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.
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.27 Appeals
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.’32 Appeals
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?”15 Appeals
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.8 Appeals
Q: What do you call a donkey that was born in New Zealand, grew up in Australia, got a snorter first ball in his first Test but survived and went on to make 88 off 70 balls?
A: A Ronchi
It’s probably not the greatest joke, but that’s not what donkey jokes are about. Donkey jokes are about thinking of words that end in ‘-key’ and then setting that punchline up in painfully long-winded fashion.
Mark Wood bowled a ball to die for, cementing our love for him. He looks like a man who has spent his entire life perfecting his craft and as such he has been given the reward of six Test wickets.
James Anderson has taken 401 Test wickets.
What else on top of that?
We still have no idea what’s happening in this Test series and it’s a delightful sensation. Win or lose, New Zealand make matches worth watching. They never coast. The game always moves forwards.
We only hope some of this has rubbed off on England. It certainly feels infectious, but then England possess quite a hardy immune system, so who knows.
Is that it?
If you see the Cricinfo headline ‘Transformer blast near Gaddafi stadium,’ it isn’t worth clicking. It’s a massive disappointment being as it features neither Autobots nor Decepticons.
Nor is this the first time that a Transformer’s ruined a cricket match. Not even close.19 Appeals
So are New Zealand. It’s a Test match. You’ll probably have something to say. Leave your comments on this post while we busy ourself desperately trying to come up with something insightful and pithy to say about the first day’s play.
If you’re interested in our thoughts while the match is in progress, we won’t really have any if England are batting. If they’re bowling, we’ll be thinking ‘get Ballance on’.
Cook never gets Ballance on. It’s a crime.28 Appeals
It was the last day of the cricket season and I was working that day – mostly from home. I got urgent stuff out of the way first thing, with a view to going to the gym mid to late morning, ahead of my one meeting of the day. I was hoping to catch some of the match at the gym while I toiled.
My plans to follow the match at the gym were confounded two-fold. Firstly, the seemingly endless gym refurbishment had moved on to the corner where the Sky equipment is kept, so there was no Sky Sports on the screens.
“No matter,” I thought. “I can still hear the game on the Freeview radio channel.”
I switched to channel 706. The screen said, “Cricket – Lancashire v Middlesex,” but the sound was golf commentary. I tried some channel hopping and stuff but to no avail – golf on two BBC bloke channels and cricket on none – what was going on? It took about 10 minutes for someone to announce that they were broadcasting the golf in the cricket slot because there was rain and early lunch at Old Trafford.
My exercise completed, I went on to my one meeting of the day, which was lunch with Jessica – a journalist friend and neighbour of mine. We met through comedy writing “back in the day”. She wanted to pick my brains about economics and finance, as she has been commissioned to give a talk to a bunch of German bankers, in German, on “whither finance?” or some such topic.
Jessica had offered to cook me lunch for this small slice of my brain, which seemed like a decent deal given the lack of inconvenience involved – I walk past her place on the way to and from the gym.
I informed her that nobody has any idea where the world of economics and finance is going, but some people are deluded enough to think that they do know what is going on. I also suggested that she relentlessly bash French bankers when talking to German bankers in London, much as I would advise her to bash German bankers if she were giving the talk to French bankers in London. This limited but sage advice was apparently plenty to justify a rather splendid home cooked lunch, centred around a very tasty chicken pie.
Rather than venture straight home, I checked the score and thought I had better get some grub in for after-theatre supper this evening, so I looped around via Big Al DeLarge’s place to get some posh nosh – Daisy should expect nothing less. I tried to banter with Big Al about the cricket match, but he was unaware of it. Once I explained the context and current match position, he said that he would follow the match on the radio for the rest of the day. Still, he seemed more pre-occupied with the impending fate of his beloved Burnley FC and suggested, surprisingly cheerily, that relegation battles had become the story of his sporting life.
