Series defeat has shown England’s selections to be muddled with a schedule that does not enhance their Test prospects
The last time New Zealand won a Test series in England, back in 1999, England’s fans crowded the outfield and shouted “what a load of rubbish” and “we’re shit and we know we are” at the captain Nasser Hussain during his post-match interview. The mood was a little more forgiving this time around, not because England were any better – they weren’t – but because the opposition were. In ’99, the result dropped England down to the bottom of the world rankings – this time it pushed New Zealand up to the top of them.
While England were settling down to the grim business of their post mortem, New Zealand’s plan was to take a couple of days to celebrate, then start preparing for the World Test Championship final against India in Southampton next week. As one of their journalists put it in a question to stand-in captain Tom Latham, the team “have bigger fish to fry”. Latham was too polite to agree with him, but the truth is this summer England find themselves in the awkward position of being the third-best Test team in their own country.Continue reading...
It took an hour for New Zealand to get the job done on day four at Edgbaston, chasing down 38 runs to seal a 1-0 series win
All England angst aside, let us wrap up today by considering the rather more cheerful perspective of New Zealand. Anyone who has followed cricket for more than five minutes will know well the narrative of how remarkable it is that tiny New Zealand competes with and beats countries far bigger with far more resources. But that does keep coming up because... it’s true. India trending towards one and a half billion, New Zealand with four or five million, it’s remarkable that there will be such a well-matched contest. Whatever happens in the WTC final, these are two excellent teams.
We already knew that about New Zealand, but this has been another demonstration. Perhaps, just quietly, they deserve series of more than two Tests when they visit England? Perhaps that’s one to look at in future? That said, it was very good of the ECB to make the diary space for these matches which were principally about helping NZ prepare for the WTC.
Another interesting observation, this from Pete Salmon.
“Last night I went on the ECB website to see the wickets, and noted that none of the NZ players on the scorecard had pics by their name, while all the England players did. Symbolical on so many levels – the half-arsedness of not spending half an hour uploading them, the underestimation of NZ (‘preparing for the Ashes’ – presumably we’ll reach a point where we prepare for the Ashes during the Ashes) and finally the fact that the NZ players are basically interchangeable – any of them can beat us.”
James Evans is thinking things over as well. “This is a poor England side. I get that, and I also get that supporters are frustrated. But this mass pile on, and particularly the criticism thrown at young players, is unedifying and unnecessary. To suggest that someone like Sibley has no application or guts is patent nonsense. More importantly, the issue here is a failure of leadership, from the structure of the domestic season to team selection and coaching. Those things need to change if our Test team is going to improve.”
Very apt point, among others, from David Horn: “The resting of key players is a red herring. NZ made six changes for this test. The focus should be on preparation, ability, and focus ... and England are lacking in all three right now.”
While you’re here, might as well sign up to our cricket email The Spin if you haven’t already. If you want respectability, The Spin is older than some people’s adult children.
“My two penn’orth on batting is similar to yours,” writes Grif. “I don’t think someone who gets to be a Test cricketer lacks guts or application, but sometimes when things are tough and you over compensate, you get found out. Batting is a brutally unforgiving skill, and Test bowlers are good enough to exploit short comings. Even exceptional batters get scrambled brains when things aren’t going well. Having said that, there does appear to be a collective panic when wickets start to fall, as if it’s an inevitability there’ll be a collapse. That bit is palpable, and odd. Wouldn’t be surprised if it was also linked to a very changeable team selection too, no consistency so rhythm and familiarity is lost, in a discipline where both are highly valued. The next two opponents won’t give us many freebies to practice on either, so it needs turning round sharpish.”
From Jean Anderson: “I would like to express my thanks for the ball by ball commentary of the tests. I am in NZ and unable to watch the tests, so having this access has been fantastic and much appreciated.”
Thanks, Jean! That’s what we’re here for, to fill the gap for the people who can’t get to the cricket in other ways. Or the people who really like assembling their ‘Greatest Left-Handed Gloucestershire XI With Surnames Beginning With V’ when the rain comes down.
Here’s the report of the day, such as it was, from Simon Burnton.
“Can it be called a chase when only 38 are required? Surely procession would be more appropriate.”
Lap of honour, Richard Hirst?
“I think everyone is reading far too much into what is a friendly being used to blood some youngsters,” writes Mark Hooper. “Admittedly it’s not been an unmitigated success, but at least it’s established the fact that the succession for bowling talent is looking better than batting. We need another opener and someone at 4 to steady the ship. Which we already knew. There are plenty of all-rounders waiting in the wings who are usually relied on to pull England out of a mess – so no surprise that without them we’ve stayed in a mess. If anything, this Test has improved Hameed’s standing, which is a good thing in my books!”
