How richly blessed Australia latterly has been with run-makers, and run-making conditions. This was true even in England last year for although what sticks in the memory is the swing and seam and spectacular collapses, three of the top four scorers in that series were Australians.
Last summer, the cynosure was Steve Smith. Between summers, it was Chris Rogers. At the start of this summer, it was David Warner, with Joe Burns as a kind of frequent flyer bonus. It is not as if Smith and Warner have eased off. In the last 12 months, they have averaged 71 and 58 respectively, and each amassed more runs than Adam Voges.
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The wickets fell for New Zealand in the second innings of the first Test against Australia as the Black Caps trail by 201 runs heading into day four.
But they are like Brendon McCullum's headwear, old hat. Two more darlings have emerged to cast them at least into statistical shade, lest monotony take hold and boredom set in. There they were, Adam Voges and Usman Khawaja, on the bed of roses that the Basin Reserve pitch had become, making another century each, and there was not a damned thing New Zealand could do about it. At least it was a gorgeous day in Wellington for a picnic.
The stats first; cricket protocol demands it. Khawaja now is averaging 128 since his recall at the start of the summer, and 53 in a suddenly prosperous career. But so what: Voges is averaging 100 and a fraction. Seven not outs help, though New Zealand might quibble about his most recent not out on a technicality. As colleague Andrew Wu observed, this is a time of such batting plenty for Australia that a man averaging 100 is only the fourth-picked batsman in the team (and another who made 182 in his most recent innings is not there at all).
In this period of feast, you can pick from a selection of favourites, using your own criteria. It might be statistics. It might be results, the bottom line. It might be aesthetics. Here, Khawaja tops the poll. He is the Gower of the south. It starts with the way his bat is connected to his hand: where others grip, his dangles, and all his shots have that quality. Watching him bat is like listening to a favourite piece of mellow music; you find yourself humming along, which is all the more magical since his instruments are a hard ball and lump of timber. Watching him bat would be a legitimate hobby (and for some of us, legitimate work!). He didn't even get around to removing his sweater this innings, which was a function of the weather, but fortified the image of a man barely exerting himself.
While Khawaja and Voges were together, Voges was more like the bass beat. When left to hold the fort, his other qualities came into relief. Compared with Khawaja, or Warner, or Smith, he is machine-like, but any engineer will tell you that a well-designed and smoothly functioning machine is a thing of beauty anyway. It is one thing for a machine to act like a human being, quite another for a human to replicate a machine. This one has been powering away for more than seven hours - cover drive, leg glance, pull, repeat - with only one already infamous splutter on Friday night, and on Saturday a missed beat every other hour or so. Voges has become like pi, a constant.
We know, of course, that it hasn't and won't always be like this. In the spring, there is a trip to the sub-continent, and next summer visits from South Africa and Pakistan, featuring two day-night Tests, when pitches and balls go all rogue. It was in the day-night Test that Voges was last dismissed, 528 Test runs ago. But for now, it is like this, and is to be rejoiced in.
The poor old Kiwis became incidentals, props in in their own stadium. They tried. They tried short stuff. They tried dry line. They tried aiming for blind spots. They tried one side of the pitch only, with inner and outer circles. They tried over and around the wicket, left-arm and right, fast men and slow, old ball and new, which soon enough was old again, with the breeze and into it, and got only a little bit of innocuous drift. They took the catches than came to them; it was just that there were only two.
They tried to look busy and interested. They tried talking it up. They tried, but could leave no mark on the pitch or the batsmen; both were too hard. They tried everything except mooning the batsmen from behind the bowlers' arm. In this, the crowd also was restrained, contra to long-established form. Evidently, even they take their cues from McCullum.
In fact, for most of the day, save the occasional plaintiff "c'mon Southee", the tone was conversationally chirpy, the sound of people making up their own minds, interrupted only by the periodic clattering of the sightscreens, like shunting goods wagons. T20 would never trust spectators to cogitate so independently, not while it has cogitations to force down their throats.
But this is preserved cricket, in a living museum. The stadium is dilapidated, but charming. Perhaps that is also true of the crowd. None the less, they were well attuned to proceedings. When Doug Bracewell at last bowled a maiden for New Zealand, the crowd raised a self-consciously ironic cheer. The mere fact of the taking of the ball also was worth a hurrah, and was not misplaced; suddenly, Trent Boult took two wickets in three balls. For a local, it was the wrong time to go to the toilet.
Khawaja and Voges belonged in this landscape. Khawaja's batsmanship is timeless, while Voges is the man time almost forgot. His conduct at the crease is yesteryear - no leaping and twirling, minimal hugging - and so his batting. It is without pretensions. A reverse is something he would do only in his car, a Datsun, you imagine. The point he so subtly makes is that if you are good enough, and in rare enough form, (and your bowlers have bought you all the time in the world) orthodoxy will do just fine.
Evidently, he inspires confidence. Peter Nevill kept him company for two hours, until the new ball was no longer a threat, and then Peter Siddle for another hour-and-a-half, and is there still. And why not: while there are so very many runs for the taking in this festival of of scoring, a man would be mad not to hoe in.