Saturday, February 28, 2015

One small inning and an old lesson was there to ponder over. For extreme pressure prefers no peer. It will beat you down and hand out the harshest of lessons. It cares not for reputations, it cares not for form. It's a stubborn creature that craves the consistency of others failures.

No better example is there than Tim Southee.

For so long now he has been the spearhead of this New Zealand attack in unison with the outstanding Trent Boult. A demon in the art of swing bowling, the Northlander tore the English batting line-up to shreds one week ago. On top of the World, he could do no wrong. Bowling from wide of the crease on occasion, at other times, close to the stumps, that variety of angle enough to flummox a foe. Just the slightest of swing and dealing in the minutest of degrees, seven wickets blew in with the breeze. Swing delivered at one hundred and forty clicks - What a combination.

Yet one week later and Eden Park introduces Australia to this concourse. Forty thousand braying fans brandishing banners and erecting quite the atmosphere, that atmosphere in mix with seven days of thundering expectations that built to cataclysmic proportions and his nerves ran riot over clear minded thinking. And this was his home crowd.

From his first delivery, wide's were the order of the day, whether that be to the off side or down leg. What wasn't wide was whistled off to the boundary rope with ease by Aaron Finch and David Warner. After just three over's Australia had thirty-six on the board, mainly due to Southee. Yes, he did remove both openers with beautiful deliveries, Finch with a ball that seamed back in to knock out middle stump and Warner by way of LBW.

But Southee hadn't controlled his nerves, that extreme pressure had delighted in rampaging through his psyche with the runs coming thick and fast and enough was enough.

Nine over's and sixty-three runs later, the time had come to introduce Daniel Vettori to stem the tide and bid Australia's fast start adieu. He of varying lengths and speeds that deceive, pressure came and pressure was tamed. The roar of the crowd he did not shame, for so calm he remained. No matter the batter's approach, every delivery was mimicked with the same demeanour. When a wicket was got, only the slightest of celebrations were to be had, for this thirty-six year old knows that there is a long road to hoe. Extreme pressure was forced to make his acquaintance, non negotiable were his terms.

And as Vettori tightened the screws the runs dried up for Australia. Slowly but surely the run rate lowered incrementally until - Snap - all number of wielders of two by fours panicked. The wickets tumbled, with Boult cashing in on the pressure building antics of Vettori with a spell of five wickets for two runs.

Pressure, that's all it was, pressure on the back of one of the most red hot cauldrons ever seen in this Country. For all the Australian team's big talk on the field over the last couple of years; the constant sledging, warning a foe to watch out for a broken arm, when the time came to up the ante in this most hostile of environments, they showed themselves to be as meek and weak of mind as any under extreme pressure.

It's what sorts the men from the boys. Southee didn't have it, Vettori did and Australia's batsmen will be buying marshmallow eggs for Easter.

Conquer that extreme pressure and win a World Cup.