MELBOURNE (Reuters) - New Zealand wicketkeeper BJ Watling expects his team to continue their short-pitched barrage at the Melbourne Cricket Ground against Australia if the wicket proves conducive during the Boxing Day test.
New Zealand lost the series-opener in Perth by 296 runs but rattled Australia’s batsmen with short and angled bowling in their second innings, prompting the home side’s batting coach Graeme Hick to query the legality of the tactics.
Trailing 1-0 in the three-match series, the Black Caps are likely to regain injury-hit Trent Boult for the second test at the MCG starting Dec. 26, adding another weapon to their pace arsenal.
Watling noted seamer Neil Wagner had proved particularly tricky for the Australian batsmen, taking five of his seven wickets with the short ball and softening up Matthew Wade with a number of bouncers that hit the body.
“(Wagner) has done it for a very long period of time, he’s very skilled at it, he’s very accurate at it. And he used it well in Perth and put them under some pressure,” he told reporters on Saturday.
“But again, we’re going to have see actually what that wicket does. It might not be conducive to that type of bowling so we have to be adjustable.”
Wagner was able to remove Steve Smith twice with the short ball and well-placed fields, limiting Australia’s master batsman to 59 runs in the pink ball test in Perth.
Watling dismissed the idea his team had Smith worked out.
“He’s that type of guy that really works hard and looks to improve every time. He’ll have a different game plan, so we’ll have to fight that out on the field.”
Watling also said his team would face the same challenges.
“I know fast bowlers like bowling bumpers. We’re going to face it and we’ve got to work on it,” he said.
New Zealand’s main concern is their top order batting, with opener Jeet Raval down on runs and expected to be dropped for the MCG test.
Watling, who started his test career as an opener, is seen as an option to replace Raval.
But the 34-year-old has not batted at the top of the order since 2012.
“I’ve done it in the past, I don’t think it’s a comfortable position in general, to be honest,” Watling, who has played 66 tests, said with a wry tone.
“But we’ll discuss things over the next few days and see what eventuates.”
Reporting by Ian Ransom; Editing by Edwina Gibbs