I went to sleep with New Zealand on 91-4. I was extremely hopeful we’d be able to force a result. Anderson and Broad were bowling well, and Jack Leach was causing problems, so it was extremely disappointing to wake up and find that we’d been denied by the Kiwi tail.

Credit to the Black Caps, of course, but I thought England deserved to win this game, and they would have done if the schedulers had a brain. Why oh why did they schedule all the white ball stuff, which is often played under floodlights anyway, and then save the test matches until the very end of the tour when Autumn had set? It was even dafter to schedule the final test for the beautiful Halgey Oval where there are no floodlights. Bad light was always going to be an issue at this time of year.

When you throw in the nonsensical logic re: the scheduled start – they moved the start time back by half an hour from day two because of daylight saving measures in New Zealand – I think England have reason to feel a tad aggrieved. Why not just start each day a whole hour early? The official reason was the possibility of dew. But this wasn’t a concern on day one so why should it matter on the other days? Sometimes cricket is really daft.

Having said that, England can’t really complain about the number of overs bowled today. They played for longer than anticipated, and our bowlers had plenty of time to dismiss the likes of Neil Wagner, who batted like Matthew Hoggard on sedatives: 7 runs in 103 balls. You’ve got to take your hat off to the Kiwi tail really. Sodhi also played a blinder.

What more could England have done? It’s hard to tell to be honest. I’ve only been able to stay up for the first session each day – due to the fact I have a day job and a daughter with chicken pox – but I imagine we might have forced a result with a bit of genuine pace and mystery spin. Mark Wood and Jack Leach have definitely improved matters but they’re not quite Malcolm Marshall or Shane Warne yet!

I’d be interested to know what everyone thought of Leach’s performance. From what I saw he bowled quite well – although I do think his action is worse now than it was before his ‘remedial work’. It looks less fluent and, to be honest, it appears to have more of a kink in it now than it did before. I really don’t understand why they messed with it in the first place as I don’t think anyone in the cricket world had raised suspicions. It’s a really weird state of affairs.

There’s no doubt, however, that Leach is an improvement over Moeen Ali. Whereas Mo used to land approximately two balls an over in precisely the right spot to test the batsman, Leach seemed to bowl about four. He’ll obviously grow in confidence, and give it a bit more of a tweak as he gets more comfortable on the international stage, but I think he’s worth persevering with. I wasn’t able to watch after 1.30am but he looked quite promising from the brief action I saw.

Mark Wood also had some impact on the fifth day. I thought he bowled too short in the first innings – which might have been to team instructions – but he picked up a couple of wickets today so that bodes well. I’d much rather play Wood than Overton because he offers something a little different. He’s not left arm, and he can’t always sustain his pace for long, but the fact he’s skiddier than the other bowlers offers some variation.

We’ll have a roundup of the winter’s action in the coming days but in the meantime I’d like to ask everyone what their main takes from this game are? Have Vince and Stoneman done enough to retain their places for the Pakistan series or do you think they’ll be thrown in the same bin as Ballance, Lyth, Compton, and Robson etc? Personally I’m not sure whether either will turn into consistent performers at test level but I can’t see the selectors dropping them after making half-centuries in their last innings. They’ll be desperate to prove everyone wrong and justify their original decision to pick them.

The other big questions concern England’s two ‘bankers’, Joe Root and Alastair Cook. The former scored seven half-centuries this winter without making a single match-defining century. Is the captaincy therefore affecting his batting? It’s worth pointing out by the way, that Root gets to 50 far more than any other batsman in the world according to Jonathan Liew.

And then there’s Alastair. Is the Cook era finally coming to a close? Is he even tempted to call it a day? Somehow I think he’ll want to leave on a high. We’ve also heard that he wants to leave when the team is in good shape and there’s a natural replacement waiting in the wings. I fear that might take a very, very, long time.

