David Warner has warned New Zealand they risk wasting any life the MCG may offer if they persist with so-called bodyline tactics on Boxing Day. The Australian squad arrived in Melbourne on Sunday with Warner adamant the batsmen must have clear plans for New Zealand’s short-pitch tactics when the second Test gets underway.
While the hosts won the day-night Perth Test by a whopping 296-runs, the home batsmen were often caught out by bouncers and on the pull shot. Captain Tim Paine said afterwards it felt like it was “going to be a bit of bodyline” for the remainder of the summer.
Melbourne could, however, shape as a different contest. The pitch is unlikely to offer the same pace as Optus Stadium, particularly given the Black Caps’ bowlers were at their dangerous best under lights.
But curators have vowed to maintain some life in the MCG pitch after it was roundly criticised in recent years for being too slow and batsman-friendly.
“If they’re talking about it being a green wicket and they bowl short, then you are probably wasting it aren’t you?” said Warner, who scored a hundred in his last Boxing Day Test. “For us it’s just another game and if Wags (Kiwi paceman Neil Wagner) does what he does normally, then we just have to play it accordingly.”
New Zealand said after Perth they would consider the Melbourne wicket before deciding if they would continue with the tactic. Regardless, working out how to play Wagner’s short stuff is a priority for Australia. All of Australia’s top six batsmen fell to short balls in the second innings in Perth, with four of those - including Warner - caught playing the pull shot.
New Zealand’s bowlers differ significantly from what Australia’s batsmen are used to when facing their own pace cartel. Most of the Aussies bowl at around 145km/h, where the likes of Wagner and Tim Southee average closer to around 130km/h. “It’s at a pace where you think you genuinely can play at it, then you’ve got enough time to get out of the way,” Warner said.
Wagner’s height is also an issue. While Australia’s first-choice pace battery are each 190cm or over, left-armer Wagner is around 180cm. As Warner put it: “for us it’s usually ducking a ball at 150km/h. It is a little bit awkward with the height he (Wagner) comes from.
“It’s just a matter of biding your time and if one comes off your hip you can try and rotate strike. You’ve got to have in the back of your mind what the game plan is.”