One of the joys of Test cricket is that you can dip in and out of it as work and other commitments allow. That has certainly been the case for me, as I missed the first four sessions due to seeing some of my family. The upshot of which is that I’ve missed the fall of twenty three wickets (live, at least), and instead witnessed a fairly steady accumulation by New Zealand towards what might already be an unassailable lead.
The day began with the hope of a wagging tail for England fans, which obviously fell apart within minutes. Stuart Broad is a long way from the batsman who recorded a Test century at Lord’s twelve years ago, Foakes has yet to recapture his batting form from a few years ago, and Parkinson must be totally unprepared for facing this New Zealand attack at such short notice. They managed to eke a small lead for the hosts between them, but that was the best anyone could expect.
New Zealand’s second innings begans much as the first did, with a flurry of wickets. Young, Latham and Williamson all fell before the Lunch break, which certainly gave England a chance of winning a Test for the first time in nine matches. However, it’s also important to retain a sense of perspective about things, particularly with regards to the quality (or lack thereoff) of this England team. Only a complete idiot would have suggested that England were clear favourites to win this game at Lunch, even if New Zealand were 38/3 at the time.
Conway gloved a legside delivery to the wicketkeeper just after the Lunch break, but that was where the good news finished for England fans. Mitchell and Blundell went on to score almost two hundred runs and put England very much on the back foot. The ball seemingly died and England’s fast-medium attack (plus the inexperienced Parkinson) were simply unable to trouble the batters.
It bears saying that England bowling reasonably well (for the first few sessions, at least) is not, and should not be, a surprise. At home, there is a plethora of fast-mediums who can trouble virtually any batting lineup in the world. Even when abroad, England would have a perfectly fine Test bowling unit if they could stop injuring their fast bowlers for a few months. The greatest improvement for England in this game has been in terms of their catching. It felt (and, not having CricViz’s database, that’s all I have) like England were dropping about half of the chances which came their way this winter. In the past two days, I’m not sure if they have dropped anything. A lot of this might be down to luck, as the chances have mostly gone to England’s best outfielder in Jonny Bairstow. Even so, it makes a huge difference when England’s bowlers only have to create ten wicket-taking chances rather than fourteen or fifteen.
There has been a lot of vitriol directed towards the MCC regarding their extortionate ticket prices, and not before time. One thing which stood out to me today is the frankly poor condition of the playing field. Leach’s injury seemed to come from his slide causing a divot, which tipped him forward onto his head. Mitchell, Parkinson and Broad have all had similar issues when fielding near the boundary. These kinds of incidents always remind me of Simon Jones’ ruptured knee in Brisbane, and I hate seeing it. Between this and a lot of low bounce on just the second day, it certainly doesn’t look like much of the MCC’s copious finances are spent on maintaining the pitch.
McCullum may well be watching this match and wonder what he has got himself in for. No batting to speak of, a bowling unit gutted by injury (even moreso without Leach), and very little time to turn things round. Although I believe he’s signed a four year contract, it’s hard to see him surviving if he is the first England coach to lose a home Ashes series in twenty-two years. He’s got to at least demonstrate progress in just fourteen months. If he was looking for positives to take, it seems likely that they will bat on the third day. This will mean that they won’t really have to deal with a deteriorating pitch, and will generally face batting-friendly conditions.
Of course, England fans will be all too aware that batting-friendly conditions haven’t helped them in the recent past and probably won’t here.
I have been drinking a bit. Probably worse mistakes still in there…
This match situation, with obdurate batters and a reasonable pitch is actually a splendid rehearsal for Pakistan in December and for overseas tests generally. Because England’s batting has been at least as flaky abroad as at home, but at home they have a battery of RFMs who usually keep them in the game–which has absolutely not been the case abroad.
That’s one of the issues about the retention of Broad and Anderson–which I don’t object to particularly, and especially not in this injury crisis. But it is short-termist, and it will very probably not help England abroad–which was actually the whole point of leaving them out of the WI tour.
The issue in Pakistan is, who gets the wickets. Probably not Anderson (who I would take if he hasn’t retired, and who’s still a very good stock bowler abroad, but whose penetrativeness has been slowly declining in the last couple of years), and even less probably Broad, who has a poor record in Asia and in general not a good recent record abroad outside South Africa and New Zealand. Maybe any of Archer, Stone, Wood, Mahmood or Robinson–but they need to get on the park first, and in the case of Archer and Mahmood will be short of test-match readiness even if they do! Unlikely to be Overton or Leach judging from the WI, and even less likely to be Woakes or Curran, who are generally abysmal overseas. So that places an awful lot of onus on Potts and/or Parkinson coming good and staying good (no pressure there then!) and on Stokes doing his Neil Wagner impression.
In passing doesn’t it say something for the strength of New Zealand that they can leave out a bowler of Wagner’s quality?
Dobell says Key has been talking to both Moeen and Rashid about going on the tour of Pakistan.
I struggle to see Rashid playing Test cricket again. His last first-class match was in 2019, and he hasn’t even played a fifty over match since last July. I just doubt that his arm could handle bowling 20+ over innings.
According to a Yorkshire fan forum, Gibson (mainly through the strength of their player-coach relationship) managed to persuade him to go on Yorkshire’s pre-season tour with a view to doing the same thing for Yorkshire….and, although he was apparently very helpful as a mentor, he got all of one over out of him on the tour–in the nets!
And Ali’s response seemed to be a lot more “well, we’ll see” from reading the articles than the headlines–although i think he’s much more likely to go than Rashid.
Talking of which, why is Bess still being talked about as one of the possibilities for the England spinner spot? Have these commentators not been watching Yorkshire in the last two seasons? Patterson-White must be streets ahead of him now for the third spinner slot.
I was surprised to hear talk of Rashid making a comeback but I think (based on nothing) there is a good chance Moeen might.
England’s over reliance on Broad and Anderson, particularly at home, combined with their injury issues with other bowlers means their attack will often be ineffective when they travel overseas. However the biggest problem by far is the batting.
Effectively Broad was right, even if it was rather undiplomatic, when he said in Australia that it doesn’t matter how we bowl if the team is being bowled out for 150 most of the time. Be it Pakistan or anywhere else.
Already they are going to need over two hundred to win this match, and if NZ bat well today it could be well over three hundred.
I sort of agree–but it does cut both ways. They were bowled out for 140 in this game and were still in with a very good chance–until they couldn’t get through two 31-year-olds with 20 f-c centuries between them in twenty seasons
If the opposition routinely score 500 England aren’t going to win many games either–although they might have a better chance of not losing.
I’d have a bit more sympathy for Broad if he valued his own wicket a bit more.
Bairstow is a very frustrating cricketer.
Same old England batting performance. I reckon our batting has generally (as in the overall batting unit) been shot since end of 2013 now. Torrid display after insipid collapse.
I’ve just watched Pope batting and his whole innings, I had no confidence in him to survive. Then I watched Bairstow come out and smash 4 quick boundaries that had Ward and Atherton cooing. Whilst I’m thinking Bairstow is getting suckered in here and will get out soon enough by playing an expansive shot to the wrong ball, sure enough, that’s what he did.
What happened to hood solid English batting, with a nice dasher here or there……ho hum.
Silly shot from Stokes. Only 118 needed but bugger all batting to come.