Before I sign off I’d also like to pay homage to Jimmy Anderson who has now gone past Courtney Walsh on the all-time test wicket takers list. Apparently Jimmy has now bowled over 10,000 balls in international cricket. That’s an incredible achievement. What’s more, I think he could play for another two years if his shoulder holds up. He still looks very fit and his skills haven’t diminished at all. What a remarkable bowler.

James Morgan

2018-04-03T10:44:20+00:00April 3rd, 2018|NZ v England 2018, Test Cricket|65 Comments


  1. Pete Cresswell April 3, 2018 at 10:43 am - Reply

    Impressive from Anderson – especially as he also passed Walsh’s record for deliveries bowled in tests by a seamer as well today – somewhere in the vicinity of 10,100 balls

    England’s catching (and NZ’s poor use of DRS) both had an impact over the past day – NZ were out of reviews when Bairstow nicked off on 0 & wasn’t given which could have given NZ a lower total to chase, and more time late yesterday when batting was easier than first thing this morning. And England missed several chances in the NZ innings, snaffling any of them might have been enough

    I watched the first 2 balls last night then banned myself as I was clearly a jinx … had to follow the last hour on cricinfo this morning instead

    • SimonH April 3, 2018 at 11:15 am - Reply

      Worth pointing out that Walsh bowled 85k f/c deliveries to Anderson’s current 45k and 22k List A deliveries to Anderson’s 12k.

      Players in other eras and for other countries didn’t have central contracts that allowed them to bowl only in Tests and such other games as they felt like playing. They had bills to pay.

  2. Pete Cresswell April 3, 2018 at 10:54 am - Reply

    New Zealand’s home test season concludes. Played 4, won 3. A sad blight on our ability to get other teams to commit to even 3 test series 🙁

    • James April 3, 2018 at 1:23 pm - Reply

      Agreed. I always want longer series against NZ.

  3. Dave April 3, 2018 at 11:02 am - Reply

    Not necessarily related to today, but has anybody else noticed how the phrase “going forward” and/or “moving forward” have wormed their way into most cricketers’ post-match interview responses? Joe Root said “moving forward” at least 4 or 5 times in his BBC interview. It seems to be cricket-specific as I barely ever hear the annoying phrase in other sports, and I have recently noticed that cricket commentators/analysts/journalists have caught the disease too.

    I’ve never liked business talk, but I do feel like I have developed an irrational hatred for this particular term/s, to the point where I actually grimace every time I hear it!

    Rant over!

    p.s. Listening to Darren Gough’s talksport show as I type, and he has literally just said “going forward” and “moving forward” in the space of 30 seconds as I typed!

    Need a lie down.

    • Elaine Simpson-Long April 3, 2018 at 11:17 am - Reply

      Sooooo agree

    • Duggers April 3, 2018 at 12:03 pm - Reply

      Me too!! but maybe because they can see no ‘future’! LOL

    • James April 3, 2018 at 1:22 pm - Reply

      I think it means “let’s forget about what just happened, because it doesn’t suit us”.

    • nicholas April 3, 2018 at 1:58 pm - Reply

      People used to say ‘ in future’ rather than the very annoying ‘going forward’.

      I also hate ‘mindset’ and the moronic ‘unit’ to describe batsmen and bowlers.

      I have real problems listeningto cricket commentators today. Swan is especially idiotic. Also why do they have to refer to each other by their nicknames? Swany,Chappers etc. Ebony Rainsford Bent is also terrible.

      • Ab April 3, 2018 at 8:34 pm - Reply

        In future is quite a passive turn of phrase. Moving forward suggests the speaker intends to have a more active role.

  4. James April 3, 2018 at 11:09 am - Reply

    I think in a way failing to bowl NZ out (and being frustrated by the tail) was a fitting conclusion to the winter. it’s been a problem for a while now. As you identify in the piece, James, there are two main problems with England, batting and bowling. The top 4 is a combination of unproven and underachieving, which is a concern. The bowling continues to lack a genuine quick and a mystery spinner (Marshall and Warne at their peaks would help, of course, but they’d help any side). It was still a good test match, played in a decent spirit. There is a third problem with England, and to no one’s surprise, it’s fielding. Stoneman and Vince both dropped two chances (Sodhi on 0 was particularly expensive), none of them easy.

