England v New Zealand – 2nd Test Day 3 Report / 4 Preview – General Moan

Counter-Punchers
Counter-Punchers

This has been every bit a rollercoaster of a test match as the last. First you think England are taking control, then the BlackCaps have fought back, and may even have edged in front. Then,when things seem to be going New Zealand’s way, they lose a wicket or allow the 9th and 10th wickets to score some runs.

The approach after England had battled to parity was typical of the New Zealanders on this tour. They thought that aggression would overcome some of the patent difficulties that they are having in keeping out the England bowlers for any length of time (save the second day at Lord’s). So after the early losses of Latham and Williamson to really good new ball bowling by Stuart Broad, they counter-attacked. I always feel this England side hate a team doing that more than most. Others see it as a sign of desperation and just wait it out knowing in all likelihood the chance will come, while we seem to start following the ball. That positive attitude is becoming a bit of a cliche already in this series, almost as if we are somewhat talking down to the visitors. But McCullum showed early on that he can play the other way, and stick around when the ball isn’t there to hit. The Guptill/Taylor partnership was particularly important in giving the visitors a platform.

Early on England’s batting subsided. We went from 177 for no loss to 250 for 8, when we are told this middle order is rock solid and with no vacancies. I can’t start calling for heads because George Dobell might get upset (boy, am I going to remember that impolite response on Polite Enquiries) but if a middle order batsman has made scores of 11,1,0,0,1, 29 (out in first over of a new day), 12 (out early on a new day) in the run-up to the Ashes, you aren’t entitled to be a tiny bit concerned. No-one is calling for the days of dropping a player at the hint of a bad trot, but nor should this be a cosy club either. Also, it’s not as if we’re the only ones here a bit concerned with the way Gary Ballance is getting out. It was the case with Sam Robson last year, and Trott in the West Indies, in that the manner of dismissals seemed to alarm the journos.  Last night’s dismissal of Ballance alarmed me. I fear for what Johnson and Starc might do, as well as Harris, to that hanging back technique. That cockiness was cited by many as a useful line to take to keep the KP fans at bay  – “just tell him there’s no vacancy” – and Strauss might have known this wasn’t plausible as a long-term strategy. The form of our middle order is irrelevant (pretty much) in the KP debate. It’s not the location of battle chosen for us.

England nipped out two early wickets, with Latham being followed to Williamson who has looked really out of sorts since he passed 100 at Lord’s. Yes, I know have some Century Watches to catch up on before you ask.  Then Taylor and Guptill counter-punched, and when they went in short succession, BJ Watling and Brendon McCullum fought hard again, with Watling confounding received wisdom by outscoring his more renowned partner and going through to a tremendous 100. Watling has been as obdurate and resourceful as his form in his home country indicates. He’s been an absolute star for this team, and he’s not the sort to sell tickets, but to score runs. I’m a big fan.

McCullum was subdued, and having escaped an LBW when he got the merest of gloves on the ball while stone dead, he then copped one of those “Umpire’s Call” decisions that gets poor old D’Arthez steaming. Absolutely steaming. It looked wrong, didn’t it? But then I was a (bad) batsman and I’m not coming at this from a neutral position. Half-way up middle is what I need.

New Zealand finished the day on 338/6 with 435 runs in the day, and Watling still unbeaten. Craig is also looking solid. Alarm bells ringing, and England will have to break their chase record to win this test and the series. Rain may bring the draw into play, but if there are no stoppages, it would take New Zealand batting until mid-afternoon to mean survival would be all that mattered. England haven’t chased down a total over 200 in my memory for quite a few years, so this doesn’t look good.

This New Zealand approach is relentless. They look to score, they take calculated risks, they will come up short, badly short, on bad days. But they are no jokers. I get the feeling some people are patronising them a little, but I’m not. This is compelling entertainment as the visitors try to emulate Australia circa 2001-2004 but on a lot less resource. It’s just fantastic. They may be trend-setters, not anomalies. They just keep scoring runs. They are a team you can fall in love with.

I’ve not read the papers or below the line much this week. I’ve not been motivated much to do this blog either, if truth be told. I’ll do more in a general piece later in the week, time permitting, but I felt no joy at Cook’s breaking of the record, got more and more pissed off with ECB TV, thought that banner shit to celebrate the record was astro-turfing of the most contrived kind (remember when Downton moaned about someone setting 10000 runs in tests as a personal ambition) and yes, I felt the record had come about because the competition had been eliminated and we’d not been told why. They can yawn all they like, but I don’t trust them any more to do their jobs. So when I should have been happy as larry at a great win, I felt more disillusioned that I was being told to forget all that went before and “fall in love with this team again”. No-one tells me how to think, and one blinding moment does not erase the disgrace that the ECB had been up until that test. The same Ben Stokes that was lambasted for his dire form last summer, and the punching of a locker, is now put on some Flintoff pedestal on the back of one, albeit glittering, performance? Cook has been almost back to his best so many time, that I’m working out which one I’m too believe (and it was probably India 2012 if truth be told, and he’s not near that yet), although, yes, I know he’s in better nick than he was last year. But let’s see this against the Aussies, when we’ll really need his runs.

