An Australian-born batsman helped New Zealand recover to be 5-176 on a rain-affected opening day of the first trans-Tasman Test at the Gabba on Thursday.
But the Black Caps’ biggest thank you went to another who hailed from this side of the Tasman – Australian captain Michael Clarke.
Perth-born Dean Brownlie (32 not out) was dropped by Clarke on three before sharing an unbroken 80-run stand with Daniel Vettori (45 not out) when bad light then rain ensured a premature end to the day.
Clarke would still be kicking himself after dropping a sitter at first slip off an unlucky Peter Siddle (1-29 off 15 overs) with New Zealand teetering at 5-102.
“Some guys get lucky – I am sure if Dean gets a big score he will be pretty thankful for that missed opportunity,” Black Caps opener Brendon McCullum said. “Without that partnership we would be deep in trouble – they have put us back in the game.”
Still Clarke must be happy overall after Mitchell Starc (2-52 off 13) and fellow debutant quick James Pattinson (1-50 off 11) chimed into Australia’s least experienced attack since Merv Hughes, Bruce Reid and Chris Matthews ran out against England in 1986.
“No one likes to drop them but we’ll be right,” Starc said of Clarke’s gaffe.
McCullum said a first innings total of 280 would be competitive on the bouncy Gabba deck – a total the Black Caps would have given up on after a disastrous opening session.
McCullum (34 off 51) gave the visitors a dream start, belting seven fours – including three off Pattinson in the first over of the match.
So ferocious was McCullum’s attack that umpires were forced to change the misshapen ball after 10 overs.
New Zealand cruised to 0-44 in the 11th over – only to be 4-94 by lunch after being made to pay for their aggression. Starc was first to break his Test wicket duck when he claimed McCullum wildly cutting before Pattinson had captain Ross Taylor (14) chopping on.
Starc was high fiving again when beefy batsman Jesse Ryder (six) thrashed him straight to point on the last ball of the first over after lunch to make it 5-96.
“We were reckless,” McCullum said. Brownlie rode his luck on Thursday – he was dropped twice in three balls he faced and survived an lbw appeal off unlikely suspect Mike Hussey.
After Clarke’s howler, Test debutant David Warner got his fingertips to a tough chance at point from Brownlie off Starc.
Pattinson, Starc and Warner all received baggy greens before the Test, bringing the number of Australian debutants in 2011 to nine – the most in a calendar year since the turbulent days of World Series Cricket in 1978.
Pattinson was always going to make a bit of history no matter what happened on Thursday.
His selection over unlucky 12th man Ben Cutting ensured he and his brother Darren – who represented England in 2008 – became the first siblings to play Test cricket for different nations in 112 years.
Bad light ensured an early tea break before the entire last session was washed out.