    Can I divert from England to congratulate Morne Morkel on a fine test career? Never one for the limelight, and set up a lot of wickets for the guy at the other end (Steyn, Philander, Rabada). It seems quite fitting that he should bowl the final ball of his final test, and get no credit for the wicket that won the game for SA (it was a run out). 300+ wickets at about 28 is a great effort though.

  5. AB April 3, 2018 at 11:16 am - Reply

    I like Leach, I really want him to do well, and I think he deserves a fair run in the side, but I find watching him very underwhelming. He doesn’t seem to get many revs on the ball, and he has that horrible over-coached bowling action that all English spinners are now obliged to have, with the really straight run-up that encourages line and length but inhibits a proper pivot. He also seemed to be struggling with his length in his first spell.

    My bet on what happened – there was never anything wrong with his bowling action other than it didn’t fit the ECB mould of what a spin bowling action should look like. When he started going to l-boro, they tried to make him change it, he very sensibly refused, so they lied and told him that he was a chucker and his career was over if he didn’t do what they wanted. So now he’s in the England team, but is a significantly less effective bowler.

    Of course, they did this, ahem, “for his own good”.

    • Stephen April 3, 2018 at 1:44 pm - Reply

      Given the hype I didn’t think that Leach was as good as he is made out to be (haven’t seen him bowl much before) but it’s only his first test and I do like your summary of what l’boro did to him AB.
      I am probably the only person in the world who thinks that Moeen could also have picked up two wickets on the final day…..

    • Mike Chaffin April 4, 2018 at 12:54 am - Reply

      On the money with l’boro.

      Leach did exactly as I expected, very consistent containing bowler who is ably suited to test match cricket. Think of him as an awful lot better than Giles rather than Shane Warne. Long spells with lots of close fielders and a miserly run rate takes a lot of skill. Would have prefered to see ten runs less in the first innings but as a debut performance it was very polished. I think he would have had more wickets with a less attacking field personally but bowled very creditably.

      Good to see the seamers not having to bowl the graveyard overs, though wold have preferred a bit more Malan and a bit less Root.

      With reasonable scheduling it would have been an England win so I wouldn’t be singling any players out for under performing in this test.

  6. SimonH April 3, 2018 at 11:18 am - Reply

    Decent effort by Leach on debut (especially bearing in mind the opposition spinner couldn’t take a wicket) and it’ll be interesting to see how he goes in his next six Tests…

    He is going to get the next six Tests, isn’t he? After all, that rule of getting seven Tests to prove yourself and show what you can do couldn’t only apply to batsmen….

    • Mike Chaffin April 4, 2018 at 12:55 am - Reply

      Have you ever watched English cricket? 😉

    • Pete Cresswell April 4, 2018 at 7:54 am - Reply

      Angus Fraser on Sky last night basically said the 7 test rule is batsman only as you can “judge bowlers quicker”

  7. oreston April 3, 2018 at 11:33 am - Reply

    I’m not sure you do “deserve” to win if you consistently fail to take 20 wickets, as England have done in Tests all winter long. Leach did OK on debut but “Plan B” for the quicker bowlers, when it became apparent there wasn’t a huge amount of swing or seam movement available, consisted once again of pointless short pitched stuff – which only accounted for Colin de Grandhomme, and only when he had a brain fade. There’s a tactical failing in this and it suggests that Joe Root isn’t learning very much from his mistakes. Oh well, at least we scored enough runs this time, although (as Auckland demonstrated) you couldn’t really say that the batting line-up looks much more solid or settled than it did when the tour began.

    • AB April 3, 2018 at 1:19 pm - Reply

      Every time they zoomed in on Root in the field, he would be asking a question to Cook with a confused look on his face. Cook would then stare into the distance like he was trying to remember his wife’s birthday, and grimace back at him as if to say “tough question, isn’t it”. Whatever inspiration it was they were collectively searching for, it didn’t seem to be arriving.

