New Zealand’s Warm Up Series: Day One

Just thought I’d flick that around, given they’ve got a big date before too long and too many are viewing this as England’s preparatory series for India.

Test cricket is back, and with crowds. Not a full crowd, but a reasonably sized one, and enough to generate a background noise that is so much better than an artificial backing track. So let’s get something out of the way first, the over rate. It was poor. Again. By the time play came to a close we were four overs short. It’s not new, it’s never been tackled, and it’s abundantly clear the ICC couldn’t care less. It’s also true that a lot of cricket supporters aren’t that bothered either, so why be so annoyed about it? Because after the last 15 months where players and administrators have fallen over themselves to explain why spectators are so important and so valued, it is disrespectful to shortchange them like this, and doubly so to do it without the slightest sense of anyone in authority caring. There have been days when the shortfall has been worse than today, but it is still saying, on a daily basis, that the fans don’t matter, that what they’ve paid doesn’t matter. It is entirely fair enough for those who go and aren’t put out by it, but it’s not about that, it’s about the mentality of players, captains and administrators who don’t care in the slightest, and on the day Test supporters returned after such a long hiatus, it’s unforgivable. Don’t give us the bullshit about how much you value cricket fans and their presence at matches, when you can’t even be bothered to deliver what they paid (a lot) for. The media complain about it, but they barely ever confront the players about what their actions imply, and they should. Every single time. Enough.

As for the cricket, it’s as clearly New Zealand’s day, and they’re in a fine position to go on to dominate the Test. Devon Conway has been the star of the show, so look forward to all the “Devon’s got the Cream” headlines in the morning – and they’re deserved too. A late entrant to Test cricket, he’s taken his chance, and by demonstrating some decidedly old-fashioned skills – that of the patient opener. There’s something rather special about those who are nowhere near the Test arena until relatively advanced into their careers, who then grab the chance with both hands. As ever, one innings says nothing about the future, but a hundred on debut, at Lord’s, is no bad way to start. More to the point, he looks the part – slightly unsettled by Mark Wood’s pace at times, but able to adapt and cope.

His century is more impressive for the lack of consistent support until the arrival of Henry Nicholls midway through the afternoon session. England’s bowlers had chipped away and the innings could have gone in either direction. Digging in – for neither exactly dominated proceedings – and grinding down the England attack to push their team into, if not a dominant position, certainly a healthy one is how Test cricket used to be far more frequently than in today’s game. And it was a welcome return of such past values and skills.

It is a flat surface – there was some movement in the air, and the new ball carry through well enough to the keeper, but aside from one spell from the luckless Broad when he was all over Ross Taylor, it can’t be said New Zealand looked in a great deal of trouble.

Much comment has gone around about England’s choice not to select a front line spinner, relying on Root to get through a number of overs. And while by the end of this match that may prove to have been an error, it can’t realistically be stated so baldly on the first day – the idea one would have been certain to pick up wickets on such a friendly surface at the start of the game is the epitome of a player showing huge improvement by virtue of not playing. Had one been picked, they would have done more or less the same role as Root himself, to get through a few overs as cheaply as possible while rotating the seamers.

Nor have England bowled at all badly – they’ve probed and kept things tight without resorting to anything as base as bowling dry, it’s just that on the day the batsmen, specifically Conway and Nicholls, have been better. It happens, and New Zealand are a good team – which is why they’re in the World Test Championship Final and England aren’t.

England also picked a pair of debutants, James Bracey and Ollie Robinson. The former kept tidily enough, and nearly nabbed a stumping off Root as well. So far so good in his case. Ollie Robinson will be pleased enough with his day on the field – a couple of wickets and bowling nicely. It will be slightly ruined by the realisation that some old tweets as a teenager have garnered attention and it is an issue that will need dealing with. One observation there is that it is something of a mystery why neither player’s agent (assuming he has one) nor the ECB think it a worthwhile idea to check these things properly in advance to ensure there’s nothing detrimental or embarrassing that can come up when a player is selected.

Tomorrow is another day. England may not have bowled badly, but they can bowl better. The modest run rate means New Zealand haven’t got away so this match hasn’t decisively tilted one way just yet. But New Zealand will be the happier, and they deserve it too.

18 thoughts on “New Zealand’s Warm Up Series: Day One

  1. BobW Jun 2, 2021 / 7:44 pm

    I’m sorry but I’m disgusted with this New Zealand batting. All this keeping still at the crease. No exaggerated trigger movements, Being balanced. Batting stance side on and so on. I’m sorry but I hope the kids of today aren’t watching these guys bat. I hate to think about the bad influence they may have going forward….