I’m absolutely pig-sick with the way a great, entertaining, fantastic match has been used by those who should know better to say all in the garden is rosy. It ignores how our top and higher middle order is folding like wet cardboard on too many occasions to be comfortable. It cost us Barbados, it cost us a hole to dig out of at Lord’s and it brought the BlackCaps right back in this game. Then we saw it again with the love-in for Cook. The Dauphin has ascended to the Throne at the top of England’s run scorers, and those that are his detractors can go off and kick their cats, according to those who have the game at heart. I was always brought up to be true to my emotions and say what I think. I wouldn’t kick my cat. I don’t have one. Jake is safe too, especially after his recent leg injury! No. I’ll just turn further away from the game, and feel even more bitter about it. Hey, those who don’t agree with me may want that, keeping the game as their own private preserve. They can yawn away to their heart’s content.

OK, Day 4. Sadly I will not be in touch at all with the game tomorrow. I have a very early flight, and unless the office I’m in has wifi that I can access, I’m not going to hear a thing until I return tomorrow night (at 9ish). Don’t feel too sorry for me….New Zealand are in the ascendancy and have England where they want them. It’s a funny old game and all that, and someone might need to make a big hundred (or two or three make large contributions), but history and form indicate a New Zealand victory. England cannot let them get more than 30 more runs, in my view. Even that might be too many. Likely is already.

Also, nice to note, even after how he was treated by the ECB after the 355*, and the opprobrium he has taken, where he’d be quite entitled to tell English cricket to shove it, that KP is playing for Surrey despite having no chance of representing England again.

Hopefully thelegglance will update you tomorrow, and I’ll await his report.

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England v New Zealand 2nd Test: Day 3 preview

Well, well.  What a difference an hour makes.  England were cruising along and making all the talk that New Zealand’s total was a pretty decent one look silly.  But this being England, they’re never so vulnerable as when they look to be in a good position.  From 177-0 to 253-5 is not a collapse exactly, but it is a reversion from a position of strength to the game being very much in the balance.

Doubtless the main headlines will be about Cook becoming the leading run scorer for England in Tests, and while the unquestioning adoration of England’s skipper from so many media sources has been enough to infuriate many over the last two years, today is certainly a time where he deserves all the plaudits coming his way.  And there’s an irony in that – Cook perhaps won’t receive the credit he deserves from some quarters precisely because of an inability for some to ever offer up a word of criticism when it’s warranted.  And the reality is that it is unfair, this is a huge feat for him.

Cook the batsman is and always has been a separate issue to Cook the captain.  His poor form over a lengthy period tended to cause debate about whether he would ever again be the batsman he had been, not a dismissal of his abilities over his career.  But his last two innings have probably removed that doubt for most; he looks very much back to his best.

And to that end, to be approaching 9,000 Test runs at the age of 30 is an outstanding achievement, and it was pleasing to see Cook receive the recognition of that from the crowd – though not at all surprising; if you aren’t going to stand and applaud a player becoming his country’s leading run scorer when will you?  Whatever anyone might think of him as captain, he deserved that for a career that has been excellent and is some way from being over.  Cook is now in 13th place in the all time run scorers list, and with all above bar Chanderpaul (just) and Sangakkara (not too far off) retired, he’ll be catching and passing many of them.  There was an interesting comment on Sky when he achieved the record that it had stood for 20 years, and that Cook’s record would stand for a lot longer.  I’m not so sure about that.  If Joe Root ends up as good a player as he currently looks, then he might have something to say about it over the next decade.

Adam Lyth of course was the star of this particular day, his maiden century on his home ground repaying the faith of his local supporters.  He should now have the Ashes series to try and cement his place as opener on the back of it.

Earlier, England had demonstrated a familiar cluelessness in terms of how to deal with the tail, as Craig, Henry and Boult happily lashed them to all parts, while England refused to attack the stumps in favour of banging the ball in.  Is this actually a plan, or do the bowlers do their own thing?  It’s not worked for some time now, yet they still do it.  Of course, any team can suffer from the lower order batsmen having a bit of a slog, the point is that it happens to England repeatedly.  Nasser Hussain, astute as ever, made the point that they should look to how Broad is got out for the template – yes a short ball or two to ruffle them up, but then bowling straight and full.