      Although Root is captain in name, I think most of the ideas (or in this case, the complete lack of ideas) still originate with Cook.

      England, for the past 4 years:

      Plan A: give the Ball to Jimmy and Stuey, they’ll know what to do
      Plan B: bowl bouncers with a man on the hook, hope the batsman hooks
      Plan C: put at least 3 fielders in weird and seemingly pointless positions. No idea why, but at least I’ll be described as “creative” in the media
      Plan D: if none of the above has worked, bowl a spinner, but with an unhelpful field that gives the batsman loads of easy singles and prevents him building up any pressure

      • Mike Chaffin April 4, 2018 at 12:58 am - Reply

        To be fair the last English captain who didn’t do D was probably Graham Gooch.

  8. Silk April 3, 2018 at 11:49 am - Reply

    Struggling to see how, as a bowler, Wood has improved matters. Match figures of 2-114.

    This isn’t a one off. His short test career is, so far, rubbish, really.

    • Stephen April 3, 2018 at 1:39 pm - Reply

      Commentators keep saying that Wood brings ‘a bit more pace’ to the attack…but I don’t think he does anymore, at least according to the speeds on TV, without the 90mph balls he is not very effective.

    • nicholas April 3, 2018 at 2:00 pm - Reply

      Agreed. He bowls far to short.

  9. Doug M April 3, 2018 at 11:58 am - Reply

    Best game of the winter. NZ deserved to draw and could have won if England had posted a tempting target-320 ish. No way were they going to get nearly 400. Poor ultra cautious captaincy, typical in the modern game. What difference would 1 loss of 2 made anyway in a silly 2 match “series”.
    You can blame the schedules and the weather but ultimately this is the poorest England side for ages for all the reasons we’ve all been discussing for months and will do for more months. Until cricket is reorganised from the top down not much will change, including this closed shop of a side. Must get in new blood. I mean look at the top order, Stoneman has just about done enough, yes just. Cook is hanging on and should do the decent thing, Vince and Malan, not really.
    Bowling? Well apart from Jimmy and occasionally Broad there isn’t much. We cannot bowl sides out. Wood has lost pace and, oh well, there is just too many medium paced right armers. I hope Leach cuts it. Stokes can’t bowl. One thing, we cannot go into next year’s Ashes hoping that Anderson (oap by then) and Broad are going to do it. They won’t.
    Lastly? Change the captain, bring in Foakes and bat Bairstow at 5. Look at the counties ECB please!

    • Silk April 3, 2018 at 1:06 pm - Reply

      The captain has 2 bowlers and no batsmen.

      Not sure captaincy is the problem.

  10. Guy April 3, 2018 at 11:58 am - Reply

    I am of the few that thinks James Vince does deserve a chance again (I can hear the chorus of disapprovals) Give you my thoughts

    No 3 No one wants it and that is pretty clear as even the Captain refuses to bat there, its an unwanted position and its not JV natural position, its a little alien to him too, Middle order where Malan bats would see a greater volume of runs me thinks, but Malan has done nothing to be dropped either and should stay there, so No 3 it is.
    He clearly has the shots and at times looks the business
    This is where Mr Thorpe and co get around him and give him the this is what we are going to work on in the season, Do’s and Dont’s (play airy fairy outside off stump) Talk with Giles White and Co from Hants and get him doing what they want, don’t want to dampen his stroke play but moderation is good at this level. (this may of happened and if so learn quicker)

    One thing that puzzles me is why is JV not in the One Day team he seems better suited for that with his shots and if he nicks off then Ok fair enough but may not a 3rd slip so he will probably get 4 !!! seems a little odd a stroke maker who scores quickly is selected for the test team and not the One Day / T20 stuff – Just saying !!

    I know loads will disagree but thought I would write

    • Silk April 3, 2018 at 1:05 pm - Reply

      He hasn’t got a weight of runs behind him in County cricket. So expecting him to score big in Tests is… optimistic.