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Sean Jun 2, 2021 / 9:21 pm

    In no way am I defending those tweets from Ollie Robinson, be it that they were made 9 years ago, but it does seem awfully weird that someone would search his old tweets in the hope of finding something terrible.

    I hope he’s advised properly and not fed to the social media lions (I saw the tweets pop up on my timeline and logged off Twitter for the day). An apology is of course necessary and the content is uncomfortable to read, but I’m sure he has no doubt matured since them. I’d hate to have been held accountable to some of the stupid stuff I did at aged 19, though I’m naturally not condoning racism or sexism in any form

    Like

    • OscarDaBosca Jun 2, 2021 / 9:59 pm

      17/18 year old boys says stupid sexist racist thing. Plus ca change as the French say. Not condoning it, but boys are immature and hopefully he’s grown up and understands what he did.
      Less sure about the rehabilitation of Overton, that was only a few years ago and both umpires and player it was directed to heard it, even though he denies it. Social media is a curse on the young, it stays forever.

      Liked by 1 person

      • thelegglance Jun 2, 2021 / 11:09 pm

        There is ever an issue that some won’t be satisfied with anything less than him never playing for England again. I’m all for action and punishment for such things, but I note a total lack of any willingness to allow for forgiveness or rehabilitation from many quarters.

        Liked by 2 people

        • dArthez Jun 3, 2021 / 4:24 am

          I have seen some of the tweets, and it does seem more like banter than anything else. Problem is of course that while you can make such jokes among friends (I am giving the benefit of the doubt, certainly not unthinkable on the basis of the wording that there was no ill-intent), social media are not private platforms. And thus whatever you post can come back years after the event. So can human beings, but then it is at best “his word vs mine”.

          What I find rather puzzling is that despite the millions that the ECB spends on the overhead (the people in ECB are nominally paid to do SOMETHING after all) this was missed by the ECB beforehand. Why is the overhead so massive if they can’t even get this right? Perhaps England need a tour by India every 3 years, just to pay 400 useless suits for being utterly clueless.

          I come back to the ECB statement Danny mocked up, with regards to Overton. It seems that the ECB does not even WANT to learn.

          Liked by 1 person

    • dannycricket Jun 3, 2021 / 6:42 am

      That’s pretty much how I feel, especially logging off Twitter. I put the tweets in a single image to show what the uproar was about to my 300 followers, and it’s now been viewed over 300k times. It’s sorely testing my own aversion to deleting tweets, if only to get rid of all the notifications.

      I don’t think Robinson should be banned, or punished in any way by the ECB. I don’t think the tweets by themselves indicate he is or was racist, sexist or anything other than ignorant, both of the things he was tweeting about and the public, eternal nature of social media posts. It’s not uncommon for teenagers (boys in particular) or even young adults to be slow to develop empathy for others, in which time making jokes meant to be shocking and outrageous to your friends seems clever and in some ways adult. The broad spread of subjects covered, including Madeleine McCann and Gary Speed, and the fact they all seems to be replies to his friends and family would seem to support this theory. Most people grow out of it, and I see no reason to suppose Robinson didn’t. This generation are just unlucky enough to have these jokes in poor taste archived online forever.

      His big problem is the ECB. Given their own appalling track record on discrimination, even facing a court case on that very subject, they’ll be keen to be seen to do something about it (as the Tom Harrison statement suggests) and will massively overreact. It would be the height of irony and incredibly unfair if Robinson was not only punished more severely than Craig Overton was for racially abusing an opponent, but was also replaced by Overton in the England team because of it.

      I also think many people seem unaware of Twitter’s search functions. Whilst someone did obviously look through his timeline to find a couple of them, most of them would have been picked up by a search for “from:twitterhandle [keyword]”. You could even have a script which does it automatically, as I suspect the ECB, counties and respective agencies might consider doing from this point forward.

      Liked by 1 person

      • dArthez Jun 3, 2021 / 8:55 am

        This is my fear as well. Overton seems unrepentant for recorded wrongs on the cricket field. Robinson posted a few things, eons ago (and what is the statute of limitations on bad jokes?), so let’s stamp out racism, by effectively rewarding a seemingly unrepentant racist. That will teach racists …

        Like

      • Sophie Jun 3, 2021 / 10:12 am

        Didn’t it use to be the case that tweets started with @someone could only be seen by them and this changed a few years ago?