Broad himself got one of the more peculiar Michelles* of his career, going at 6.34 runs an over.  You’d probably take that overall, but when batsmen are derided for recklessness so often, perhaps the same thing could be levelled at Broad on this occasion.

The late flurry of wickets means that England will have to bat exceptionally well against the still new ball in the morning in order to achieve parity.  The weather forecast has improved for the next few days, but it looks likely to be cloudy and good conditions for bowling.  That doesn’t mean New Zealand can feel confident, the third innings so often falls away dramatically, especially under the pressure of trying to set a target, but their approach on day one appears to have been somewhat vindicated by the present match situation.  Weather permitting though, a result looks very likely.

The old cliche about the next session being critical does apply.  If England don’t bat at least passably well they will find themselves in considerable trouble.  It’s been a hugely entertaining series so far, thank goodness that if New Zealand win there’ll be a decider.  Oh hang on…

*Does this really need explaining?

@BlueEarthMngmnt

England v New Zealand 2nd Test: Day Two

Those who braved the rain enjoyed a fairly remarkable day’s play on the first day of this second and sadly final Test of the “series”.

With poor weather both this morning, and likely over the next few days, it seems that New Zealand decided that to try and force the win they need to square the series, and in so doing, have scored at 4.6 runs an over across the day.  In so doing, and making just shy of 300 in the 65 overs possible, they have well and truly got themselves in the game.  It might not be an imposing score, but at first sight it doesn’t look a bad one.  There was certainly movement available, both off the pitch and in the air, particularly when there was cloud cover.

Which makes it rather hard to come to a firm conclusion about where the game sits.  It’s certainly moved along quickly, and if there is further time lost, as seems probable, the shot making approach could have bought them anything up to half a day.  Of course, if England in reply rack up a big total, then New Zealand will find themselves in trouble, but as a gamble in order to try and force a victory from the off, it’s hugely impressive and fairly brave.

Latham might have been the anchor around which the others played their shots, but he was hardly becalmed either.  Ronchi on debut played a scintillating knock and was on track for the fastest debut century in Test history.  Doubtless he will receive criticism for getting out the way he did – caught on the boundary off a bouncer when three men were out – but that was how he played his whole innings.  Just as so often, focusing on the dismissal not the runs is one of those things that is somewhat peculiar.  88 off 175 balls with a prod to first slip would certainly have only attracted praise.

At the start of the day Anderson wasted little time in getting the 400th Test wicket of his career, and swiftly added scalp number 401.  With New Zealand 2-2, then end result represents something of a recovery, because in the early stages he looked as lethal as he so often does when the ball is swinging.  He’s been a wonderful bowler for England over the years, and so many of the debates about his “greatness” or otherwise seem spurious.  Not many bowlers reach 400 wickets, because both consistency and longevity are required.  It’s quite an achievement, and he’s an exceptionally skilled bowler.  Assuming he remains injury free, he could well reach 500 and go beyond that.  Anderson is the best England seam bowler in a generation, and in itself that’s deserving of note; I sometimes think Anderson suffers from the Tim Henman Critic Syndrome, whereby Henman was slated because he only got to number 4 in the world and only got to the semi-finals a few times at Wimbledon.

And what of England’s approach in the morning?  The New Zealand tail is hardly the strongest, so it seems probable there will be a few wild slashes and the innings will be closed in short order. Will England adopt the same attacking approach as in the first Test, or will the fact that they are 1-0 up, poor weather is around and time will be lost from the game lead to a more cautious approach?  It might be instructive to see whether the first Test was a glorious fluke of circumstance or if England do intend to try and play this way.

The forecast tomorrow is quite good, and overhead conditions do make a huge difference.  It should be fascinating.

@BlueEarthMngmnt

England v New Zealand – 2nd Test Day 1

Well, hello there.

This isn’t going to be a long post, and if Vian wants to add something, he’s more than welcome. We didn’t really get around to discussing who was doing what, when for this test last night in our drink with Maxie from The Full Toss. There seemed more important things to talk about.

So, now that you’ve been told that this is a team we can all fall in love with again, and that even us doubters are being swayed by this lovely team full of vim and vigour, what’s the point of carrying on? We’re not outside anymore, are we?

I’ve been struck by the shallowness of it all. It was one win, right, against a decent team. It came with our backs against a wall, and a number of players doing what they do best, while also two or three of the more senior players didn’t really come to the party. It was an optimistic performance, one that did indeed stir the soul. It was great to watch Stokes play that amazing 101, but as I said last night, much more important in the context of the match was his swashbuckling 92 in the first innings that pulled us out of the mire. Joe Root’s excellence continued and some here remark that he’s almost the leader of the team now, which I can see. Cook’s hundred was a very very good innings, but it’s not about that. It’s about the sub-plots and the intrigue that Cook’s narrative will be formed, no matter how much we are told to love him and that he’s a great guy.

