Chastening – Day 4 at Mount Maunganui

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.

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.

James Morgan

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  • Agree that Archer was grossly overbowled in this innings. Of the the three wickets England lost in their mini session of batting Sibley played a poor shot, Burns’ mind got scrambled by the fact that Santner was troubling him, leading to another dire choice of shot as he tried desperately to find a way to get to the other end and Leach got a real brute of a ball which set him up for the dismissal that ended the day’s play. With due respect to Buttler, a fine strokemaker but not someone to be expected to play a seriously long innings it will have to be Denly, Root and Stokes who do most of the batting for England to escape from the open-cast mine sized hole they are in. Given that the deficit is still over 200 I reckon that to have any chance of pulling off this escape England still need to be batting when the last hour is called (by which stage they would probably have established a lead of some description). My prediction: New Zealand finish it by mid-afternoon, with Watling and Santner sharing the Man of the Match award.

    • This is exactly the situation where you start to wonder about the wisdom of selecting Pope, who’s not most people’s idea of a red ball batsman. If Foakes had been selected to bat at 7, Butler could have moved up a place and had a better chance of making match defining innings in this format, rather than running out of partners, the likely scenario now Leach is out, as he’s only Curran, Archer and Broad to bat with.

      • You’re a hard man to please Marc!

        F-c average of a touch under 60 at a time when most other contenders are struggling to average 40, a century every four matches including two doubles, one of them outside England.

        I’m a big fan of the idea of Foakes as keeper, but there’s no way in the world I’d want both Foakes and Buttler in the side over Pope at the moment.

  • This is where you need journalists to be raising pertinent questions in press conferences; like is Stokes fitness an issue and why wasn’t Denley bowled atall, after all he original selection was as a potential all rounder. At least this would have added some variety and taken some of the workload off the seamers.
    What is our policy with Archer. Under Root there seems to be an ever increasing number of questions he’s not being asked to address in public the way previous captains have had to.
    All this might have been academic if Stokes and Pope had displayed more patience on that 2nd morning. What wouldn’t we have given for a 54 run session without losing a wicket then. It’s only boring for us now because we were waiting for the declaration. If we’d been batting the tension for the English punter would have given the situation more meaning. However New Zealand have given us a lifeline, by continuing their innings so long and it’s still a realistic opportunity with the pitch behaving pretty well.

  • Who’s getting the blame?

    1) Root
    2) The ball
    3) Archer
    4) Silverwood
    5) The County Championship

    Who isn’t getting the blame?

    Certain senior players, yet again. Stokes’ dropped catch cost about 170 runs but you’d hardly know it happened. Compare and contrast with a catch Rashid dropped on the last tour of India. Where are the endless replays and headlines about “missed opportunities”? Broad is getting away with murder for a positively Jimmy-tastic overseas’ performance. The senior bowler is economical but hardly looks like taking a wicket despite getting the new ball and gets a free pass despite bowling at times at Collingwood pace. His nearest opposition equivalent Southee took 4 wickets and got regular swing. Wagner, as usual, tried things and always looks like he’s giving 100%.Broad should be well-rested and raring to go. It’s not like he has to bowl in any other competitions/formats. And please, don’t blame captain/coach for not firing him up. (BTW, of course I’m not saying it’s all Broad’s responsibility – but let’s see some analysis of the senior bowler please).

    Just to be clear, I’m getting at the media’s coverage in general here, not James’ article specifically.

    • There’s also blame due to NZ for being (a) in home conditions and (b) a better test team in general – before the match I’d have only picked 4 Englishmen in a combined team. And one of those was Leach over Santa’s Little Helper …

  • It’s about time sky and the bbc started to use experts who are prepared to say what every other cricket fan can see. Poor shot selection cost us any chance of a decent first innings score but the various pundits excuse it based on ‘ I won’t criticise the intent but the execution was poor’ wtf! Batting is about execution to deliver what you intend. If you don’t have the ability to execute then change your intent to play in a less risky way.

    At the start of day 2 I was drafting a message to my sone bemoaning England’s ‘busy start’, which I likened to trying to set up a declaration and was too risky. Before I pressed send Stokes was out and the Pope compounded the problem,

    I am a fan of Sibley but really! As someone who has coached kids of all ages, even under elevens quickly learn that reaching to defend a ball so far outside off stump is a fools errand – Sibley played and missed twice in the previous over. Hopefully he will learn quickly as he appears to have the temperament. I should say that he is not alone at needlessly playing at balls that are miles outside off stump. Burns, Denly, Pope, Root, Buttler are all regular culprits.

  • Well I think you have all covered most of the points here. Archer should only be used in short max 6 over bursts and bowl as fast as he can do at the stumps on flat pitches. Why is Mr Clueless Root flogging him to bits. Maybe he’s not as good as we thought? I’m afraid while Leach can keep the runs down he can’t take wickets unless it’s a Taunton bunsen. Denlys “spin” is a waste of time. Root is actually marginally better than either of them. I wouldn’t have Broad on away tours and oh dear, we thought we only had top order batting problems! I’m going to watch Aus v Pakistan.

  • Mentally and physically England are going to destroy Archer the way he is used, or at least thats how it looks to this BlackCaps fan. He’s being used like NZ use Wagner, when he is clearly not that. He looks almost unhappy – or is that just his laid back nature?

    Will be interesting to see how Williamson uses and manages Ferguson when he plays in Hamilton, by contrast. ODIs give a guide I think, he’ll be used as an impact bowler, not an attritional one.

  • I can understand a Nightwatchman’s reluctance to use up a valuable review but how on earth did he fail realise that he hadn’t hit it? It almost certainly didn’t matter in the long run. I’d also bring in Foakes and Woakes for the next test and drop Pope and Broad. As for Roote flogging Archer to exhaustion but failing to open up the 3rd day with him, another wtf moment in his captaincy. We either need to revert to using the Kookaburra ball in all first class cricket or persuade other countries to use the Dukes ball. Until all countries use the same ball, home bias will continue and make a nonsense of the “World Test Championship”

    • @RonMittchell yes, it was quite a spectacular achievement that: to both over- and under-bowl Archer …..


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