    • JackieL April 3, 2018 at 1:19 pm - Reply

      Vince had a not very convincing county season so hard to follow your reasoning that he “deserves” a run at 3. Presumably he didn’t do too well against the moving ball. Well more of that in the season ahead.
      I feel he’s very reliant on cover drives. I thought NZ fed him too much on the off side. Can’t see that always happening from the opposition if they do their homework. And then he gets out in the same way. In other words he’s a limited player in my view. The way Ballance is a limited player. Still finding batsmen who can play all round the wicket is the difficult one.
      Why isn’t he in ODIs? Because England have gone for Bairstow. But is Vince that accomplished a batsman?

      • Doug M April 3, 2018 at 1:50 pm - Reply

        Unless I’m mistaken Vince never bats at 3 for Hampshire, usually 4. Not sure why Livingstone wasn’t given an opportunity. The batting problem is we have no one currently in the top 5 making hundreds, and rely too much in Bairrstow and Morn at 7 & 8. How many times has Bairstow run out of partners?

        • Silk April 3, 2018 at 9:52 pm - Reply

          It doesn’t matter where Vince bats for Hampshire. He still doesn’t score many runs…

          • Mike Chaffin April 4, 2018 at 1:03 am - Reply

            Neither do Hampshire more generally.

            Whether he’s test class or not might be open to some debate but he unarguably isn’t a No 3.

            This should have been Livingstone’s debut series.

  11. Duggers April 3, 2018 at 12:06 pm - Reply

    Me too!! but maybe because they can see no ‘future’! LOL

  12. Duggers April 3, 2018 at 12:07 pm - Reply

    Me too!! but maybe because they can’t see any ‘future’! LOL

  13. SimonH April 3, 2018 at 1:53 pm - Reply

    One missing element in why England couldn’t force a win is the absence of Stokes’ bowling.

    Stokes gets called up (in my opinion, he shouldn’t have been) and then almost immediately, despite reassurances about how much care he’d been taken, gets a back injury. His bowling in the first innings made Paul Collingwood look like Dennis Lillee so I’m not blaming Root for not using him in the second.

    Was it just bad luck that he got injured? He also virtually stopped bowling at the end of last winter’s tour. It’s difficult to give much benefit of the doubt. If the medical team knew he wouldn’t hardly bowl, why did England play an extra batsman in a Test they needed to win (and one of whom was a debutant)?

  14. Comte April 3, 2018 at 2:30 pm - Reply

    Perhaps this piece should have been titled DENIAL.
    New Zealand have a bunch of fighters – gritty never-say-die types.
    They have 3 quality quicks.
    They have a decent keeper who scores runs and in the main they take their catches.

    England have 2 quality quicks and no sign of a third. What was Stokes doing on tour.
    We have an opener batsman who has a good career which should now conclude. He is a major part of the
    problem. We lack players hungry to break into the team or even to stay there. Aside from Root we have one
    quality batsman in Bairstow.

    Leach – the lad looked enthusiastic but if he is the answer, what’s the question?

    The positive I take is Broad’s return to form after sorting out his problem away from the team. That says a lot to me.

    • Silk April 3, 2018 at 5:22 pm - Reply

      Leach is the answer to the question “who is the best available spinner right now”. ‘Giles’ was, once, the answer to that question.

      Leach, with a decent team around him, will do alright. Without a decent team, he’ll struggle. That’s not his fault.

  15. SimonH April 3, 2018 at 6:22 pm - Reply
    • Silk April 3, 2018 at 8:26 pm - Reply

      A good article, that.

      Basically, if England had a Phillander in addition to Branderson, you wouldn’t drop any of them for Wood, whatever pace he bowled at.

      Anderson was excellent in the Ashes. He was also slower than Broad and, presumably, Woakes. Morkel was excellent yesterday. Why? He was injured so he dropped his pace and pitched it up.

      England need good bowlers. I’d rather they find the next Anderson than the next Devon Malcolm.

