New Zealand coach Mike Hesson has expressed disappointment that the well-grassed pitch at The Basin Reserve on which his team was defeated inside four days was not even greener to give his bowlers a chance to exploit Australia’s weakness against swing and seam.
Hesson, whose Black Caps lost their first Test match on home soil in three years when rolled by an innings and 52 runs by Australia yesterday, believes his bowlers have not yet had an opportunity to fully exploit the tourists' batting flaws that were so ruthlessly exposed by England’s bowlers last year.
With swing bowling specialists Tim Southee and Trent Boult sharing the new ball, NZ have made no secret about their wish to prepare green pitches that favour bowlers for this two-Test series.
Especially having seen the way Steve Smith’s team struggled against the pink ball on a grassy strip in the historic first day-night Test at Adelaide last year when neither side managed to reach 250 across four innings and Australia snuck home for a three-wicket win on the third day.
As a consequence, the pitch at Christchurch’s Hagley Oval – where the second and final Test of the Trans-Tasman Series begins on Saturday – is expected to carry an even heavier coat of grass than the Basin pitch on which NZ were bowled out for 183 in less than 50 overs on day one.
Hesson believes a greater grass cover will reduce the impact of winning the toss, with bowlers from both teams having a chance to make the most of the seam-friendly conditions across the first couple of days – rather than just a few hours - before the pitch invariably flattens out.
"I would have liked this (Wellington pitch) to have been much greener than it was," Hesson said today as both teams enjoyed a free day before heading to Christchurch tomorrow.
"It only seamed for two hours and that meant that both sides weren't able to be exposed in those conditions.
"It's a bit different when it seams for two hours, it makes the toss a little bit more important."
While the Black Caps four-man seam attack, including Doug Bracewell and allrounder Corey Anderson – captured four wickets each in Australia’s only innings, they came at a cost of more than 40 runs apiece.
By contrast, and even though third seamer Peter Siddle was unable to bowl in the final three sessions of the Black Caps’ second innings because of back spasms, Australia’s pace attack collected theirs at around half that rate.
Hesson believes those numbers can be inverted if his bowlers are able to operate in conditions similar to those in which England’s Stuart Broad and James Anderson ran amok in the UK last year, most notably at Trent Bridge where Australia was bowled out for 60 in less than a session.
"We haven't been able to expose them (Australia) on those surfaces because we haven't moved the ball," Hesson conceded today as NZ consider changes to their starting XI for the second Test which the Black Caps must win to prevent their rivals becoming the world’s No.1 Test team.
"Even this (Wellington) Test match we weren't able to move the ball off the straight whether that be in the air or off the wicket and that’s something we're going to have to work on in the coming days.
"I think if you're good enough to make the most of it (advantageous bowling conditions the opposition) can be exposed.
"Ideally you'd like both sides to have a bit of a crack at it when it does seam.
"You look at the wickets we lost in the first session (last Friday) they were all from good length deliveries and they (Australia) were able to get the ball off the straight and expose some of our (batting) techniques.
"That's something we'd like to think if we were in a similar situation we'd be able to do something similar."
And while his batters struggled to cope with the early seam movement found by Josh Hazlewood and the sharp catching of the Australians behind the wicket and in the in-field, Hesson concedes that it was reverse swing with the old ball that the Black Caps succumbed to on the final day.
Smith revealed in his post-match media conference that the presence of recently used pitches either side of the Test strip at The Basin helped the ball to "scuff" on Monday, with some well-placed throws from the outfield and one particular NZ cut shot hit hard on to the abrasive surface helping that process.
Hesson said the ability of the Australia bowlers – in particular Mitchell Marsh who finished with three wickets yesterday – to gain reverse swing at pace proved decisive.
And that the NZ batters would need to find a way to deal with that menace before the Christchurch Test begins on the weekend.
"When you're getting it to swing both ways that's a challenge," Hesson said today of Australia’s fourth day bowling effort that reduced his team to 7-218 before some carefree late hitting carried them to 327.
"Batsmen were talking about it a lot yesterday afternoon in terms of different ways to combat it.
"Kane (Williamson) is better than most in terms of being able to adjust his game but when the ball reverses both ways it's challenging and you need to think about what is the most challenging delivery - the ball that's attacking your stumps or going away.
"Every player has a slightly different technique on that."