Category: New Zealand (page 2 of 29)

How New Zealand kept their distance from ‘the line’

New Zealand’s performance against England in the recently-completed Test series was the most relentlessly aggressive we can remember. There have been examples of individual players adopting a persistent attacking approach before now, but look back on those series and you’ll tend to find obdurate batting and dry bowling from a fair proportion of their team-mates.

Aggressive teams are, in general, a myth. We did a piece for Cricinfo a year ago in which we highlighted this using the Ashes-winning Australia side as an example. That side was – and its current incarnation still is – a side with a reputation for playing aggressively which was based on the exploits of the few. The highlights packages show Mitchell Johnson bouncers, but when asked to outline the team’s overarching bowling strategy, Peter Siddle said simply: “The key stat for us is maidens.”

But there’s another angle to this, and another of our old Cricinfo articles as well. Why do people think that acting aggressively is somehow part of playing attacking cricket? New Zealand have, surely, driven home the message that such a view is a complete pile of crap.

Through the World Cup and now this series against England, the Kiwis have attacked with both bat and ball in a way few other sides would ever even consider. Yet they have never once gone close to the mythical ‘line’ that separates perfectly acceptable behaviour from that which is universally condemned. Attacking cricket and verbal aggression – turns out they’re entirely different things.

The myths of parity

Shit at cricket

Parity on first innings isn’t really parity because one team has to bat last. When England matched New Zealand’s 350, they were behind.

Not that this was where the match was decided, but it’s worth noting when so much attention is on fourth innings shot selection.

Several days ago…

Two things happened to produce that unquantifiable first innings deficit. First of all, the second half of New Zealand’s innings produced way more runs than the first half. This seems to happen to England a lot, particularly once a few shots find their way to the boundary. The Kiwis’ second innings was more of the same but with an added dash of disaffection on the part of England’s bowlers.

In a way, New Zealand are just the sort of team England hate bowling at because it sometimes feels like the entire team have watched a Shahid Afridi knock and said: “Yes. Let’s do that. Let’s all of us, from one to eleven, do precisely that.”

It would also help if someone – anyone – could catch.

The second reason why England didn’t do better on first innings was because they collapsed. There is no mystery about this. New Zealand simply bowled excellently in decent conditions with the second new ball. They took two wickets in 80 overs with their first ball and then in just 14 overs with the second, they took a further six.

At the same time…

This is again something that happens to England a lot. They’ve collapsed in five of their last six innings. They aren’t tail-end collapses either. They’re good, solid top and middle order floppery.

There’s always a lust for head-rolling in these situations. Gary Ballance and Ian Bell seem to be the men currently out of favour. Ballance’s poor form hasn’t yet been so severe as to bring his Test average below fifty, while Ian Bell hasn’t made a Test hundred for all of six weeks. Maybe we should give it a bit before committing to decapitation.

Moeen Ali’s getting stick as well. Without having bowled much recently, he’s looking very much like a man who’s short of bowling.

In summary

So that’s that. Just as New Zealand had a first innings lead when both sides scored 350, they also take the series 1-1. On behalf of all in England, can we just say how disappointed we are that the two teams won’t face each other again until another risible two-Test series in 2018.

Before the series, New Zealand coach Mike Hesson said he hoped that the way his team performed might persuade people to give them more matches in the future. Sadly, everyone will have forgotten how spectacularly entertaining they were by the time they get round to sorting out the next tour. Comfort yourselves with the fact that you’ve really, really earned that status quo, New Zealand.

England’s most influential player puts his hand up and comes to the party

Sometimes the crowd are said to be a 12th man. Sometimes the 12th man is a 12th man. At times, in England, persistent drizzle is the 12th man.

Even Brendon McCullum at his most innovative couldn’t get the better of the United Kingdom’s damp, maritime climate today. “What if I set nine short midwickets?” he was heard to ask the umpires, while looking mournfully out of the window. “It’ll still be pissing it down,” replied a faintly perplexed S Ravi.

It wasn’t the perfect rainy day at Test cricket, but it did have much to commend it – most obviously a long, unbroken, sitting-on-their-backsides-drinking-tea opening partnership between Alastair Cook and Adam Lyth. Will it be more of the same tomorrow? No-one knows. Although the Met Office are saying: ‘Maybe a little bit, but only in spits and spots.’

BJ Watling – not just a weirdly-named man in an oversized jumper

Bradley-John. BJ stands for Bradley-John. We’d have gone with Brad. Or John. Or Bradley. Or Bradley-John. BJ went for BJ.

As for the surname, we can’t hear ‘caught Watling’ without thinking it’s some sort of archaic crime. As in: ‘Broad was caught watling behind the keep and was sentenced to a day in the stocks – that’ll teach him to watle’.

But despite the quirky nomenclature and despite fielding in his dad’s jumper, BJ has got a lot going for him. For example, on day three, he made a hundred which feels like it’s decided a Test match.

Never say never in this series. England may well come out and chase down 400-and-whatever. It just doesn’t seem likely and New Zealand’s skippy, trippy approach to cricket means they aren’t short of time, even if drizzle has a say.

As for what precisely drizzle might say, were it to arrive. We’d guess it would say: “Why BJ? Why not Brad or something?”

Adam Lyth and a big noise in Yorkshire

After day two of the second Test, the important question is this: Is Michael Vaughan getting louder?

Maybe he was always like this, but it seems to us that he’s crossed the speaking-shouting threshold this season. At the start of Channel 5’s highlights programme, when he’s standing in the middle of the pitch, it’s as if he’s trying to make himself heard by the people in the stands. And also like he thinks those people in the stands are completely deaf.

The people in the stands were more interested in a Yorkshire opener who’s still playing though. Adam Lyth made his first Test hundred. We haven’t yet had any particularly interesting thoughts about him. He has a good record in first-class cricket and now he’s made a hundred in a Test. Our feelings are therefore broadly positive. We know everyone’s supposed to have strong opinions about everything these days, but we’re just going to have to add to that view with time.

A word too for Stuart Broad, who secured what must surely rate as one of the weirdest five-wicket hauls in Test history. Incisive and expensive in equal measure.

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