The blooding might have been of a few noses rather than youngsters. Not sure how someone like James Bracey will be better for this experience. Perhaps he has the capacity to be philosophical.
Tom Latham: “Great to have that performance under the belt. The way we went about things the whole four days was outstanding. It was a complete team performance really. It’s great for the depth in New Zealand cricket, all the guys who played had played Test cricket before. The way they were able to stand up was outstanding. Great for them to have experience in these conditions [in county cricket], and for us it was about trying to keep things simple and keep doing what we’ve been doing for the last couple of years. I always love captaining this side, it’s a real honour, and I’m lucky there’s a lot of leadership in this group, so it’s nice to be able to lean on them. The guys will look forward to celebrating this, we’ll celebrate tonight and then looking forward to the next Test.”
Joe Root: “More than anything, it’s what we can take from [that loss]. You can have bad sessions on occasion with the ball but you can’t have a session like that with the bat. More than anything it’s managing those scenarios: if we do lose a couple of quick wickets down, how are we going to get through to a break, or manage a bit of pressure for a 10-over period, calm things down again. Instead of looking at things too technically, we have to make sure we’re managing things mentally.”
Devon Conway: [Chris Silverwood’s player of the series] “Pretty special feeling to win here in England, first time since 1999. It’ll take some time for that feeling to sink in. Being up the order has been exciting for me, being up there with Tommy Latham and being able to learn from him in how he goes about his business. It’s a big step up, the mental side is a big part, getting challenged for long periods, coming up against world-class bowlers in Jimmy Anderson and Broady and those guys. Very excited, this is a very big win for us, getting used to the surfaces and the swing and the ball.”
Rory Burns: [who NZ’s coach Gary Stead has named as England’s player of the series] “Personally, it’s been nice to get back in the side and bat with some nice rhythm. They bowled well over the series, they constantly tested the defence. I felt in pretty good rhythm which allowed me to make good decisions against what I was being tested against. I was trying to have that rhythm and stay level across my innings. Test cricket you get a lot of time to bat.”
Matt Henry: “What a way to finish the series. A special shout out to the crowd, they’ve been unbelievable, a lot of Kiwi support out there as well. Every day they’ve come out in their numbers, and the energy was great. It really made this a special Test match.”
“Having past experience here, knowing how to go about your work, means that you have confidence knowing what you need to do. Day 1 and 2 was a really sound wicket, it seemed to get a bit quicker. We knew it was going to be a new-ball wicket, and wanted to make sure we got wickets in clumps, because we knew that once people got used to the surface it was going to be tough work.”
Let’s talk about what went well for New Zealand. The great revelation was Devon Conway, who has done good things in their white-ball teams recently but hadn’t made his Test debut. To produce 200 in his first innings, then another 80 in his second match, he’s done something truly special. There were runs too from Ross Taylor, Henry Nicholls, and Tom Latham across both matches, and Will Young’s 82 when he came into the side here in Birmingham. Consistent contributions across the board. It’s telling that New Zealand didn’t even need Kane Williamson in this series win. He made 14 runs in the first Test and didn’t play in the second. Everything has gone well in that department, and Watling will be back to keep wicket for the World Test Champs final.
As for the bowling, the options are so numerous. Southee bossed the first Test, Boult got back into the swing of things in the second, Wagner was irrepressible in both, Matt Henry outbowled everyone at Edgbaston, and Jamieson has had a brilliant start to his career and is just the sort of bowler that might trouble India with his bounce. You can’t play all five, and maybe you can’t even play four.
What a performance from New Zealand. Absolutely dominant from the moment the third innings began, having already set themselves up in the match. That came after they also dominated the first Test, and if not for a full day of rain, would have had a chance to set up an equally imposing advantage for themselves there.
After choosing not to attempt a run chase at Lord’s, Joe Root said that taking the draw had ensured his team still had a chance to win the series. The flipside of that is that getting a win in that first match would have ensured they couldn’t lose the series. England left that possibility open, and it has come to pass.
10th over: NZ 41-2 (Latham 23, Taylor 0) Now Anderson is done. Mark Wood takes the ball. Got to get some value out of having done the warm-ups, one supposes. Around the wicket he comes, in fast at the body of Latham. But the third ball of the over is too full, and Latham clips it off his pads for four. Scores are level... and he leaves the next one, swinging in from outside the off stump. But the fifth ball of the over does the trick, Latham reaching for it and guiding it down to deep third for four. Nobody bothers chasing that one down, because the first run they took was going to be enough.