It’s just an incredible state of affairs. The media, and many on social media (and boy, are they not discounting this as a voluble minority in press-land) are whooping it up. As I said about Grenada, when you win a game you didn’t expect to, act like you’ve been there before. I’ve tried to come up with a number of analogies but they all revolve around the female of the species and I’m not going there!

Tomorrow’s test will be a challenge to see how we follow up one excellent performance. Last time we flopped in Barbados. Now we are expected to do this again. Comments below.

No comment from me on Bayliss. James has done something over at The Full Toss which no doubt many of you have read. I’m really sorry but when I hear “he’s an excellent choice” with the ECB, I can’t get “Paul Downton” out of my mind. I’m really rather sad like that.

Have a good one.

Dmitri

England v New Zealand, 1st Test: Review

Rejoice!  All is well and those doubting over the last two years have been firmly put in their place.  You were told and you didn’t listen, so now you get roundly abused for your negative attitude, and deservedly so.  Right?

Make no mistake, this was a fine win, in a genuinely wonderful Test match.  England produced a wonderful display on the last two days in particular, so surely even the most critical England fan should be pleased with that?  Well yes, actually, they should.  There is a lot to like about the players coming through in this England side and if this is how England are going to play, then there may yet be a chance of recovering some of the ground that the ECB have so needlessly thrown away.  Suggesting that anyone being critical should shut up now misses the point of the issues raised, because many of them haven’t been so much as acknowledged, let alone addressed.  But if it is a first step, then that would be something for everyone to be pleased about.

The captain undoubtedly had a fine game here.  His second innings century was an excellent knock, not just in terms of scoring the runs he did, but in the manner he did so.  Somewhat belatedly, Sky decided to focus on his technique, rather curious in some ways to do so after he’s put it right having ignored it mostly when it was wrong.  He was indeed much more upright, with his head over the ball and aligned well with his front foot.  As a result both his judgement outside off stump was much improved, and he was playing much straighter to the ball aimed at the stumps – his punching of the ball through midwicket and mid on were evidence of that, where previously he had been across the ball due to his balance taking his weight outside off stump.  Cook is never going to be a pretty player, but that’s irrelevant, as others can do that job.  His concentration is indeed one of his prime assets, but in order to make the most of that, he has to stay in.  The point about bowlers having found him out by pitching the ball up at him was always overplayed, because no side can maintain that degree of discipline endlessly if a player gets in – if the game was that easy it would have been worked out a century ago.  Eventually they will bowl balls for him to cash in on.

A Cook in form does change the proposition as far as England are concerned.  Australia’s bowlers wouldn’t have been concerned watching his hundred in the West Indies.  They will be a little more concerned watching his hundred at Lords.

As captain Cook also did little wrong.  England being bowled out this morning was probably the best thing that could have happened, removing the possibility of batting on too long.  But Cook rotated his bowlers well, and tried different things.  He came in for a fair degree of stick in commentary for having a third man in place when New Zealand were 2-2, but Cook is always going to be somewhat stifled by his existing plans and reluctant to change.  He is never going to be a McCullum or Clarke, and given who he is, today he did well.

So no more criticism of him then surely?  Not quite.  That he did well today as captain doesn’t undo the last two years.  But equally there should be no refusal to offer up credit where it is due.   The likely appointment of Trevor Bayliss will place the onus on Cook to run the side on the field, as Bayliss has the reputation for wanting to operate behind the scenes rather than dictating tactics.  That is as it should be, and maybe Cook will flower late as captain.  Yet he should not be given a free pass on the basis of a single Test, and crowing because of it is unseemly.  Credit where it is due and criticism where that is due is entirely reasonable.  This time, it’s credit.

Ben Stokes will of course receive all the plaudits and rightly so.  His second innings century will live long in the memory.  His style is simple and uncomplicated, and although that is often damnation with faint praise, it really shouldn’t be.  He plays straight, has few quirks, and of course that wonderful power.  English cricket probably does need a hero; given the concerns about cricket becoming a niche sport, it’s essential someone grabs the attention of the public.  If only more had the chance to see him.

Despite his second innings heroics, it was his first innings 92 that was perhaps the more important.  Coming in at 30-4 the game was more or less over right there had he gone cheaply.  Although New Zealand surpassed England’s total comfortably, Stokes, Buttler and Ali ensured England were in the game.  From where they were, that was more than could have been expected.

