Well, this isn’t going particularly well. New Zealand looked by far the stronger team on day two and we’re already struggling to keep the match competitive. Sigh. I thought this series would be tough but I didn’t expect us to get such a pasting. It’s been like watching an eight year old try to beat up a bear with a feather duster.
Normally I’d have some sympathy for the team in such circumstances. They do try their best after all. However, on this occasion I can’t help feeling that we kind of deserve this shellacking. England’s selection for this game was so completely inept that we’re simply reaping what we sowed.
The decision to bowl first has also backfired badly. When you insert the opposition (especially after choosing an all seam attack) you really have to knock the opposition over for less than 250. In an ideal world you’ll dismiss them for about 180. So to watch New Zealand rack up 375 was a big disappointment. It looks a really competitive score on this wicket, especially as we’ve already been reduced to 39-2.
Our big chance in this game came on day 1 when the ball seemed to nip around quite a lot. However, not for the first time on this tour, the bowlers didn’t quite get it right. And then, as the pitch flattened out on day 2, the Kiwis have pressed home their advantage impressively.
It could have been a lot worse too. When New Zealand were 315-5 a score of 450+ looked very possible. However, their tail failed to wag much at all due to a curious bout of happy hooking. It was a bit weird seeing England’s medium-fast plodders bouncing out some capable late-order batsmen. Perhaps the Kiwis thought they had enough runs already?
I don’t want to sound too negative but I wasn’t particularly impressed with any of our bowlers. Stuart Broad was the pick of the attack with 4-73, but other than the brilliant ball he produced to dismiss BJ Watling I thought he was disciplined rather than particularly penetrative. In fact, that particular delivery, which had a lot more heat on it, only served to remind me of the bowler Stuart Broad can be when he’s in top rhythm (which he clearly hasn’t been on this tour).
Chris Woakes was another bowler who worked hard, showed patience, and picked up a couple of wickets, but he didn’t half look ordinary. Sam Curran was also innocuous and struggled to hit 125kph at times. Meanwhile, other than the odd over here and there, I thought Jofra Archer looked knackered and somewhat unhappy with life. The decision to leave out a specialist spinner looked more and more misguided as the day progressed.
Our batting effort also started nervously, and the fresh Kiwi seamers immediately seemed to get more out of the surface than our weary troops. Dom Sibley looked particularly lost in his short innings. He ducked into a bouncer and was hit on the head – a really nasty blow that clearly shook him up – and then he played all around a straight one and was lbw.
Meanwhile, despite some gorgeous fluent drives, Rory Burns again looked a bit too frenetic for my liking. He could (and should) have been caught twice but somehow survived to the close.
The difference between the two teams thus far was summed up by the dismissal of Joe Denly. A ball from Matt Henry took a clear outside edge but died a little and flew to the keeper very low. The alert BJ Watling, being the class act he is, moved forward decisively to snaffle the chance just millimetres above the ground.
A very similar chance came England’s way when Watling himself was batting (and had yet to get established). The ball flew low to Ollie Pope, but England’s part-time keeper initially took a needless little step to his left as the ball passed the batsman. He was consequently unable to move forward quickly enough to take the ball on the full. Instead it bounced agonisingly short, the chance went begging, and Watling went on to make another vital half-century.
England have been punished for every single mistake the selectors and management have made.
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