New Zealand wilt as Langer keeps the runs coming

Australia 575-8dec New Zealand 44-2
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When is enough enough? The 556 Australia scored in the first innings against India at Adelaide in December 2003 was not enough, and India eventually won a classic Test by four wickets. Yesterday, Australia scored 575 for 8 declared against New Zealand, and that will no doubt do nicely, especially as New Zealand's openers have gone and 320 runs are still required to save the follow-on.

When is enough enough? The 556 Australia scored in the first innings against India at Adelaide in December 2003 was not enough, and India eventually won a classic Test by four wickets. Yesterday, Australia scored 575 for 8 declared against New Zealand, and that will no doubt do nicely, especially as New Zealand's openers have gone and 320 runs are still required to save the follow-on.

These Australians feel it is necessary to inflict hurt and humiliation. They have done so to such effect here that the League Against Cruel Sports might take the case. Last weekend they scored 585; in a single week they have made their second and third highest scores against New Zealand. The only explanation for such ruthlessness is the recollection that, three years ago, New Zealand came within a dubious umpiring decision of taking a three-match series.

Incidentally, the League might also consider the cruel case of umpire David Shepherd, just one month short of his 64th birthday, being asked to stand for six hours when the temperature was 37C on Friday, and not much less yesterday. This tree-lined Oval, with its terracotta tin roofs and the view of the cathedral, is an inspiring place to watch cricket, but it can be an unforgiving inferno in which to play it.

A stunned New Zealand team are under far greater pressure than at any time in three Tests against England last summer, which makes Adelaide a suitable place to contemplate next summer when this Australian team defend the Ashes. (A couple of changes are probable, but this is the solid core of the Ashes team.)

One leading indicator is that, when Justin Langer reached his hundred, he became the third man in this Australian batting order to have scored 20 Test centuries - Matthew Hayden and Ricky Ponting are the others. No other team in Test history has been so prolific.

Psychological warfare has begun already. Players, coaches and journalists concede that Michael Vaughan is a more challenging, pro-active captain than Nasser Hussain, and that England's attack is faster than Australia's. But what, they mutter, is the point of speed if they can't swing the ball, or, more significantly, can't keep the fast bowlers fit? It is not an entirely frivolous question.

Watching Australia's batters make a complete mockery of a weak New Zealand attack is a useful reminder of the difficulty of getting this lot out twice. Damien Martyn and Michael Clarke both failed here, but Hayden, Ponting, Darren Lehmann - fighting for his place - Adam Gilchrist and Shane Warne all got fifties.

Of course, no matter how many injuries England suffer, their attack will be less accommodating than New Zealand's. Their decline has much to do with the injuries suffered by their fast bowlers. Without Shane Bond and Darryl Tuffey, Stephen Fleming has to rely too heavily on Daniel Vettori. He took 5 for 152 in 55.2 overs and received support from the second spinner Paul Wiseman (3 for 140). The calamitous opening pair took 0 for 220 in 44 overs.

The principal beneficiary of their largesse was Langer. Langer is not taken as seriously as he deserves. He is no great stylist but, aged 33, he still works tirelessly to improve his game. His performance sometimes appears prosaic - though the six that brought up his 200 was exciting enough - but he is a romantic, and places Adelaide in the same élite as Lord's. His 215 from 368 balls contained 25 fours and three sixes, and was a personal triumph.

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