9th over: NZ 33-2 (Latham 15) There will be a change in the bowling. Broad is done for the day, Olly Stone will get a brief fling with the leather. And he does as he did in a few spells during the first innings: bowls one bad ball in the over, too short outside off stump and Young is able to play his first expansive shot, a very nice back-foot punch through backward point for four. But when Stone finishes the over with another wider one, it’s not as short, and Young mistimes it to take the bottom edge of his bat. From there it bounces down into his stumps. The supporters exult.
@GeoffLemonSport You have to admire the England fans, still giving it their all. Even if you don't care for the beery chanting it can't be denied that they get right behind the team no matter what.
8th over: NZ 28-1 (Latham 14, Young 4) Anderson carries on, and after Latham plays push-and-run again, Young has a big cut shot but gets an under-edge on the bounce into the cordon.
“I’d like to accentuate the positive aspect of the batting outcome, namely that the absence of a specialist spinner to exploit day 4/5 conditions has been rendered somewhat moot,” observes Brian Withington. “On a more serious note, well played NZ and really looking forward to the final against India.”
8th over: NZ 27-1 (Latham 13, Young 4) Broad will continue, England perhaps just using the two bowlers to get this part of the match over with. Young works a single, Latham knocks away a couple. Nothing expansive from this pair, just collation. Broad sends a bouncer sailing so far over Latham’s head that the umpire calls wide. From the next delivery Latham tries the tip and run, and should have been out! Defensive block to mid on, Mark Wood running it, picks up well while bending low, gets a diving underarm flick at the one stump he can see, and misses by microns. Great effort, Latham was well short as the ball passed the timber. That’s a no-ball into the bargain. Four leg byes, a wide, and two no-balls when defending 38 is not very helpful.
7th over: NZ 21-1 (Latham 10, Young 3) A perfect on-drive from Latham for four. Nice delivery from Anderson, on a good length and swinging into the left-hander. But Latham reads the swing, waits for it, and just eases through the line of the ball, along the carpet to a very straight long-on. We’re better than halfway through the chase. Anderson has had enough and bangs one into Latham’s armpit, the captain fending that away towards square leg. There is a fielder set relatively short there, but not short enough. Perhaps 20 paces from the bat, and the ball carried 10 or 15.
6th over: NZ 17-1 (Latham 6, Young 3) Broad taking some inspiration from the Euros, going hard into the box. Smashes Young in the protector as the batsman tries to pull a length ball that wasn’t short enough for it. Then a fuller swinging ball goes past the outside edge as well. Latham started the over with a single that took his to 4000 runs in Test cricket.
5th over: NZ 16-1 (Latham 5, Young 3) Latham is handling Anderson well. Leaves the two that he can, then as soon as he gets a straighter ball he pushes it gently to the leg side and sets off with the shot for a single. Anderson nearly draws Young into an edge from his final ball, getting a bit of shape away, and Young just bails out of pushing at the line. Anderson does his very best grumpy old man impression: arms hanging loose, back bent, eyes a thousand yards away, mouth muttering imprecations.
David Gaskell is doing some thinking. “Since the ICC seem to want to enlarge the international cricket stage, deservedly including the likes of Ireland and Afghanistan, maybe the second teams of India (who beat Australia) and NZ (beating England) should be included in the world rankings?”
4th over: NZ 15-1 (Latham 4, Young 3) Broad goes very full, hunting for the front pad of Young, but the bat comes down in time. The trumpet echoes around the Edgbaston stand. Young happily shoulders arms whenever the option presents itself. No score from the over.
3rd over: NZ 15-1 (Latham 4, Young 3) Anderson gets his line right to start his second over, and how. A ball that swings in to Latham and then seams away. Just pitched too short to take the edge and add a second wicket. There is a reasonable contingent of spectators today, and they’re in full voice with these early moments for England. But Anderson loses his line again, this time leg side, and it comes off the thigh pad of Latham for four leg byes. Back of a length again goes Anderson, this time taking a thick outside edge as Latham fends, getting a single to point. Width to Young to end the over, and the temporary first drop who played so well in the first innings drives it out through cover for another three. There was a no-ball among that lot too. Not Anderson’s best start to an innings.
