Green pastures loom for Aussies' generational all-round talent

Captain Pat Cummins said Cameron Green’s ability to prosper in difficult Wellington conditions set a “template” for the star allrounder going forward

If any equivocation lingered as to the rare talent Cameron Green offers Australia's men's cricket team, it was removed over the course of the past three and a half days at Wellington's Basin Reserve.

Green's raw ability with bat, ball and as a freakishly agile fielder despite his hefty 200cm-plus frame have long been ruminated and salivated over, but until this week the assessment had remained more speculative than definitive.

But the 24-year-old's player of the match performance quite literally proved the difference in the opening Test, given the final margin was 172 runs in Australia's favour and his first innings contribution on a pitch where only one other batter (NZ's Glenn Phillips with 71) reached 50 was 174.

It wasn't just the volume of runs Green found on a track that yielded unforeseen spin and bounce that stood out.

It was the maturity he showed in marshalling a 116-run last wicket stand with number 11 Josh Hazlewood on the second morning at the Basin that rival captains Pat Cummins and Tim Southee cited as game-changing.

But perhaps most compellingly, it's the manner in which he's adapted to his new role at number four – a position for which the team's batting line-up was reshuffled in order to accommodate his re-installation – that places the allrounder in the rarest company.

Only two other Australia batters can claim higher individual scores that Green's 174 at number four in the order before turning 25, and they are bona fide greats of the Baggy Green brotherhood.

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Neil Harvey posted 190 against South Africa at the SCG in 1953 aged 24, and Norm O'Neill scored 181 against West Indies at the Gabba (aged 23) in 1960.

He might be just four innings into his tenure at second drop – five if ignoring the fact Nathan Lyon took the post as night watch yesterday – but Green's average of 79.3 is bettered only by Reggie Duff (84.5) at the turn of the 20th century among the under-25 cohort for Australia.

Throw in the value-add of Green's bowling, that has already netted him 33 wickets at 35 from his 27 Tests to date, and the urgency to get him back to Australia's starting XI seems bleedingly obvious.

The only other Australia men's player to have scored 1300-plus runs while also picking up more than 30 wickets before his 25th birthday was future captain Steve Waugh.

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"When anyone steps into Test cricket you expect them to be the finished product, but it's just not true," Cummins said of his young match-winner in the aftermath of Australia's thumping victory.

"The jump from state cricket to here is big, but especially when you're young you're learning your craft in front of big crowds, cameras, a lot of scrutiny.

"It's not easy.

"As best as we can try and fast track guys when they come in here and set them up, I think he's shown himself to be a pretty quick learner in whatever he's done over the years.

"But you're still learning when you step up here, and he's early 20s."

Green conceded during the course of the Wellington Test that he had found it tough to find his feet in his initial incarnation as a Test player, largely due to the role he was asked to fulfil at number six.

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In that position, batters invariably are forced to salvage a burning wreck if top-order counterparts fail, or are expected to peel off a run-a-ball hundred if they've prospered.

He understandably found both scenarios daunting, especially the latter given he confesses to being a slow starter when batting at first-class level.

Another requirement at number six is an understanding of how best to bat with tailenders to maximise a team total, and Green claimed he hadn't really grasped that skill in the 24 Tests he played before being elevated in the order.

However, the way he went about his two-and-a-half-hour union with Hazlewood on Friday morning, despite the Black Caps being armed with a near-new ball and on a pitch where batting had proved problematic after Australia were sent in on day one, suggests that is another problem he's now solved.

Southee acknowledged he and his fellow bowlers had erred in not attacking Green on the second morning, focusing instead on removing the lesser batting threat Hazlewood only for the Australia pair to manipulate strike and inflict maximum pain.

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Having seen Green play a more expansive role late on the first day, the Black Caps expected him to continue in an attacking manner when play resumed only for him to become the senior partner in the stand with his vastly more experienced (if less well credentialled batting) teammate.

"I thought he had really clear game plans – used his feet, put pressure on the bowlers but picked his balls, left well and ducked when he needed to," Cummins said of Green's role in the record 10th wicket stand against NZ that set up Australia's win.

"I thought he played it beautifully, sucked up the pressure for four balls then across to Joshy for the last couple.

"It was a really smart way he went about it, and the scoreboard didn't stop either."

Green's highest Test score easily eclipses his previous two best knocks in the Baggy Green Cap – the counter-punching 77 he produced on a raging turner at Galle against Sri Lanka in 2022, and his maiden ton at the world's largest cricket venue in Ahmedabad against India a year ago.

The fact those three efforts have come beyond the familiarity of Australia pitches, in conditions where his fellow batters have historically struggled (against sub continental spin and on green seamers such as day one at the Basin) only heightens the promise that Green exhibits.

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"I reckon that's as sharp as I've seen him," Cummins said of Green's career-high innings.

"He put pressure back on the opposition, he was using his feet to upset the bowlers' lengths on a really tough day one wicket.

"I thought it was incredibly impressive and it's given him a good blueprint of how to play going forward.

'Batting four is a little bit different, but the tempo of the innings was what stood out to me.

"We know he can spend time and build up his innings that way, but this was a slightly different way he went about it.

"He scored runs in Sri Lanka on a really tough spinning wicket, a hundred in India and a hundred here, he can do it in all conditions.

"So he should be really confident that if he's ever in a rut – which I'm sure every batter goes through, and he might one day – he can always look back at this innings and get him back where he needs to be.

"It's a good template."

Qantas Tour of New Zealand

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February 29 – March 4: Australia win the first Test by 172 runs

March 8-12: Second Test, Christchurch, 9am AEDT

Australia Test squad: Pat Cummins (c), Scott Boland, Alex Carey, Cameron Green, Josh Hazlewood, Travis Head, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Nathan Lyon, Mitchell Marsh, Michael Neser, Matthew Renshaw, Steve Smith (vc), Mitchell Starc

New Zealand Test squad: Tim Southee (c), Tom Blundell (wk), Devon Conway, Matt Henry, Scott Kuggeleijn, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Will O'Rourke, Glenn Phillips, Rachin Ravindra, Mitchell Santner, Neil Wagner, Kane Williamson, Will Young.