Game Over – NZ v England, 1st Test, Day 4

Denly, Root, Stokes. Those three batsmen are basically all that stands between England and a crushing defeat characterised by poor batting on a pitch which is frankly every bit as dead as Melbourne in 2017. There is absolutely no reason that this Test should not have been a bore draw, except for England’s ineptitude in the middle.

The New Zealand innings, which lasted for just over two sessions last night, was pretty much a repeat of day 3. Watling and Santner batted through most of the day, with England’s bowlers causing few if any problems. The scoring accelerated after Lunch, with the two batsmen pushing New Zealand’s first innings lead beyond 250 until the hosts declared just after Tea. England’s bowling was flat, but so was the pitch and it doesn’t really seem fair to ascribe any blame to them when virtually every wicket which has fallen has been to a collossal mistake by the batsmen.

Which brings us to England’s innings. They needed to bat out 118 overs in order to save the game. Historically, that is seen as a very tough task. On a dead pitch where New Zealand’s numbers six and eight have just shared a partnership lasting 83.2 overs however, a solid batting lineup should at the very least fancy their chances. Burns and Sibley saw out the first hour from Boult and Southee, and then left-arm orthodox spinner Mitchell Santner came on.

Sibley was the first wicket to fall, edging a forward defensive prod to a ball which was about a yard wide of the stumps and spinning away. Four overs later, with England just three overs away from the end of the day, Burns top-edged a slog sweep which went almost straight up in the air before being caught at square leg by de Grandhomme. The only blameless wicket was right at the end, when nightwatchman Jack Leach was wrongly given out caught behind. A specialist batsman would almost certainly have immediately reviewed the decision, even if they thought there was a possibility they had in fact hit it. Leach, probably aware that the outcry for wasting a review in the England camp would almost certainly outweigh the potential congratulations if it was successful, chose instead to walk off.

Mitchell Santner has never taken more than three wickets in an innings, but seems poised to exceed that by at least a couple more tonight. I think it is remarkable how many mediocre (as Colin Graves might say) spinners excel when playing against England. Of the 24 spin bowlers (a number which includes quite a few part-timers) to have played against them in the last two years, seven made their career Test best bowling figures. New Zealand’s Santner and Astle; Chase in the West Indies; Sandakan, Pushpakumara and Dananjaya in Sri Lanka; Vihari in India. None of these are world-class bowlers who other teams seem to have trouble facing, and yet they run through England like a vindaloo through an incontinent grandpa. This is a consistent, clearly identifiable flaw in England’s Test batting which needs addressing.

There was an interesting conversation on Sky during the Lunch break, following an interview between Wardy and Ashley Giles about the changes the ECB has made recently in coaching and developing England players. In just two minutes, Key absolutely destroys the ECB’s National Cricket Performance Centre as a worthwhile endeavour.

Nick Knight: What about Loughborough? What about the Lions pathway? Ashley [Giles] spoke a little about it there. You’ve been through both those pathways. Have they worked over a period of time? The ECB have invested a lot of money and time in those pathways. Are players now more developed, having come through that pathway than they were before it existed?

Rob Key: There’s two different things there. Loughborough, I’ve always seen as a bit of a waste of money because I see Loughborough as a bit of a glorified indoor school. Where it’s the hub in the middle of Loughborough University. There’s an indoor net facility, a few other things, gyms, all of that type of stuff that I’ve spent many an hour in. Generally, Loughborough itself hasn’t really done anything to help cricketers. But what has, as Ashley Giles spoke there, which is a big difference, which I’m all for, is if someone wants to practice against spin. You’re not going to learn to play spin at Loughborough, but you will do if you get shipped out to Mumbai and you go and practice playing spin out there for three or four weeks. And then you want to play fast ones, they help people go to Australia. So then you can just send the players all around, it’s like a finishing school or it’s meant to be a finishing school, the Lions programme. Like he said, Ben Foulkes going out and playing in Sri Lanka. The Lions tours that they go on are absolutely vital, and they’re really good. The academy trip or the Lions trip I went on, we spent six months in Australia facing Simon Jones, Andrew Flintoff, Steve Harmison, Chris Tremlett, Alex Tudor. Forget about coaches, you can’t not improve in that sort of environment. But that wouldn’t have been any good just being at Loughborough, in the middle of winter in an  indoor school.