  16. SimonH April 3, 2018 at 6:40 pm - Reply

    “Extraordinary contrition”? Were they flown off-shore and unspeakable things done to them?

  17. Cricketcricketcricket April 3, 2018 at 7:59 pm - Reply

    NZ showed how to gift wickets away (taylor, watling) but also, how to adapt your game and defend for your life. De grandhome is a natural biffer and yet he curbed his style and dug in. Sadly, England’s so called ‘world class’ middle order just doesn’t do that regularly and I sadly don’t believe it has the mental capacity to.

    I’m sure many on here will still claim we have loads of top to world class players but the reality is we over rate our players. We’ve got people batting higher than they really should be in test cricket with no sign of the county game producing the quality required.

    There are many reasons why we aren’t producing the quality needed and the biggest IMO is ‘show me a format played my the majority (as it’s a numbers game) where you produce batters capable of batting long, consistently and can adapt to the wickets while at the same time.. develop wicket taking attacking bowlers of both pace and seam’

    Answer… well.. it’s not white ball formats which is what everyone has been mainly playing for years now.. it’s no real surprise that we are a fading force in All bar white ball

    • Silk April 3, 2018 at 9:52 pm - Reply

      “I’m sure many on here will still claim we have loads of top to world class players ”

      I don’t think anyone here thinks that. Certainly none of the posters I read.

      Cook /was/ world class. Before 2013. Root is a fine batsman and if he can get back to converting he’ll be top class. Anderson is a world class bowler. Broad never was, but was a very good one. Despite this Test, I think he’s largely done, now.

      Bairstow is good. Stokes is an enigma but potentially brilliant.

      The main problem is that the current Cook, plus whoever else opens, Vince (or Ballance), Malan, Ali, Woakes, Wood, Overton (sorry) and Crane are poor. Not merely “not world class” but “not remotely Test class”. (Jury out on Leach. Hope he comes good)

      You can carry, say, a Giles, who can do a job, or an Ali, who will come brilliant occasionally, or a good keeper limited bat (Tim Paine springs to mind) if the rest of the side are up to it. England, unfortunately, are carrying at least 3 batsmen that don’t cut it, and they only have 2 bowlers, one of whom (Broad) is far less effective than he was earlier in his career. (Let’s face it. 22 wickets in 7 Tests at >33 is not the return you want from your opening bowler)

      A fit and firing Stokes might revitalize England if he starts channeling Botham with both bat and ball, and Anderson is good enough to carry England through this summer on his own, but beyond that I’m struggling to see a bright future with the current side.

      We need 4 – 5 new players, fast. Goodness knows who they are.

      • Cricketcricketcricket April 3, 2018 at 10:19 pm - Reply

        You say that but people were calling Bairstow, Stokes, broad, Anderson, cook, root world class just a few months ago before the ashes.

        Stokes, I know everyone loves him but why? He’s batting to high at 5/6 and should be a 7. Not because he isn’t decent but he avg 35 and is a hitter. He’s inconsistent which isn’t good enough to be a test class top,six batter.

        If he walks in at 7/8 behind a proper test batting line up he could play his natural game and attack and win games. As it is, he doesn’t really do anything but punch things and sledge

        • Marc Evans April 4, 2018 at 12:39 am - Reply

          It seems to me that apart from Root, opposition bowlers celebrate the demise of Stokes with more enthusiasm than any other present England batsman, which suggests they see him as a significant threat where he bats now. Batting him lower in the order limits his opportunities to play match winning innings, rather like Bairstow, especially as there’s no obvîously better alternative.

          • AB April 4, 2018 at 8:56 am - Reply

            I think they just think he’s a mouthy cunt.

        • Silk April 4, 2018 at 6:29 am - Reply

          “You say that but people were calling Bairstow, Stokes, broad, Anderson, cook, root world class just a few months ago before the ashes.”

          I think you need to distinguish between the crap Michael Vaughan sprouts, and what the rest of us think.

