Australia promise no let up for New Zealand
Coach Darren Lehmann has promised no complacency after Australia’s solid victory over New Zealand in the first Test, saying Tuesday that his young team needed to do it all again in Perth.
Australia crushed New Zealand by 208 runs in the first Test at the Gabba on Monday and now head to the WACA ground one up in the three-match series as the Kiwis manage several injuries.
Lehmann said the new-look Australian team, missing veterans such as Michael Clarke, Brad Haddin and Shane Watson, played well in Brisbane but there was room for improvement.
“For us now it’s about getting back to Perth… making sure we are backing that performance up,” he told reporters in Brisbane.
“We’ve started well but we’ve got to back that up — that’s the challenge for a young group, to back that up day in, day out.”
Lehmann said the Australians needed to improve their fielding which he said was “a little bit sloppy” as well as put more pressure on the New Zealand openers with the new ball.
He said he was impressed with new skipper Steve Smith and how he dealt with paceman Mitchell Starc, who was fined half his match fee by the International Cricket Council for throwing a ball dangerously at New Zealand batsman Mark Craig.
“I was very happy with the captain and the way he handled that,” Lehmann said.
“He’s had a chat to him and that’s done and dusted from where I sit.”
Australia had the match well in hand with the New Zealanders one wicket away from defeat when Starc impetuously hurled the ball in Craig’s direction after the Kiwi had smacked him for two successive fours.
Lehmann said Starc, 25, had to find his “happy medium” on the field.
“They’re all great kids, they are all learning their way in international cricket,” he said. “You love to see the aggression, it’s just making sure it’s at the right time.”
Lehmann said a decision on the final team for the second Test would be made after an inspection of the pitch later Tuesday.
“If it (the line-up) changes, it changes, but obviously someone is going to be unlucky to miss out again,” he said.
New Zealand, who suffered the dubious dismissal of Brendon McCullum in the second innings at the Gabba, head to Perth with a question mark over pace spearhead Tim Southee, who has a back injury. His fitness will be assessed Wednesday.
All-rounder James Neesham has already been ruled out of the series with back trouble.
“We know that they are a good side and we’ve got to play well again in Perth and certainly start the Test match well,” Lehmann said.
For his part, New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said his team needed to be more aggressive in Perth, after coming to Brisbane “a bit underdone from a skill perspective”.
“We need more aggressive intent with the ball,” the Australian Associated Press reported him as saying.
Hesson said Southee was progressing well but they would not risk him if he was not ready to play.
“He is a huge part of our side and leads our attack but we are not going to take someone in unless he is confident he can play for us,” Hesson said.
The second Test at the WACA begins Friday.