Home via the dry cleaners to collect my clean clobber from Irma la Douce. I don’t think Irma is into cricket and today didn’t seem the right day to broach the subject for the first time. Through my front door and on with the TV, but with so much to do and so little time left in the afternoon in which to do it, I thought I had better go straight up to the office and get work stuff done now, before the denouement of the match possibly became unavoidably thrilling.
It was hard to concentrate on work during this part of the day but I did my best, keeping half an eye on the Cricinfo score ticker. By the time I was ready for another break and went down for a cuppa, Charles Colvile was waffling on about some minor details of match post mortem, as the game had ended.
Daisy and I had been very much looking forward to theatre and after-theatre supper all week – indeed both proved to be excellent. But, as I said to Daisy when she arrived at the flat before the play, I’d probably had enough drama for one day already.
Send your match reports to firstname.lastname@example.org. If it’s a professional match, on no account mention the cricket itself. If it’s an amateur match, feel free to go into excruciating detail.6 Appeals
He’s called Nigel or something. We’re not sure. We haven’t really been paying attention. From what we can tell, he’s been coaching a club in South Wales and he once appeared in an episode of Knight Rider. He seems well qualified.
Jason Gillespie had of course been the favourite for the job, but was ruled out when Andrew Strauss realised he was the guy who took 7-37 against England back in 1997. Upon learning that his application had been unsuccessful, Gillespie was heard to spit the word “curses” in an evil voice.
To be honest, we wondered whether there might have been a case for having no coaches whatsoever. The players seem to have gone okay unsupervised this last week or so. ‘Old school’ is apparently the most sophisticated, advanced coaching approach there is these days. What could be more old school than just having players and no support staff?17 Appeals
Like that dumpling from the Caribbean place last week, this match may well take a day or two to digest
Imagine going back in time and trying to tell cynical, world-weary you from a week ago about this match.
“England were 30-4 inside the first hour of day one,” you’d say.
“Yeah, that seems about right,” Earlier You would reply.
“And they then conceded 523 in New Zealand’s first innings,” you’d continue.
“Nothing changes,” says Earlier You.
“And England won.”
At this point, Earlier You would presumably reach the conclusion that Current You was not really Future You (from their perspective). They’d assume you were actually an evil doppelganger, spreading insane lies for who knows what reason.
Only you know what you’d do in that situation.
But this is what actually happened. We may have jumped the gun in lauding the ebb and flow of day one because what do we say now? At no point did we ever really have much an idea how this match was going to end and even now it’s over, we’re still not entirely sure we’ve got it right.
It kind of feels like someone’s got the sums wrong; like one of New Zealand’s innings has accidentally been omitted and they actually won by 250.21 Appeals
There are times for thoughtful analysis and there are times for giddy enthusiasm. Today is clearly the latter.
At the peak of his powers, if you said the name ‘Flintoff’ to someone during a match with the right look in your eye, that person would immediately drop whatever they were doing and rush to the TV because no-one wanted to miss a moment of one of his innings. Already, Ben Stokes seems like Flintoff Deluxe – Brutal Deluxe, if you will.
In this Test, Stokes made 193 runs off 186 balls, hit 30 fours and four sixes. He emerged at 30-4 and at 232-4 and had a massive impact in both situations. He has achieved the impossible and made the arrival of Jos Buttler feel like something of an anticlimax.
A mechanical watch is full of all sorts of sprockets and cogs and springs and screws and when all those components are correctly positioned, everything works satisfyingly smoothly. But then there are other devices, like hammers, which do the job for which they are intended equally well without requiring all that complexity.
Stokes is very much a hammer. Not many of his shots go behind square and each makes a clean percussive sound you rarely hear even in this era of power hitting. This is a batsman who hits the ball with the middle of the bat and propels it forwards. That’s his method and may he never complicate it.
Kudos to Alastair Cook as well. He was there before Stokes and he was there afterwards. It was his day too.
If Stokes enjoyed himself in the afternoon, the morning was no time for fun. There was work to be done. The lawn needed mowing, the dishes needed doing, the laundry needed hanging out. It was only once all those jobs had been ticked off that England could relax and start enjoying themselves. Suppose that’s teamwork or summat.26 Appeals