2nd over: NZ 6-1 (Latham 3) Stuart Broad starts off to Conway, another right-arm medium-fast bowler around the wicket to a left-handed bat. Gets a bit closer to the stumps though than Anderson, and Conway leans forward with an open face and runs the ball to deep third for three runs. That brings Latham onto strike, and he thinks that Conway’s shot was such a good idea that Latham decides to mimic it. Forward lean, gentle hands at the ball, letting it run away off the face. Same result.
It brings Conway back onto strike, and the final ball of the over brings his first failure in Test cricket. Lovely bowling from Broad. Around the wicket with some angle in, but the ball swings away very late. It’s pitched full, too. So Conway is pushing at it, wanting to cover the line at his stumps and pads, but the movement away takes his edge and into the hands of the fill-in keeper.
1st over: NZ 0-0 (Latham 0, Conway 0) Here come the New Zealand openers, Devon Conway and the temporary captain Tom Latham. Not much to gain for them in a small chase, with the risk of getting dismissed without the chance to get a decent score. So I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a circumspect start, as opposed to different styles of players who would take the chance to tee off.
That indeed is what Latham does, and is free to do, as James Anderson starts very rustily. Around the wicket to the lefty, Anderson bowls everything way wide of the off stump. Latham leaves the lot.
“Is England’s Test batting a result of the success of the whack-em and thwack-em style of batting that they do so well in the shorter forms - which doesn’t work so well in Tests?” Andrew Benton is musing. “I thought the previous Test had marked a turning point, when England needed to embed the principles and practice of not getting out within their batters psyches. Clearly that was just a hiccup. I think the management needs to change.”
I wouldn’t think so. Burns, Sibley, Crawley, Pope, Lawrence, none of them anywhere near the white-ball teams. Root isn’t there for T20s, and his ODI job is to be the foil for that style. Nor did anyone yesterday get out playing wild shots. With all the IPL players out, this current XI is shorn of any white-ball influence. Mark Wood is the only one who gets an England shirt in short forms.
Where’s Brendon McCullum? He’d try to chase these within an over. Never mind arithmetic. It’s funny to think of the New Zealand bowlers all doing their warm-ups and preparation this morning, the fielders getting into their positions, and all it took was a single delivery. Make that 96 innings ending not out for James Anderson, but he didn’t get to take any runs with him.
First ball of the day! I hope that no one was banking on a long last-pair resistance. Trent Boult, New Zealand’s best, has the ball. Left-arm over the wicket to the right-hander. Unfurls in that lovely bowling action of his. A scrambled seam delivery, it starts on the line of the stumps and then decks away after pitching. Stone defends from the crease, almost on the back foot, and is squared up. It takes the edge high on the bat through to the keeper. And it’s all over.
We’re about to get underway...
@GeoffLemonSport finally the penny drops that this England batting lineup isn’t good enough. Too many players who simply don’t do the hard yards, no application or guts. Crawley and Pope are obvious culprits, but Sibley and Lawrence are just as bad. Weird techniques don’t help
And g’day to Mike. I’m tipping that perspectives like Mike’s are pretty common across the cricket-watching populace in England at the moment, with plenty of reason. The part about not being good enough (at present) checks out. These are the best players in the Championship, by and large, but they’re still not doing the business for England. I rarely buy into the citing of intangibles though, like application or guts. Aside from a few exceptions that are very obvious when they come along, I don’t think that anyone who gets out while batting in international cricket is trying any less hard to do well. It’s not like they don’t care, or they don’t have courage. It’s that one wrong decision can end your innings, and they’re making wrong decisions. There’s no moral aspect to that failing.
Here’s one thing to watch for today. If James Anderson makes 39 not out, he’ll take his batting average back into double figures. Given he has 95 not outs so far in his Test batting career, he actually kept that mark above 10 for most of his long career. In the past couple of years it has dipped into the 9s.
“Good morning,” writes John Starbuck. “Is there going to be a crowd? If so, are they going to sing? If so, what? Something about being so down, it looks like up to me, or perhaps having to travel on?”
Well. It is the Sunday at Edgbaston, which is supposed to be fun. I’m sure there will be people who decide that they can’t be bothered making the trip into the ground for the half hour or so of cricket that they’ll expect to see. But there will be others who have already purchased their dual-occupancy zebra costume or their group Snow White & Seven Dwarves outfits, and will want to get some wear out of them.
Ewan Glenton writes in. “I’m reminded of Little & Large’s timeless sketch from the the 80s, when England had serious & persistent problems re stability at the top of the order.
[Picking up the phone and dialling]…
‘Hello, I’d like to speak to one of England’s opening batsmen please. [pause] What’s that, they’ve just gone out to bat? Ok I’ll hang on a sec...’