So I have no idea how much money gets ploughed into Loughborough, there’s nothing against the coaches there or anything else. I just don’t see the point in having an expensive facility that pretty much every county has. Probably not as nice, put it that way, but every county has its own indoor school. But the Lions programme I think is actually very good. It gives the opportunity to players that you don’t get in counties, especially in the winter. So they have a whole pathway system where they have Daniel Vettori doing a bit with the spinners out in the UAE and places like that. So that I think is really vital. Loughborough itself… It was a pain having to go up there. Bowlers don’t want to bowl in an indoor school. So you’re going up there, you’re not doing any cricket. You just do fitness testing. That seems like an expensive thing to have for that.

Ashley Giles clearly thinks the problems at Loughborough lie with the staff, as major personnel chances have occurred since he took charge. I agree with Key on this. The core issue is in the concept itself, not its execution. No indoor net, no matter how sophisticated, can replicate the experience of playing overseas. Nor can it simulate an innings which spans more than a few overs. Fitness, whilst obviously important, in no way requires or justifies a multi-million pound annual investment in a specialist facility. County cricketers are, as far as I can tell, as fit as any international players. The main problems with England’s Test team in recent years have been lack of concentration and focus by the batsmen, and frequent spells of ineffectiveness from the bowling attack when overseas. Loughborough can’t and won’t do anything to clear either of these hurdles.

If you want to comment on the game, or anything else, feel free to do so below. Because, unlike Chris/thelegglance, I will never block comments on my posts.

32 thoughts on “Game Over – NZ v England, 1st Test, Day 4

    • Marek Nov 24, 2019 / 12:53 pm

      It’s very kind of you to extend the circulation of this blog, but advertising every time that you’ve done so on here (and after all, if we’re reading this here we don’t need to read it anywhere else!) is starting to come across a bit like spam, at least to me.

      Maybe you could add some of your own feelings/opinions about the subject matter? If you care enough to reblog it, I’m sure you have some!

      Like

  1. growltiger Nov 24, 2019 / 1:37 pm

    No blame attaching to the bowlers? NZ were 197 for 5 with only 70 overs on the clock. Not to be able to knock them over for another 100 from there was definitely sub-par, and not attributable to exhaustion until, say, the third new ball was taken during the Watling/Santner stand. Archer bowled a lot of overs, but doesn’t seem to have had any influence on the game (you cannot count dismissing Watling with the last ball of the innings). Odd.

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    • dannycricket Nov 24, 2019 / 2:06 pm

      I’d stand by that. If I try to imagine a scenario where each team’s batsmen faced their own bowlers, I don’t think the score would be much different. England’s batsmen would get themselves out against Leach and Archer, New Zealand’s would milk Wagner, Santner and de Grandhomme to a huge total whilst blocking out Boult and Southee. If anything, I think England’s bowling attack would have restricted the English batsmen to a lower first innings total than New Zealand managed.

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      • growltiger Nov 24, 2019 / 3:15 pm

        I can also imagine lots of different scenarios. England’s bowlers were half way to converting the first innings total into the platform for a win (they were sitting on a lead of 160). Then numbers 6 and below put on 418 for 4. I don’t see the point of blaming the batsmen for that. For that matter, the England top order had lost their fifth wicket at 277 (ie 80 more than New Zealand). So, for once, England started an overseas series with a workmanlike batting performance in the first four sessions – better, in fact than the opposition then managed. So what went wrong with this match is that the attack was incapable of taking the last five wickets, once more keeping the batsmen in the field for over 200 overs, so they could start their second dig in a state of exhaustion (something that never goes well). We need another think about what this team does in the field, and particularly when it is bowling at the lower middle order with the second Kookaburra. The plans and tactics seem to be deficient.

