in the world, Australia's attack is still below its best but New Zealand's batsmen lacked the bottle, the belief, the technique and the game plan to stave off the Aussies.
The plan should have been based around all-out survival in the first session to break the hearts of the three quicks because there is money for old rope when offspinner Nathan Hauritz is in the attack.
But New Zealand can't have had a plan. The alarm bells were ringing as early as the previous evening when at the after-match press conference Iain O'Brien suggested New Zealand would take a more positive attitude into the fourth day, that after being 35-0 in nine overs before stumps.
Aaron Redmond is clearly a good listener because he played extravagantly through mid-off on the first ball of the morning and then looped a catch to point from a second harmless offering from Lee.
The rest came and went at steady intervals and you wonder how they look their hapless skipper Daniel Vettori in the eyes when they walk through the dressing-room door.
Even taking into account the bulk of the New Zealand side are learning their games at test level when others have the luxury of coming to grips with this difficult game on the first-class stage, losing five wickets for 48 runs in the first session was a disgrace.
There are also expectations of them, like catches will be taken (Daniel Flynn), that batsmen will get themselves set (Redmond, Jesse Ryder) before bringing out the million-dollar shots and that the lower order (Tim Southee, Iain O'Brien and Chris Martin) will put a price on their wicket.
We are in this situation for a variety of reasons - a group of senior players departing about the same time and the advent of the Indian leagues, but it doesn't mean we have to wave the white flag.
A change in attitude not a change in personnel is required for next week's test against the West Indies in Dunedin.
The best players available have been identified, now they just need to rally behind their leader (Vettori).
For all that, the batting needs strengthening and the return of Jacob Oram and James Franklin, both under slight injury clouds, could rectify that and provide some variation in the attack.
There will be consideration given to a change at the top of the order and new selector John Wright is known to prefer Jamie How at No 3, thereby possibly opening the way for a call-up for Tim McIntosh or a return for Matthew Bell.
My team: Redmond, How, Ryder, Taylor, Oram, Flynn, Brendon McCullum, Franklin, Vettori, O'Brien, Martin, with Southee to carry the drinks.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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