New Zealand 303-2 (Williamson 92*, Guptill 70, Latham 59, Taylor 47*) trail England 389 (Root 98, Stokes 92, Buttler 67, Moeen Ali 58 – Boult 4/79, Henry 4/93) by 86 runs with 8 first innings wickets remaining.
Dmitri doing the match update stuff today, so maybe this won’t be to everyone’s tastes!
The events of the past 15 months have seen my attitude to cricket change considerably. I had been a truly passionate supporter of England, and while I always appreciated the great players around the world, I would get to dislike some of them based on the fact that they weren’t from my team. You can’t help who you are. Now, with the nonsense of the past 15 months, with no sign of any meaningful contrition, I watch the matches with a more neutral perspective. This time a couple of years ago the performances this evening of Ross Taylor and Kane Williamson would have driven me mad. Instead I watched as a man struggling with his body, and to some extent his game, in Ross Taylor battle gainfully, fighting hard, grafting. I love that in a player. Then there was the almost too perfect Kane Williamson, looking every part the true class batsman he is. It was almost inevitable he made runs, looking totally in tune with his game, and rarely, if ever, looking threatened. I’m preparing the next instalment of Century Watch for the inevitable… (that’ll curse him). It’s early days, I know, and this will be just two tests, but do you remember how, in the mid 2000s, every time Mohammed Yousuf came to the crease, you knew he’d score runs? I felt like that with Kane today.
A lot of comment both here and on Twitter was focused on the Cook captaincy. It’s a default setting we have, that if things go wrong, it’s our beloved captain who is to blame. We knew what we were getting when we appointed him. Solid opening bat (at the time) with a penchant for run gluts, but also technically based, and vulnerable to flaws. The appointed vice-captain who had the label “not a natural captain” when he deputised for Strauss in Bangladesh. This is not a surprise, and I save my ire for Headingley Day 4 disasters rather than today. Those of us at The Oval in 2012 saw just how a pedstrian, out of sorts, bowling attack can struggle whoever is captain. Even his attempts at tactical changes, such as the leg trap and bowling round the wicket are almost by-the-numbers. I’m at the stage that having a pop at his captaincy isn’t worth it. He’ll have his days (Grenada Day 5 wasn’t just Jimmy Anderson) but he’ll have a lot of bad ones. This wasn’t in the same league as those that actually lose tests.
The match is set up well. England’s score was brilliant considering we were 30-4, and I thought it was more competitive than it looks right now. I was watching the Brisbane test on the flight home on Tuesday and saw how smug we were to have bowled out the Aussies for 280 odd, because it was a flat deck and the tail had put the runs together. We know what happened next. This score looked better because we scored quickly and there was a view that the pitch has something in it. New Zealand batted well, some chances were missed (rare is the game where every chance is taken), and they are pouring it on. Yes, if Wood’s over-stepping hadn’t been caught, the day might have been different, but that’s the game. The perceived weakness in the Black Caps, the supposed flaky opening partnership, put on a really decent platform (admittedly, I was catching up with sleep for most of it – still suffering) and now everyone is worried about McCullum. I’d be more worried about the bloke who is 92 not out and has a big double to his name in the very recent past.
For added reading today, have a laugh at Martin Samuel’s Daily Mail column – this is a football writer (and I despise him for that) trying to justify his varied sport portfolio and he spent yesterday bemoaning people going on and on about you know who, and wrote a whole column, it seemed, on you know who. I’m no fan of Newman, but when you have him and Lawrence Booth on your books, what’s the point of Samuel just showing up and writing this stuff? I’ve not read Selvey, so will go and look at it. I got a whiff of Simon and Smiffy at lunchtime on TMS, and FICJAM was in marvellous condescending form. I also had plenty of fuel to my anti-Lord’s fire with the constant looks at the spectators there today – I’m sorry, if you dress like that for a sporting event, there’s something up – and if you chucked, or allowed, a champagne cork on a football ground in this country you’d be banned for life (first for smuggling it in).
Lastly, from Vian and I, many thanks for the visits and comments. It’s the 22nd of May and this blog has had more hits in a calendar month than any here on BOC, or HDWLIA. This is, of course, down to the new writer, who is now outshining me at every turn 🙂 . I’m going to get The Analyst to write a piece like this on him any day now. Seriously, it’s been brilliant how his style has been received here and I know he’s going down really well. It’ll be his turn tomorrow night/Sunday morning…..
Cheers all, and looking forward to tomorrow’s play.