During the first session last night I put up the following poll on Twitter. Needless to say the final option was the runaway winner. It was so tedious to watch.
How much do we have to drink to make this session interesting? #NZvENG
— The Full Toss Blog (@thefulltoss) November 23, 2019
New Zealand only scored 54 runs before lunch and there was no sign of a wicket whatsoever. I don’t blame the Kiwis as they were doing what all good sides do: grind the opposition into the ground. Our batsmen should take note. However, there was precious little threat from the bowlers. It was all so disheartening.
Sadly England looked like my cat in the field. In normal circumstances a feline comparison might conjure images of enthusiasm, energy, sharp reflexes, predator instincts, speed, and dexterity. However you should know this:
My black cat is twenty years old, hardly bothers to get out of bed these days, and urinates all over the carpet. Oh, and I should mention that she has no teeth. Literally. The word ‘toothless’ couldn’t be more fitting.
I don’t want to get on any particular bowler’s case because the pitch looked very flat and BJ Watling and Santner batted outstandingly well. However, I was slightly disappointed with Leach. I’ve always been a fan of his in the past but he didn’t vary his pace or flight enough for me.
The only other comment I’ll make about the bowling is that I never want to see Jofra Archer bowl 42 overs in an innings ever again. What on earth was Joe Root thinking? It’s so irresponsible to flog your strike bowler like that. Archer bowled just 5 overs fewer than Leach! If this continues then I wouldn’t be surprised if Archer retires from Test cricket within 18 months.
The elephant in the room, of course, is that England’s bowlers generally lack the skills to take 20 wickets on flat pitches with the Kookaburra ball. I think this particular attack is better equipped (on paper) than most we’ve sent overseas in recent years but they still looked clueless.
Apparently we’ve now conceded over 600 runs five times away from home in the last 3 years. That’s abysmal. But it’s never going to change unless we play more first class cricket on flat pitches at the height of summer. Our bowlers need to learn how to succeed when conditions are tough rather than just ‘using the facilities’ i.e. relying on the pitch to do the work.
I didn’t see Ashley Giles’s interview with Sky at lunch yesterday because I was bored enough by this stage and went to bed. However, I imagine he spouted his usual nonsense about wanting to focus more on red ball cricket now that the World Cup is safely tucked away in a cabinet at Lord’s.
Don’t patronise us, Ashley. Every man and their dog (or senile cat) knows perfectly well that The Hundred makes this impossible. The ECB have sold the game’s soul and whilst simultaneously selling the county championship up the river.
How on earth are our best players going to play more meaningful championship cricket in July and August whilst Harrison’s Harebrained Have A Hit is plonked in the middle of the schedule like an immovable giant arse?
Talking of arses, we should briefly mention England’s miserable batting effort in the evening session. I have just three letters for you. W.T.F?
Sibley and Burns actually started off quite well again. But then it all went to pot rather quickly. The former defended a ball just outside off-stump – that’s just outside the off-stump of a second of third set of stumps – and was caught behind. And then Burns tried to get off-strike by playing an ill-advised sweep and was caught.
Neither of these shots was warranted. And the both looked absolutely terrible. Alec Stewart tried to defend his Surrey colleague on Sky’s Debate programme but I’m having none of it. It was an awful shot. He also played a number of pulls / hooks of Wagner a few overs beforehand that seemed needlessly risky in the circumstances.
The fact that Jack Leach was ‘caught’ off the last ball of the day, even though his bat and gloves were nowhere near it, just about summed up England’s day. It especially summed up our spinner’s day. Santner completely out-bowled him.
Can England save the game tomorrow? Of course we can. But will we? They’re two very different questions.
Personally my gut is telling me that New Zealand will win. I was optimistic about England’s chances after days one and two and it backfired spectacularly; so this time I’m keeping my expectations low.
The good news is that the pitch is still good for batting – at least against the seamers. Santner will be a threat though. He’s not exactly Shane Warne, or even Daniel Vettori, but things just seem to be going his way at the moment.
I’m also worried about Joe Root. England desperately need a match-defining innings from their captain and tomorrow would obviously be a good time to deliver. However, he looked so awful in the first innings that I’m not sure what state his mind (not to mention his technique) are in.
Who else might emerge as England’s hero? Denly? Maybe. Stokes? He can’t keep delivering miracles. Pope? He’s known as more of a dasher than a brigadier block. Buttler? Maybe but he’ll need support from somewhere.
To summarise, England can indeed save the game but sadly I wouldn’t bet on it. Thankfully, however, I have a bottle of absinthe sitting in my drinks cabinet should the worst happens. I just hope I don’t cut off my ear after drinking it.
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