In keeping with being the golden boy, he of course had a say with the ball.  There is something about these kinds of players that they do this sort of thing.  He has shown that he has talent, and in this match he was perhaps the difference.  A word of warning though, Stokes is combative, fiery and awkward.  Recent history suggests England struggle to manage such free spirits, while there is every chance he will be castigated for throwing his wicket away when it goes wrong in similar circumstances.  If we want the glory of it coming off, we have to accept that the price of that is that sometimes he will fail, and it won’t look pretty.  It’s probably too much to hope that he will be granted latitude over that – no one else ever has been.  And that’s frustrating, because just letting him go is probably how England will get the most out of him.  Some players need that freedom, something that so many forgot when slating He Who Must Not Be Mentioned.

Moeen Ali is another who will look back on the match with pleasure.  4-129 on a surface that was friendlier to seam and (especially) swing was a decent return, and when added to over a hundred runs from the bat from number eight, his has fulfilled two roles in the side.  He has done little wrong in his career thus far.

Broad too bowled well overall.  It shouldn’t be forgotten that not for the first time he and Anderson bowled too short in the first innings, though they did correct it.  It remains absolutely mystifying that this happens so often, when they are so much more successful when they pitch it up.  Anderson himself had a relatively quiet Test, but ironically this is no bad thing.  England were looking far too reliant on him for this summer.  For others to do the legwork for once was overdue.

Mark Wood had a wonderful debut.  He bowled with pace, skill, clearly thinks about his bowling judging by how willing he was to use the crease to vary his point of attack, and perhaps above all looked like he was having the time of his life.  When he scored his first Test run he broke into a beaming smile, and on several occasions in the field he betrayed a mischievous sense of humour.  England for the last few years have appeared the most joyless, miserable, bad tempered team in world cricket.  The simple matter of a player plainly having the time of his life was utterly wonderful to see.   Don’t change him.

From a cricketing point of view, a single Test is hardly a sufficient sample size to form a judgement on him, but his presence did make the England attack look properly balanced for the first time since the 2010/11 Ashes.  The additional pace he brought was slightly reminiscent of seeing Simon Jones a decade ago.  Again, there’s no need to pile the pressure on him, but there’s enough there to suggest he might do well in future.

The other debutant Adam Lyth did less well of course.  It really should be written off as irrelevant.  It’s a single game, and he has played little in the last month.  England set him back by not selecting him in the Caribbean.  There’s little more to be said about him except to wish him luck at Headingley.

Ian Bell had a poor game all round.  He could do with a few runs soon, because England can’t keep losing early wickets and expect to get out of the hole.  He did get a couple of very fine deliveries, so for this game it’s a matter of shrugging the shoulders and saying it happens.  He could still do with getting some before too long.

For New Zealand they will be scratching their heads and wondering quite how they lost the game.  They had easily the best of the first three days, and showed that they are an excellent side.  For England to beat them there had to be some quite exceptional performances – they will be thinking that lightning is unlikely to strike twice.

Boult took nine wickets in the match, Williamson scored a fine century, Matt Henry had an excellent debut, BJ Watling showed why even if some of the commentators hadn’t paid attention, that he is a player worthy of considerable respect.

The worst thing anyone could do after this game would be to loudly trumpet that everything is now fine and dandy.  There is some promise in the players coming through in the England side, but England went one up in the Caribbean too and drew the series.  New Zealand are more than capable of turning it around, and England are more than capable of having a stinker.  Indeed, that they won by playing out of their skin on the last two days doesn’t alter the truth that for the first three they were outbatted, outbowled and outfielded.

None of this is intended to be churlish.  It was a thrilling fightback, one that reminded all those who needed the reminder that Test cricket is the apogee of the game.  And that does mean enjoying it thoroughly, so to that extent the praise that will be coming England’s way is fine.  It remains one match.  If they do it repeatedly, that is entirely different, and maybe it could be an England side to become engaged with.  It’s just a question of perspective.

England did well.  That’s good.  A good start.  Pity about the board of course, but for the team, yes a good start.

@BlueEarthMngmnt

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Note to All – Stay polite if there is an influx of people telling you “we told you so” etc. It’s already been seen on TFT, and I’ll tolerate people with an opposite view, but if it gets insulting or personal, I’m modding.

No comments enabled, and this will be deleted in 24 hours or so.

TheLegGlance is on the writing duties tonight, I believe….

2015 Test Century Watch #24 – Alastair Cook

  REUTERS/Philip Brown
REUTERS/Philip Brown

Alastair Cook – 162 v New Zealand at Lord’s

After Kane Williamson, Alastair Cook becomes the second player to make his second test century of the calendar year, and there was much rejoicing. You don’t have to be reading this blog for long to know how much I’ve gone off him, but this was a really good knock, anchoring the innings. So let’s stick to the stats, and the rule of thumb is that the bigger the ton, the better the stats. Here goes.