So what in tarnation happened yesterday? There was some very good bowling from New Zealand... but that’s as far as I’d go. Matt Henry hit the seam, hit a nice length, and moved it a bit one way and a bit the other. Neil Wagner got some left-arm swing into the pads and some balls going on straight with the seam across off stump. All of those variations took wickets. They were well bowled, but they’re also the sort of bowling that a top-order player with an English grounding is supposed to be able to combat. A wicket or two falling to those deliveries would have been a fair exchange, but not a score of 58 for 5. From there it was all over for England’s concentration, and the fairly innocuous spin of Ajaz Patel picked up the last two recognised bats. It was a very limp display.
I’ve seen lots of people complaining about the rest and rotation policy again, but you genuinely can’t expect the likes of Buttler and Stokes to come off all the IPL drama, not to mention the India tour before that, into a month of England white-ball cricket, then five Tests, then a T20 World Cup, then the Ashes in Australia, then the... I don’t know... 17 or 18 different postponed series that England is supposed to play next year. It’s not a recipe for good performances. And in any case, Stokes, Bairstow, Buttler, these are all players with Test batting averages in the 30s. They can each play some astonishing innings but they’re not models of consistent runs.
One thing is true: when an England Test goes badly, people want to have their say on the OBO. The lines are open. Fire through an email or a spicy tweet.
Hello all, and welcome to a very brief dalliance with the OBO for Day 4 of this Test match. Frankly it’s a miracle that we got here. What happened yesterday? Resuming the coverage today, it feels like one of those mornings when you wake up face down on your own living room floor and survey the carnage of last night’s party with total bemusement.
There was a stage yesterday when New Zealand’s first innings had wrapped up that most of us would have thought their lead of 85 was handy. Then there was a stage when England looked like they would turn that deficit into an innings defeat. They managed to at least get in front of NZ’s tally thanks to the tail having a swing, largely Mark Wood who is currently the top-scorer for the innings with 29. And he’s likely to stay that way, with only Olly Stone and James Anderson to resume with the bat today.Continue reading...
Despite making six changes to their team from Lord’s New Zealand have been far too good for Joe Root’s fragile side
India have been playing what they are calling an “intra-squad match simulation” at the Ageas Bowl, the highlight of which appears to be an unbeaten 121 from 94 balls by the ever-electric Rishabh Pant against an attack featuring Jasprit Bumrah, Mohammed Shami, Ishant Sharma and Mohammed Siraj.
Any squad led by Virat Kohli is unlikely to have gone through the motions – you fancy India’s captain would bring his burning intensity to a friendly game of KerPlunk – and they will certainly be more familiar with life in Southampton’s bio-bubble before the World Test Championship final that starts on Friday. India are No 1 for good reason and boast some serious resources at present.Continue reading...
- New Zealand’s Devon Conway ruled not out off Stuart Broad
- England unhappy with signal given by Richard Illingworth
Does international cricket need the soft signal for low catches? It was a question posed by many, including England’s bowling coach, Jon Lewis, as New Zealand moved to a position of strength on the second day at Edgbaston.
The tourists closed on 229 for three, trailing by 74 runs, thanks in part to Devon Conway following the imperious double century made on debut at Lord’s last week with another well-crafted 80 that underlined the left-hander’s class.Continue reading...
Where other bowlers have seen careers ruined by injury and off-field issues, Anderson is still going strong in his 162nd Test
“What’s the secret?” Nasser Hussain asked Jimmy Anderson before the start of this Test. “A lot of it is luck,” Anderson told him. “I’ve been born with a body that can cope with the pressures of bowling.” The rest, he said, was “hunger”, the appetite to work at getting better every day for the past 6,596 days, since he made his Test debut in May 2003. In that time he’s played 162 games, which puts him top of the list, one ahead of his great mate Alastair Cook. Luck and hunger. It’s a short reply to a question that, judging by the long list of fast bowlers England have picked in Test cricket in the past 17 years, has a lot of answers.
That first summer, 2003, England also gave a debut to Richard Johnson, who took 16 wickets in three Tests before his career was ruined by a persistent knee injury. And another to James Kirtley, who won man of the match in his first game, before he was forced to remodel his action after he was accused of chucking. And Kabir Ali, who was reckoned to be one of the brighter prospects in county cricket. He got to play one solitary Test at Headingley and took five wickets in it, too, but was dropped because of what Wisden described “as mutterings about his girth” and his parallel career as a male model.Continue reading...