Legend’s blunt reality check after Smith failures
Despite scoring an unlikely early victory against Steve Smith, New Zealand's bowling attack isn't good enough to trouble Australia in this Test series.
That's the blunt verdict from former Australian captain Ian Chappell, who stands by that statement even if classy left-armer Trent Boult returns to the Black Caps side later in the three-match clash.
Boult missed the first Test in Perth due to injury and speedster Lockie Ferguson was injured during the Optus Stadium match.
Tim Southee resumed his struggles in Australia during the first innings before snaring four wickets in the second, while Colin de Grandhomme and Neil Wagner have delivered the ball at pedestrian speeds. Spinner Mitchell Santner has found the going tough, while Marnus Labuschage is continuing his extraordinary form in the Australian No.3 batting position, making 143 and 50.
"I think they're going to struggle to keep Australia to reasonable scores, even with Trent Boult," Chappell told Wide World of Sports, with the Aussies leading by 417 runs with four wickets remaining at stumps on day three.
"I think their determination and energy is admirable, but they haven't got a spinner. While quick bowling is crucial in Australia, you need to have a spinner as well that's going to back up those quickies. Santner's there basically to try and keep the runs down and that's just not enough in Australia."
Smith made 43 in the first innings and just 16 in the second, caught both times on the leg-side off Wagner. The Black Caps, under Kane Williamson's captaincy, may have just found a chink in Smith's armour.
Smith has now gone three Tests without a half-century for the first time in his career. It has been a surprisingly lean run at home after his incredible Ashes series.
Chappell said that some form of come-down had to be expected.
"There always going to be regression from that – 700-odd runs in three and a half Tests. Bradman probably did, but nobody else can maintain that sort of standard," he said.
"Bowlers aren't stupid. Go back to the guy I just mentioned, Bradman. England got so fed up with him belting the crap out of them that they devised Bodyline to try and bring him back to the field.
"Bowlers and captains are always going to be searching for ways to bring Steve Smith back to the field. Now the thing is, if they have found a way, I'm sure Smith will react to it, because that's why he's such a good player.
"He's mentally very strong and I think he prepares probably better than anybody else. You can bet your bottom dollar that he's already focusing on what New Zealand have tried to do to him and he'll be trying to come up with answers."