This was Cook’s 7th highest score in test matches, and his 8th score over 150. This beat his highest score against New Zealand, which was 130 at Headingley in 2013 (his last home test hundred). It was his third hundred against the BlackCaps, and coincidentally, all have come in the third innings of the game (his other was 116 in Dunedin which went a long way to saving that match). 7 out of Cook’s 150s have come in this decade, as he did have a bit of a habit of scoring small hundreds. This is Cook’s third highest score as captain, trailing his two knocks on the tour of India.

This is the 17th highest score by an England batsman against New Zealand. It is the third highest at Lord’s against this opposition, with the top three all pillars, yes pillars, of the Essex Cricket Hierarchy (see Essex Mafia, Chelmsford Cosa Nostra) – Gooch leads with 183 made in 1986, with Keith Fletcher’s 178 in 1973 in second. Again, like Cook, both of these were made in the third innings of the game. The record score against New Zealand is Walter Hammond’s 336* in Auckland, while John Edrich holds the record score in England of 310*. Neither of the two other Essex scores at Lord’s were their best against New Zealand. Both of them have made a double hundred against the Kiwis, of the seven made by England in this fixture. This was the 107th century made by an English player against New Zealand.

Have you seen a 162 Dmitri? No. There’s been 17 all-time in tests, although the last one didn’t come a long time ago. Steve Smith made this score in his emotional knock at Adelaide Oval against India last December. There had been five years between 162s before then. 162s that people might remember include Chris Broad’s innings at the WACA in 1986, when he and Athey put on 200+ for the opening partnership. Jacques Kallis’s 162* at Durban in 2004 was also a brilliant innings on a deck that started with a flurry of wickets on the first two days. The only other Englishman to make 162 is Ian Bell, in his first test century at Chester-le-Street against Bangladesh in 2005. Some may also remember South African Kepler Wessels making 162 on debut at the Gabba in 1982 against England, but of course, that’s all right because he did it for Australia. This was the second 162 made against New Zealand – Adam Gilchrist made the first at Wellington in 2005. Adelaide and Brisbane have seen two scores of 162, while Melbourne, Sydney, Perth and Cairns have seen one, making Australia the 162 capital of the world. This was just the second 162 made in England – the other being Ian Bell’s at Chester-le-Street.

Herbie

The first 162 was made in 1921 at Adelaide by Herbie Collins. This was a timeless test that had six centuries in it, England make 447 in the first innings and take a 90 run lead, and still lose by over 100 despite scoring 370 in the 4th innings, Wisden seems to indicate that Collins’ innings was a little fortunate. Herbie, also known as Horseshoe, made four test centuries for Australia, with a best of 203 against South Africa in Johannesburg. He finished his career with a test average of over 45.

Alastair Cook’s 100 came up in 206 balls and contained 12 x 4.

England v New Zealand: 1st Test 5th Day – Open Thread

England 389 & 429/6 (Cook 153 not out, Stokes 101, Root 84) lead New Zealand 523 by 295 runs.

England have, it seemed, turned the game around. From a position of weakness two contrasting centuries have put the home team in the position to win this match, if things go our way. Alastair Cook’s epic knock, one that he played on a fairly regular basis a few years ago is the “welcome return to form” that we hoped from for our opening batsman for a while now. He looked better from the start, scored at the pace we are used to from our opener (around 120 runs in a day) and laid the foundation for the others to express themselves.

My main take from the day is that it was a joy to see Ben Stokes and Joe Root play their games and not the game. Too many times when England face difficult situations, they revert in on themselves. They seek to defend their way out of trouble. I sometimes believe it is because they are frightened to get out playing attacking shots. Somehow, in England, it is always worse getting out to a positive shot because you make a mental error, or hit it too well and it carries to outfielders, than having your technique undressed. Always worse to be the talent not “fulfilling themselves” rather than the “grafter” who isn’t good enough to score. So beware all those lauding Ben Stokes today for the way his attacking game turned the match, for many of them were lining him up and calling him all sorts last year. Stokes is going to infuriate me every bit as much as Freddie did with the bat, but you have to get over it. When he clicks, as he has twice now in this match with the bat, he’s going to change a match. He bailed us out in the first innings, and turned it in the second.

Joe Root’s role must not be underestimated either. With Ian Bell falling to the third ball (I was walking the dog at the time), he came in at a time of real danger with a wicket then being the recipe for perhaps a BlackCap win today. With Cook looking solid at the other end, Root got himself in and kept the score ticking over (Cook was actually scoring at a decent pace by his standards) and then he accelerated. He’ll be kicking himself that he never went on to three figures in both innings, but he’s our middle order rock, and while I think 5 is one spot too low for him, it looks like that’s where he will stay.

