New Zealand can still win this match – they have ninety-eight overs in which to take ten wickets – but it’s hard to believe England will strive for victory too, despite Joe Root’s claims to the contrary.
We have an opportunity to do something special. We have every intention to go out and win the game. We got off to a great start and hopefully that can continue. When I look around that changing room everyone from one to 11 are match-winners and we have every opportunity to chase them down.
The key is to go out there with the view to chase them down and then react and adapt accordingly. It is still a good pitch. Fingers crossed we can come out tomorrow morning all guns blazing.
England are ahead in the series, with everything to lose but little to gain, save kudos. Will they – with Cook at the helm – risk forfeiting a series victory for so little reward? With 412 runs required, they’ll have to score rapidly, and put their wickets at jeopardy, from the first over.
On the other hand, England’s interests are best served by batting with a goal in mind beyond pure survival. If they simply try to avoid getting out, they’ll most likely fail.
New Zealand have played the better cricket in this test and deserve a share of the series, if only for their gritty sense of derring-do. This morning, Craig and Southee led an onslaught which realised 116 runs in only sixteen overs. Stuart Broad refused to aim at the stumps, and finished with match figures of 33.1-1-203-7, or 6.12 runs per over- the third most expensive runs-per-over analysis ever for England. Two of his overs cost 39 runs.
In their second innings, eight New Zealanders struck a six, the most ever in test cricket. Across both their innings, England conceded 4.9 runs an over, more than they ever have before.
Scyld Berry, in the Telegraph, made some interesting observations.
When Broad, armed with a ball less than 12 overs old, bowled to Southee with two slips, an extra-cover and everybody else spread around the boundary, it looked terrible. It looked like an army in retreat. It looked like anarchy.
At first slip, too far away to communicate with Broad, Cook sees his captaincy dismissed as an irrelevance. Andrew Strauss would run to speak to his bowler about Plan B. Cook, more passive, resigns himself to letting Broad do what he wants.
This is surely the biggest problem which Trevor Bayliss is going to face when he takes over as head coach. Cook, Broad, Anderson and the coaching staff agree a bowling tactic. Then the opposition play a few shots and everything flies out the window.
One complicating factor is seniority. Cook came into the England team after Anderson, and in the same year as Broad. But the whip has to be cracked, and order restored. Otherwise a few hits from Australia’s David Warner will be sufficient to put England to flight.
Restoring control from mayhem, when batsmen are running riot, is one of captaincy’s key requisites. It has never been Cook’s strong point. In fact, it’s one of his greatest weaknesses. Any idiot can rotate the bowlers, as he was lauded for doing at Lord’s. Stamping one’s authority on a chaotic situation is another matter.
Cook was at centre of the day’s main off-field talking point: the revelation he went outside the Team England system for private batting coaching. On this front, I’d like to argue that Cook deserves commendation – for initiative and independent thinking. He took responsibility for his own form, and did what he needed to do, under his own steam, to put things right.
Wouldn’t England be better off if more players both did the same and felt they had the freedom to do so? Players should be empowered to take responsibility for themselves, not infantilised and diminished by an oppressive management team who micro-manage every detail of the players’ lives to justify their own expensive existence. The players’ needs and judgement should come first, with a system designed to support them. Sometimes it feels as if the reality is the other way around.