        Like

        • dannycricket Jun 3, 2021 / 5:20 pm

          It’s not changed. If you are following someone and they reply (or put someone’s Twitter handle at the very start of their tweet), then you probably won’t see it unless you also follow the person being replied to as well. I say “probably” because the ‘Top Tweets’ viewing option (as opposed to ‘Latest Tweets’) does seem to show some replies from people you follow.

          However, if you go to a user’s Twitter page and then select ‘Tweets & replies’ then it will show absolutely all of their tweets in chronological order. Replies also show up in Twitter’s search, although they are less likely to be shown if you use the ‘Top’ search filter.

          Like

  3. quebecer Jun 2, 2021 / 10:53 pm

    I’m not big on excusing things, but don’t want to argue about that. However, who had and then released these tweets today at exactly that time?

    Like

    • thelegglance Jun 2, 2021 / 11:06 pm

      I’m not sure it even needs that. Some people do go back over old tweets, often to find something amusingly predictive – remember all the Jofra Archer jokes when something he’d said years back could be used to reference a present day thing?

      Like

      • quebecer Jun 3, 2021 / 12:10 am

        A coincidence in timing then? Some rando seeing him today and doing a little check at lunch time? I dunno about this.

        Like

        • dlpthomas Jun 3, 2021 / 3:51 am

          I’m also doubtful that this is a coincidence in timing. It seem more likely that people would have started going through his old tweets when he got selected in the squad and then decided to wait for the “right” time to release them.

          Like

        • thelegglance Jun 3, 2021 / 8:11 am

          No, definitely no coincidence in timing at all! All I’m saying is that it isn’t that unusual that someone would have gone through his old tweets, and not necessarily because they were out to get him. I don’t think this was the press for a start – they seemed to be the last to cotton on to it all.

          Like

          • quebecer Jun 3, 2021 / 5:44 pm

            Which brings us back to the question of why the ECB didn’t bother. The larger question, however, is that Robinson clearly had no idea he was being such a dick at the time, and that such talk was not just acceptable but normal in his environment. Which was Yorkshire Cricket Club.

            Like

  4. Marek Jun 2, 2021 / 10:55 pm

    TLG–re your (and many others’) point about the ECB doing a bit more due diligence on people’s social media backgrounds: I would think this has been a wake-up call in that respect, especially since it’s the second time in three months that an England player’s teenage tweets have been plastered all over the media. But it should be especially embarrassing in this case given that a recipient of at least one of the tweets was part of the England men’s team’s management in the recent past, and the man who rescued his career was England women’s last coach: they wouldn’t have had to dig in very obscure places.

    That being said, I’m very glad that my teenage inanities took place in the era before there was any chance of them plastered all over anywhere for posterity!

    As Oscar says above, I think the Overton case is potentially more worrying. At least Robinson seems to get how offensive his tweets were (and it’s not only that they were racist and sexist– there’s one which makes an absolute mockery of sport’s attempts to be more understanding about mental health issues)…although I want to scream every time someone who’s just done something offensive utters some variant of “that’s not the person I am”.

    I don’t get the impression from Overton’s Wisden interview that he thinks he’s done anything wrong–or, possibly, anything. That last point is the most worrying one. You know whether or not you’ve made a racist comment in a public place for you’ve gone through a disciplinary proceeding. It’s not an “I don’t believe I did it” sort of thing. If you haven’t said it, then you just deny it simply and straightforwardly. If you have, you apologise. But coming out with this kind of half-denial is the kind of evasive/manipulative nebulousness that is the hallmark of people who’ve spent a lot of time behaving abusively towards people but who don’t want it to affect their career too much. Of course, it may be that he’s just been clumsy with his words and/or been badly advised…but it really doesn’t look good (as Danny pointed out presciently!)

    Two other tangents about Robinson: first, interesting that he was a Yorkshire player at the time and that the tweets don’t appear to have been picked up by the club then. A penny for Azeem Rafiq’s thoughts….

    Second, the “cricket is a game for everyone” sloganeering–unless it was purely aspirational–had already been somewhat counteracted by the fact that the original squad consisted of fifteen white players. Even if it had been 25, I really can’t think of more than four non-white players who would have been in it, which should in itself be a wake-up call if, as we’re often being told, the club game is at least 30% Asian.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. dArthez Jun 3, 2021 / 2:41 pm

    So it takes reject Conway all of 1 innings to score twice as many Test tons as Temba ‘Passenger’ Bavuma will manage over his entire career.

    Like

    • dlpthomas Jun 3, 2021 / 3:35 pm

      I’m starting to think you don’t rate Bavuma.

      Like

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