Before we get on to the main man, I thought I’d say I was disappointed with what I saw from the BlackCaps bowling today. It was a tough morning, but I wasn’t buying the narrative that it was THAT tough. Sure, it was decent enough, but maybe this attack has been a little over-rated, maybe based on ODI form rather than tests. As for the spinner, Craig, I’ve been really disappointed. He appears to have been easily dominated at times. Still, that would be nit-picking.

Now to the main matter of the day. Alastair Cook has made 153 not out. I am not going to churlish, nor am I going to be a hypocrite. I think the way he has been projected, the way he has acted, the way he has been protected and the way he has been canonised has been every bit as big a disaster in its handling and its duration as the KP saga with which he is intertwined. If it is true that he is keeping you know who out of the team for whatever personal reasons he cannot tell us, then the opprobrium I have for him, and others here, is well deserved. That said, you cannot argue with the facts. That was an excellent innings today. An excellent innings. I can sit back and say that without any fear, nor any rancour. I’ve been hard on him for his protected status and I was not wrong that his form at times last year did not mean he should be the automatic choice he was. Those who tell us to do one today are the short-termists, not me.

So, to repeat, that was an excellent knock today, it’s what we need him to do, it does not make him a great leader of men, it did not merit the widespread sychophancy eminating from the press and Sky Sports box for how much his team loves him. As I said, I’m more neutral towards this team than I would like – I can’t help it, sorry – and so I look at these things more dispassionately, and Cook’s knock was one of his best given the context of the match. But I couldn’t cheer it to the rafters. Rather appreciate it for what it was – a very good openers knock – rather than those who oppose KP, who seem to spit blood every time he did anything any good, and disparage him at every turn.

I know others here are more passionately against this team, and I can understand that. I will not condemn that. Because when you see those bastards in their box, no doubt believing this vindicates their tough choices, I get it. But today was a good day to look to the future, with the rock opening and allowing them to express themselves. We’ve shown less fear in this game. That I welcome.

Comments for Day 5 should follow below. Century Watch will follow this test match.

England v New Zealand 1st Test: Day Four

England had a fairly decent day today, but New Zealand remain very much on top in the match.  Some of the deficit has been cleared, and both Cook and Bell batted pretty well to recover from yet another poor start.  Lyth will have been disappointed with the shot he played to get out, but let’s hope he’s not under any kind of pressure just yet – he has barely played any cricket in the run up to this series – precisely the scenario pointed out when they chose not to give him a debut in the West Indies.

Gary Ballance again looked out of sorts, but it was a very good ball that got him out.  Alex Hales on Twitter was quick to point out that a player doesn’t average 56 in first class cricket without being able to play the moving ball.  He’s a young player making his way in the game.  A bit of patience wouldn’t go amiss – his start in Test cricket has been a good one.

Cook himself looked technically much better, and given the situation that was a very valuable innings.  But the work has barely started given the position England find themselves in.

Kane Williamson was the glue holding the Black Caps’ innings together, but he clearly found the going much tougher today.  The overhead conditions were cloudy bordering on murky, which is why the eventual lead of 134 will likely prove decisive assuming it remains the same tomorrow.  Indeed, given that, and that New Zealand scored 220-8 today, the size of England’s task is a major one.

BJ Watling was the other major run scorer, demonstrating his worth yet again.  He seems to go largely under the radar for the commentators, but given a Test average of just shy of 40, it’s rather peculiar that he does so.  He’s a proper batsman.

England certainly bowled better today, but given the conditions they ought to be somewhat disappointed.  Some of it was down to happenstance, balls flying just out of reach on a number of occasions; some of it was self-inflicted, catches being dropped and some of it was down to once again bowling too short.  It’s truly extraordinary to see bowlers with the records the opening pair have go through this on so many occasions before belatedly correcting it.  New Zealand consistently are bowling fuller than England are.

Mark Wood took three wickets, none of which were exactly conventional.  He won’t greatly care at the moment – his relief at his first Test wicket was evident.  Yet he showed some serious signs of promise, his pace was good being consistently around the 90mph mark, he used the crease well to vary his line of attack, and got some late swing.  It’s his first game, and basing judgement on that would be foolish in the extreme, but there appears to be something to work with.  Add to that a post-play interview that was delightful in demonstrating the clear joy he has from playing and he’s proving an engaging character.  And then there’s the imaginary horse…

Ben Stokes at one stage appeared as if he was going to combust.  He didn’t bowl badly, and was let down by his fielders, yet he is in the position of bowling too many bad balls but not taking the wickets, hence a fairly poor economy rate.  Again, he is still in the infancy of his career, but perhaps the worst thing would be for him to focus on the economy most of all.  Bowling dry should be a weapon in the armoury, not the whole arsenal.  He’ll have more productive days if he bowls like this.

