Having at least one bowler with startling pace is crucial for visiting Test teams in Australia. Thats why New Zealand erred in not handing a Test debut to express quick Lockie Ferguson against England this week.
When star swing bowler Trent Boult was ruled out of that second Test in Hamilton through injury, the Kiwis were offered a perfect chance to trial Ferguson ahead of next weeks first Test against Australia in Perth.
That Hamilton deck was flat and it is on similarly unresponsive surfaces that visiting teams to Australia are so often undone. It was an ideal pitch, then, on which to give Ferguson his first crack at Tests.
NZ would have got a clearer picture of whether he could offer them the crucial variety and attacking edge theyll need on the sleepy pitches were likely to see for the second and third Tests, at the MCG and SCG.
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One of the key reasons touring teams often cannot match Australia on those sorts of batting-friendly wickets is that their quicks are not as penetrative as the home sides.
The pace and bounce of Mitchell Starc, Pat Cummins and Josh Hazlewood regularly allows them to overcome benign Australian surfaces in a way touring quicks cannot match.
Those unresponsive Australian pitches chew up and spit out 135kmh seam bowlers like Matt Henry, the man NZ picked instead of Ferguson. Henry was tidy but lacked penetration on the dead Hamilton pitch, taking just one wicket from 33 overs as England racked up 476.
The Kiwi seamer is by no means a bad bowler. It is just that Henrys game is suited to playing on slow, seaming pitches, like those more commonly seen in the UK, or in NZ domestic cricket.
When the pitch is unhelpful he doesnt have the swing of Boult, the bounce of Hazlewood or the pace of Starc to help him remain a threat. Thats why Henry was cannon fodder in his two previous Tests against Australia, both of which were played on nice batting surfaces. In those two Tests, Henry took 2-292.
Starc. Fast. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
It wasnt that he bowled awfully in those matches. He didnt spray the ball around and gift boundary deliveries at regular intervals. Henry just didnt have the attacking weapons pace, swing or height required to overcome those two flat decks.
In Boult and short-ball expert Neil Wagner, New Zealand already have two quicks who look like they could succeed in Australian conditions.
If hes fit, Boults consistent swing and left arm angle should keep him in the contest even on sleepy decks.
Meanwhile, Wagners mastery of the bouncer will be valuable for the Kiwis when batting is easy. While I dont have access to such a stat, I doubt any Test bowler gets more wickets with the short ball than this aggressive left armer.
As NZ lack a world-class spinner, this means they really need to nail their selection of the third fast bowler to partner Boult and Southee.
Ferguson looks the part. Firstly, the 28-year-old is scary fast. He has been clocked at up to 155kmh and in the World Cup this year consistently bowled in the 145-150kmh bracket.
Among current international bowlers, only Starc and Jofra Archer are as quick as Ferguson. What we dont know is whether he can maintain those startling speeds across a full Test, particularly on an unfriendly pitch. That question could have been answered this week in Hamilton if the Kiwis picked Ferguson.
Instead they went with the safe option of Henry. Safe options arent likely to earn NZ their first Test series victory in Australia in more than 30 years.
New Zealands Lockie Ferguson (AP Photo/Mark Baker)
Will NZs selectors now have the guts to hand Ferguson a Test debut in what, for the Kiwis, is their version of the Ashes, their biggest fixture on the Test calendar? It would have been so much wiser to let him debut in home conditions against England in a much lower-profile series with a 1-0 lead already in the bag.
Then again, Ferguson showed in the World Cup that he does not suffer stage fright. In fact, rather than intimidating him, being on limited overs crickets biggest stage brought the best out of Ferguson.
The right armer was sensational across that entire tournament. He was one of the World Cups breakout stars. Ferguson was terrific in the drawn World Cup Final, taking 3-50 including the massive wickets of Jos Buttler and Jonny Bairstow, and finished the tournament with 21 wickets at 19.
As I watched him in that tournament worrying elite batsmen with his lethal bouncers, I had the same thought over and over: This guy is going to be a handful next summer in Australia. Ferguson isnt just fast and he isnt just a white ball specialist. He showed in the World Cup he has impressive control and that hes also a clever, composed bowler.
Not to mention he owns a fantastic first-class record 154 wickets at 24, with a blistering strike rate of 43.
Ferguson seems built to bowl in Australia. Henry and Southee do not.