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        • Mark Nov 24, 2019 / 3:42 pm

          I agree with both of you to some extent. This is a flat pitch and England should have made a bigger score. 400 is nearer par and England should have made 450 minimum. My problem with England’s batting over the last few years is it doesn’t really matter what the pitch is like we always seem to make approx 300/ 350ish.

          At home that’s ok, sometimes we score even less, but as we saw down under in the Ashes last time 350 to 400 are not big enough scores.

          As to the bowling, what do we expect? Most of country cricket in this country is now played between late April and May and late August to September on greenish pitches with a duke ball. Where are the skill sets to bowl on flat pitches going to be learned? And when we pick Test captains on whether their face fits, and PR then this is why happens.

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  2. Marek Nov 24, 2019 / 5:39 pm

    A quick query: these batting cock-ups have been happening on a regular basis for several years now. Graham Thorpe has been in various incarnations of his batting coach role since at least 2012. How?

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    • thelegglance Nov 24, 2019 / 5:43 pm

      He only became the main batting coach earlier this year. He may or may not succeed (and honestly, I think the impact of the coaches is overstated anyway) but it’s a bit harsh to hold him responsible for the tenure of others before him.

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      • dannycricket Nov 24, 2019 / 5:45 pm

        He was the white ball batting coach before, wasn’t he? I guess they thought he did pretty well in that job.

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      • Mark Nov 24, 2019 / 7:52 pm

        I am very dubious about these so called test match coaches to be honest. If you as a Test match batsman don’t know that just before stumps trying to save the game you dont just hit it straight up in the air then why are you playing test match cricket?

        Players should have their own coaches which work with them on any adjustments. These days with the internet and Skype they don’t need to be at the ground. The one size fits all coach is absurd to my mind.

        Talking about Thorpe…. before I cancelled Sky I watched the episode of Captains log with Nasser. In it he makes the amazing revelation that in his early days as captain he would sit in selection meetings and people would say…..”apart from his runs what else does Graeme Thorpe bring to the table.”

        Fair play to Nasser for telling these people “no, that’s what he does he scores runs.” You do seriously wonder the kind of genius who was picking the sides in those days.

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        • Benny Nov 24, 2019 / 9:08 pm

          Good point. We keep seeing basic errors in these players. It shouldn’t be an international coach’s job to fix basic flaws. How to deal with Bumrah, Cummins, Ashwin definitely but not elementary things like ensuring they see the final three overs out.

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        • dannycricket Nov 24, 2019 / 9:20 pm

          I would disagree, if only because these problems seem to be endemic. Put simply: If one player has a problem, I blame the player. If all of the players have the same problem, I blame the coaches.

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          • Mark Nov 24, 2019 / 9:58 pm

            But why do they need a test match coach? Surely they should have individual coaches back home at their counties that they listen to? Some of the errors are so basic that you have to wonder what the standard of domestic cricket is like if these are the best players.

            By the way I’m currently in the pub and they have Sky on. I was watching David Lloyd do his pre match pitch inspection. Are they filming in a different format? It looks like a movie format? David Lloyd looks like he is in a film.

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      • Marek Nov 24, 2019 / 10:22 pm

        Aha–I thought he and Ramprakash had both been sharing both roles…but it seems clear from the appointment reports that Ramprakash was clearly the senior Test batting coach. I take it back then.

        Mind you, I’m not sure his white-ball work is QUITE as good as it’s cracked up to be. It was only during the WC that the white-ball team started to look capable of doing well at all regularly on pitches that didn’t naturally suit their strengths, if I recall–which is the essence of the problem in all the formats.

        Your point about the influence of coaches is interesting. I’m also not completely convinced…which raises the question of why put so much money into a role that doesn’t necessarily produce very many results. Maybe a coach really is something to get you from the hotel to the ground…!

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        • Mark Nov 24, 2019 / 10:47 pm

          I would like to see any evidence that a test match batting coach has made any difference to a player during a test series. And if so why did the batsman not have this skill before.

          The coach is a shield to protect the players when they fail. “Sack the batting coach” is the shout when there is a failure. In the last few years England have had so many collapses you question what did the coach do?