And then we come to Moeen Ali.  Ignored for much of the first day and again today, he popped up when finally called upon with two wickets in three balls.  He’s doing little wrong at the moment, scoring runs and taking wickets.  Curiously, although he’s a batsman who bowls primarily, it is his bowling that will determine his England career.  With the exception of the tour of the West Indies, when he was coming back from injury, thus far he’s doing all that can be asked of him.

Jos Buttler’s two catches deserve a mention.  Diving catches always look spectacular, but the first one in particular was special, because it is to his wrong side.  Lords does seem to cause wicketkeepers no end of problems, and that will have pleased him, deservedly so.

So another terrific day of Test cricket.  Yet whilst England will be pleased with their day, they are two wickets down and quite some way from drawing level.  With two days to go, England would have to bat the whole of tomorrow and another session to make the game safe, and that seems like a very big ask.  Of course, they will have hopes of winning the game, and to that end a target of 200 would seem to be the absolute minimum.  To do that and score a further 260 runs is asking a lot.  Getting out of this will be tough, and New Zealand have to date been comfortably the better side.

@BlueEarthMngmnt

2015 Test Century Watch #23 – Kane Williamson

Kane TwoKane Williamson – 132 v England at Lord’s

Test century number two for the year for Kane Williamson as his reputation was enhanced with a cool and brilliantly compiled century at the home of North London cricket. It was the 14th test  century made by a New Zealander at Lord’s and moved him into 4th in the highest scores made there by a BlackCap. It was the highest score for 21 years by a New Zealander, and he trailed Martin Crowe (142 in 1994), Bevan Congdon (175 in 1973) and Martin Donnelly (206 in 1949) for scores made there.

This was the 229th test century made at Lord’s. He moves level with Ajit Agarkar, and one ahead of Sachin Tendulkar, Brian Lara and Ricky Ponting. Did you know that Robert Key has the 6th highest test score made at Lord’s. But enough of that… It’s the 104th ton by a visiting player to the MCC’s private club venue.

So Dmitri, have you seen a 132? No. There have been 29 in total in test matches, with the previous 132 made by Graeme Smith in St. Kitts against the West Indies in June 2010. The “nearest” I came to seeing one was when Marcus Trescothick made that score at Durban when England set about a large deficit in the first innings to almost turn a terrible position into a win. I flew into South Africa than night, and went to the next test in Cape Town.

Three players have made 132 twice in tests. Marcus Trescothick is one (his other was at Headingley against New Zealand in 2004), as are Graeme Smith and Patsy Hendren. The first ever 132 was made by a relatively topical name, even if the 132 was made in 1892. It was an unbeaten score made at Sydney, and the scorer of it was the man who holds the record first class score for Surrey, Bobby Abel.

The “Guv’nor” was a great crowd favourite for many years at the Oval, where he was the one reliable bat in a strong Surrey side. Of small stature (5’4″), and serious demeanour, he had an unconventional technique, with a bent for cross batted shots. “He gathers runs like blackberries everywhere he goes” said CB Fry. He possessed great patience, but generally scored quickly, driving and cutting well, but particularly adept at forcing the ball off his legs. An excellent slip fielder, he also bowled off-spin with considerable skill, but was rarely used in a strong Surrey attack.

His 357* was recently challenged by some one no-one can trust, but his 132 not out at Sydney came in a remarkable match. Australia were bowled out for 144 in the first innings, with George Lohmann taking 8/58. England made 307 in reply with Abel carrying his bat and putting on 72 for the 10th wicket. England were in a strong position, but let it slip. John Lyons made a very brisk century, Alec Bannermann took anchor for 91, and Australia set England 229 to win. Abel made just 1 as England fell 72 runs short.

The second of the three big matches produced one of the finest performances in the history of Australian cricket, a performance, indeed, fully comparable to the seven runs victory at The Oval in 1882, or the great, but unsuccessful fight on the same ground in 1850.

Read the Wisden report here.

This was the first score of 132 at Lord’s, by the way. The last 132 made by a visiting player was by Jacques Kallis at Manchester in 1998. Bevan Congdon has the only 132 by a New Zealander, made against Australia in Wellington in 1974.

I did a bit on Kane on HDWLIA when he made his big double hundred at the beginning of the year. This is his 10th test hundred, his first against England, his 7th outside of New Zealand, and his 5th highest overall. His previous best against England was 91 in Wellington on our last tour in 2013.

This was the 25th hundred by a Black Cap in England. 14 have been at Lord’s, 5 at Trent Bridge, 5 at Old Trafford and one at The Oval. Martin Crowe is the only New Zealander to have made three centuries in England. One bets Kane might get close to that.

Kane Williamson’s 100 came off 148 balls and contained 12×4.