Balance of Terror

There are a few surprises today. First that we’ve had three days and the match is still going on, secondly that England are still in it, and thirdly that they’ve had a pretty good day. 62 needed and 5 wickets left, and most importantly Joe Root is still there. And that’s the key with this fragile England batting line up, that he’s the one genuinely world class batsman in the side – indeed the one obviously Test class batsman for that matter. If he scores runs, England have a chance. When he doesn’t, and he can’t do it all the time, they fold like a cheap suit. His game awareness pushing to take the second new ball out of the equation was just a small part of his continuing excellence. It really is a pity he’s having to carry this team all the time, because his record in a better one might be even greater.

Only 62 runs are needed, and if he’s there at the end, England will win it. Sure, it’s a statement of the bleeding obvious, but it emphasises how much they rely on him, or upon Stokes. With a normal side, and with so few runs required, there would be strong expectation of victory at some point in the morning, weather permitting, but this is the England team. If Root goes, getting 62 would be a tall order. Getting a dozen would seem challenging. So to that extent we’re learning nothing we didn’t already know – Root is a magnificent player, Stokes is a very fine one, and there’s not a lot else. The first innings collapse will leave New Zealand still confident that one wicket will get five.

That England have any shot at all is down to a fine bowling display in the morning session, particularly from Stuart Broad, who decided to do what he does and ripped a hole in the New Zealand batting order. Yesterday they went 60 overs without picking up a wicket, and the bowlers came in for some criticism for that. But it was a normal enough day, and the opposition are allowed to bat well. The only reason it ever stands out is because of the brittleness of England’s batting that requires the bowlers to skittle the opposition every single time without exception for England to get their noses in front. Let’s be pretty clear on this, the England seamers have been exceptional this match because they know damn well they have to be on their game constantly to have a sniff, and why it shouldn’t be a surprise when they fail to deliver sometimes having seen their own side shot out in a couple of sessions yet again.

Weather permitting, it’ll be a short day but a fun one tomorrow. Low scoring matches are exciting because every ball has a degree of peril attached to it, for both sides. But that doesn’t make this one a great game, it’s been far too flawed, and far too short. But England are still in it, thanks with one exception to their longer serving, class acts. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

9 thoughts on “Balance of Terror

  1. Metatone Jun 5, 2022 / 10:12 am

    I fear weather conditions this morning might advantage the bowlers.
    Stokes is a bit out of sorts with the bat, which leaves us with Root.
    Something ridiculous about the idea that we have Root, a generationally top class player but we can’t find anyone other than Stokes to average 35. 35!

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  2. dlpthomas Jun 5, 2022 / 1:11 pm

    That was bloody good game and not just because England won. Root was terrific but Foakes also did well which will be good for his confidence. It was good to see the improvement in Englands fielding but I guess time will tell if they can keep it up. It was also a good performance by Stokes as captain and he handled Parkinson well. Interestingly, Williamson seemed to have no confidence in Patel – a bowler down and he still only gets 2 (albeit expensive) overs. He was surely worth another try after Stokes got out.

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    • Marek Jun 5, 2022 / 1:34 pm

      One of the most interesting things about the ending to me was how similar it was to last week’s game–which, although it wasn’t f-c, featured a second innings bowled generally by this match’s attack plus Wagner, who’s one of the best in the world. There, they bowled very threateningly for a while–Compton and Gubbins got peppered with short-pitched bowling by Jamieson and Wagner–but they couldn’t get through them fast enough to stop them getting a target of 250+, and it all looked rather easy at the end..

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      • dlpthomas Jun 5, 2022 / 2:48 pm

        Hard to see them leaving Wagner out again. Not sure what the pitch will be like but maybe swap him for Patel.

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    • Miami Dad's Six Jun 5, 2022 / 8:20 pm

      He was useful only for revving up Stokes alpha macho ego, because no way was Stokes trying to upper cut the seamers until his eyes had lit up after boshing the spinner.

      Well, it’s a victory and for that we should feel grateful I suppose.

      A bit concerning that no batsman seems capable of anything bar Root, but Foakes did great as well today. Great to see another low 80mph right armer emerge, perfect for home conditions. Given the success rate of any number of these players in home tests, is there an argument for resting Jimmy and Broad for home series and keeping them fresh for away days? I jest, but…

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  3. Metatone Jun 5, 2022 / 7:10 pm

    Always nice to win and good to see Foakes holding down an end for Root. If he can do that regularly it might turn some matches in the future. That said, we’ve regularly beaten good teams when the conditions lead to a low scoring game so I’m not ready to declare a new dawn.

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  4. Mark Jun 5, 2022 / 8:43 pm

    A win is a win and England desperately needed a win. It’s certainly not a new dawn as England relied on Root to deliver with the bat. Very much as it’s been for years. When he fails England struggle to make 150. People go on about batting coaches but the other England batsman have had a front row seat on how to do it for the last two years, and still can’t seem to pick up any tips.

    England were better in the field, held their catches, and managed to stop NZ posting a big score. At one stage yesterday morning it looked as if 400 might be the target.

    All the old chestnuts about home conditions apply, but that’s the way it is. Let’s see if they can build on this? But the other batsman are going to have to up their game if England are to really improve. Can they increase their averages and make the occasional decent score?

    Finally back to Root. It’s been a testimony to him that he didn’t let the captaincy effect his form. And having lost the captaincy, at least in this match, it hasn’t caused him a lack of motivation. There has never been any doubt about his batting, it was always his captaincy that was the problem. He can focus purely on his batting now and boy do England need that.

    But the future horizon is looking full of icebergs. No Broad, Anderson, and Root and you do have to wonder…..

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  5. StaffordshireKnot Jun 8, 2022 / 9:05 pm

    Fair play to ENG…….though the injury to Colin the Mullet was probably what won it – that and NZ’s totally rubbish bowling on Sunday – not one maiden.

    ENG batting so so – but they were facing one of the world’s best seam attacks…….even without Wagner.

    ENG’s bowling was cheering – that’s the best I can say.

    BTW – why not recall Finn, he’s only 33, and has a test SR of 51.

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    • Marek Jun 9, 2022 / 11:32 pm

      Re Finn–very sadly I think that boat sailed some time ago. Some of the reasons might be that he’s not match ready this year (he only played two of the seven red-ball games before the break and was injured for the rest), he’s not played enough recently generally (since he was last picked for England he’s played 16 f-c games in five seasons), his form being a little bit patchy over those years; and that it’s difficult to assess his readiness to bowl against the best players in the world on the basis of patchy form in division 2.

      But that might also underline how truly awful England’s management of him was, given the strike rate (and it really is remarkable isn’t it: of those who have taken 80 test wickets, only Trueman has a better strike rate since the First World War, and only Gough and Willis are within almost five balls per wicket below him). I’m not sure I can think of a greater missed selection opportunity this century for England’s test team.

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