          This is also true of bowling coaches at test level. What are they doing? A test match is no place to re model your bowling action.

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      • Marek Nov 24, 2019 / 10:31 pm

        A little bit of further digging suggests that my aging memory wasn’t quite as faulty as I’d thought. I’ve found two things to suggest that they shared a job title (Lead batting coach), and Thorpe at least sometimes did the batting coaching for the Test side (NZ and Pak series in 2018, for example–in the former of which Ramprakash did the white-ball series).

        So I wonder….It’s also a classic recent-ECB fudge about who’s actually doing which job (see particularly the constantly-changing job titles of Flower, Andrew).

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  3. dlpthomas Nov 25, 2019 / 12:25 am

    Root out to an incredibly poor shot – I’ve watch it multiple times and still can’t believe it. (Atherton, a little more generous than me, suggests he was taken by surprise by the short ball and caught “in two minds”. I reckon it was just a shit shot)

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  4. dlpthomas Nov 25, 2019 / 2:01 am

    So Leach doesn’t review when he’s not out, Denly does review when he is out and Pope plays a shit shot to a full toss and is brilliantly caught by Santner. Cricket may be a funny game but I am not laughing.

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  5. dlpthomas Nov 25, 2019 / 2:14 am

    New ball taken and Buttler immediately bowled not playing a shot. I can only assume there is a bet about who can get out to the dumbest piece of cricket.

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    • quebecer Nov 25, 2019 / 2:28 am

      Actually, how he suddenly shifted in to turning down singles and playing a shot a ball when Leach was very in and doing fine – and then smacking it straight to deep point in the first innings is a bit of a contender on your ‘dumbest piece of cricket’ contest too.

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      • dlpthomas Nov 25, 2019 / 2:57 am

        Good point. I’m still a bit undecided about Buttler as a test player.

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  6. dlpthomas Nov 25, 2019 / 2:23 am

    Dharmasena must be in on the bet. He gives Curran out LBW to a huge inside edge and then appears to immediately refer it the 3rd umpire himself. (Curran reviewed it so fast they didn’t have a chance to get the camera off Dharmasena who had his finger up and then drew the square in almost one movement.) That was a hoot.

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  7. quebecer Nov 25, 2019 / 2:25 am

    Buttler’s comments about us needing to be patient with Archer seem increasingly rich.

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  8. dlpthomas Nov 25, 2019 / 2:47 am

    England fought hard in the first session losing one wicket for about 42 runs (off about 31 overs). But overall they have lost 5 wickets to poor cricket. They have learned nothing from watching how NZ batted. Perhaps the coaches should concentrate on teaching the players to value their wicket and how to build an innings – you know, test match batting.

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    • dannycricket Nov 25, 2019 / 6:59 am

      That’s crazy talk. If anything, I’m pretty sure England needs to bat more aggressively to put the pressure on the bowlers. Had they hit every ball for six rather than being caught or bowled, for example, they might have drawn this game.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Marek Nov 25, 2019 / 12:16 pm

        Wishy-washy 1990s thinking! Draw?! You have to go for the win, surely–never take your foot off the gas. 85 overs at 5 an over would have given England more than 30 overs to bowl NZ out–and Archer could have bowled 16 of them….

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  9. dlpthomas Nov 25, 2019 / 3:53 am

    So England lose by an innings and 65 runs. At least it didn’t count in the test match championship.

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  10. dlpthomas Nov 25, 2019 / 4:09 am

    Perhaps the last word should go the NZ crowd who were chanting “I’d rather have a BJ than a Root” (some of you may need to google Antipodean slang.)

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    • Maladictasmokey Nov 25, 2019 / 12:46 pm

      Oh that’s hilarious

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      • dlpthomas Nov 25, 2019 / 1:21 pm

        You got to love the Kiwi’s

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  11. Mark Nov 25, 2019 / 8:20 am

    That went well then………

    Take out the 9th wicket partnership of over 50 and it would have been even more embarrassing!

    Oh,and their opening bowler Boult was injured so couldn’t bowl.

    Like

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