Probably the most notable event of the fourth day was losing the best part of a session to bad light, something distinctly likely to happen again on the final day. It’s autumn, there is cloud cover, it’s just in the nature of things. Aside from that, the day played out more or less as expected, with England declaring and New Zealand faced with attempting to bat out the remainder of the game. They’ll fancy their chances of doing so, particularly if the weather comes to their rescue tomorrow.
England are anything but a confident team given a miserable winter, and indeed a pretty dire couple of years, especially away from home; so perhaps the criticism they’ve received for failing to press on early enough should be seen in that light. Equally, the last time Root made a bold declaration, the West Indies chased down the target. Whatever Root’s protestations about not being affected by that (and that declaration was no mistake, West Indies and Shai Hope especially just batted brilliantly. Well done) he’d be less than human not to have it in the back of his mind.
Still, 1-0 or 2-0 as a series defeat doesn’t especially matter, though that New Zealand survived unscathed during the curtailed evening suggests a slight degree of conservatism wasn’t entirely unreasonable. Inevitably, those watching call for an earlier declaration than those playing, and although in a totally different series position, at time of writing South Africa are well past 500 and still batting long past when they had enough runs.
One thing to note with England though, and that is that maximising the number of overs they can bowl does require they score enough runs to exceed how many New Zealand would have to face to win the game. If a target of 300 is set, it doesn’t matter if there are 100 overs remaining or 200 overs remaining, the game isn’t going to go beyond 100 overs or so.
Thus, while England could have pushed on a little earlier and a little faster, it ultimately makes very little difference to how long New Zealand would have had to bat. England declared midway through the afternoon session. Even with trying to smash the ball to all parts, it’s unlikely England could have declared a great deal earlier, and nor is it realistically possible to factor in how much bad light there might be.
Root scored another fifty, without going on, though in these circumstances a century was a big ask anyway. For all his issues with converting fifties into hundreds, it would be more of a concern if he wasn’t scoring runs at all. Of him and Cook, he is less of a worry. It’s in his head at the moment, but there’s no reason to assume it always will be.
Malan too scored a pleasant half century while Bairstow provided some late innings biffing to raise the prospective target further.
It can’t be said that Latham and Raval survived without alarms, for Broad and Anderson certainly looked dangerous, but survive they did, and with ten wickets in hand they will fancy their chances of batting out for a series win.
98 overs are scheduled to be bowled, and if light is a similar factor, that may be reduced to around 80. That is ample time to give England a decent enough shot at winning, and importantly means that they should get a second new ball late on.
Sometimes it seems a little harsh to nitpick when they’ve done ok.