Given that play was curtailed with only 29 overs possible on day four, England now have an excellent chance of getting away with a draw. 98 overs may be scheduled for the final day, but the forecast is some way less than perfect for tomorrow as well. A 1-0 series win is now within their grasp, as it appears that at best a third of the day may be at risk.
If so, England will move up to third in the ICC rankings, and New Zealand will drop to seventh, a rather hard outcome for the Black Caps who have lit up the early summer with their exciting style of cricket.
For make no mistake, England have been on the wrong end of something of a hammering in this match. The scoring rates have been little short of astonishing from New Zealand – they have the highest scoring rate of any Test team in history who have scored more than 800 runs in a match, while in the second innings they set a different, if slightly esoteric record by becoming the first side in which 8 batsmen hit sixes.
Of course, while their approach deserves immense credit – and remember they were put into bat in difficult conditions on day one – it doesn’t excuse the abysmal bowling performance from England this morning in particular. Mike Selvey commented that:
Aside from the usual “knowing for a fact” stuff, it begs the question what on earth the captain is up to in allowing it to continue. Any captain should be telling the bowler in no uncertain terms that it is not acceptable to bowl in that manner, and telling him to do what he is told. If he won’t do that, then he’s off. It really is as simple as that. If Broad instead continues to do his own thing, and if Cook allows him to, then that is truly appalling captaincy, and weak beyond measure. And here’s the rub – if Selvey is wrong and that it was the policy, then that’s dreadful too, given that it doesn’t work, hasn’t worked and that England have had this problem of being spanked to all parts of the ground by the tail on so many occasions. It really is one or the other here.
England’s bowling to the tail has been utterly shambolic for some years now, and they simply don’t learn. No matter how many times it’s pointed out that barely any balls are hitting the stumps and they consistently bowl short, they still do it. Which would be ok if it actually succeeded, but it doesn’t. It is pure insanity of the “repeating the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result” kind.
When England lost the series to Sri Lanka this time last year, it was explained away as being a matter of just a couple of balls that could have gone the other way, and that was the difference between winning and losing. I don’t exactly expect it to be treated in those terms if England get away with a draw in this one – it will be 1-0 and well done England, ignoring entirely that they have been second best for much of the series, and will have escaped purely and simply due to bad weather.
England don’t deserve to win this series, and New Zealand certainly don’t deserve to lose it. And we don’t deserve to be fobbed off with a two Test series in the first place. Arron made the point in the comments that England will have played ODI series against Australia in seven out of eleven summers between 2009 and 2019, yet New Zealand get these two Tests. England could have made space for something more substantial, they chose not to. Any kind of defence that the schedule didn’t allow for more is nothing but excuses. Still, we’re used to that.
England could of course decide that in the spirit of the series they will have a crack at the world record target…..no, me neither. And so many England supporters will be secretly hoping New Zealand bowl England out, and for once it doesn’t have to have anything to do with the ECB, the mainstream media or anything else. It’s just a matter of fairness and what is deserved. No one who loves cricket could object to that, surely?