          I think Vaughan also said that this was the strongest touring side we’d ever sent down under.

          Meanwhile the curators of this blog, for example, were predicting that Australia would win the series pretty comfortably, if I recall correctly.

        • Silk April 4, 2018 at 6:39 am - Reply

          History would suggest that an all rounder at 6, averaging more with the bat than the ball, is fine. Flintoff, Botham, Greig didn’t average much.

          But I’d agree that Bairstow is probably the better bat and should be at 6, with Stokes at 7.

          4, 6, 7 are the least of our problems.

          • dlpthomas April 4, 2018 at 3:00 pm - Reply

            Tony Greig averaged 40 with the bat and 32 with the ball. People forget how good he was.

      • Cricketcricketcricket April 3, 2018 at 10:19 pm - Reply

        Hell,.. ali was being hailed as a top six batter !

  18. SimonH April 3, 2018 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    Remember when England just needed to draw a Test against Pakistan to “hold all the trophies”?

    Now the team don’t hold four of them – and given that they don’t play NZ for a long time, there’s precious little prospect that they’ll have a chance to again until next decade.

  19. Marc Evans April 4, 2018 at 12:33 am - Reply

    I get annoyed at the criticism of Anderson, especially this stupidity that he’s a liability abroad as he doesn’t take enough wickets. Like we have another in the pipeline to replace him. One of the reasons he struggles abroad is the opposition know he is the main threat and take no risks against him, as they can score runs freely at the other end. At home where the conditions favour him more, he can overcome this tactic. Look at his economy rate during the Ashes series. At no time did the Aussies remotely get hold of him. If we had another bowler posing a similar threat he would take more wickets, as batsmen would be forced to try and score off him. He remains the greatest English bowler of modern times by a distance and we should make every effort to ensure his career is prolonged as far as possible. Once he is gone who of the young pretenders is going to pose any kind of consistent threat, home or abroad?

  20. SimonH April 4, 2018 at 8:10 am - Reply

    Much as I dislike looking at everything through an Ashes’ prism, what has the SA series shown for next summer’s Ashes?

    Of course, in short, Australia have moved from probable Ashes’ favourites after winning in Durban to a mess. They’re finding it as hard to win abroad as everyone else (only 3 of the last ten series). There should be concerns about batting, bowling and the balance of the team:

    1) The Batting: this series gone has confirmed the weakness of the batting without Smith and Warner. The one batting plus, Bancroft starting to look like he might cut it, was thrown away. Khawaja and Shaun Marsh crumbled against quality bowling away from home as they have before. None of the players called up (Handscomb, Renshaw, Burns) look Test class which is why they’d been dropped previously.
    2) The Bowling: it’s still a good attack but there are problems. Starc again failed to get through a whole series and clearly has injury troubles. Hazlewood has lost his away-swinger a bit like Stuart Broad had. Lyon is struggling against RHBs. The reserve Sayers looked unimpresive on debut (sub 130 deliveries that swing from the hand). Only Cummins enhanced his reputation.
    3) Team Balance: Mitch Marsh started well but fell away under pressure. The team looks like it needs six specialist batsmen away from home. If they want to go down the Maxwell route, it’s difficult to see how they could play Marsh and Maxwell in the same team. Then there’s the issue of the team needing a new coach….

    Of course there’s a long way to go yet to the Ashes. Smith and Warner could come back batteries recharged (both have looked burnt-out since the England ODI series), another batsman could break through, Starc could get fit, and so. However at the moment, and given that England also have plenty of problems too, I wouldn’t see the “home advantage proves decisive” pattern of recent Ashes being broken. I also don’t see a particularly high quality series or one where many of the matches go into five days.

  21. Nigel April 4, 2018 at 11:12 am - Reply

    I thought England deserved to win this game, and they would have done if the schedulers had a brain…

    Or perhaps had they held all their catches… or the seamers bowled at the wicket more than occasionally… or Leach into the footmarks ?

    Still, a fine performance by New Zealand.

  22. SimonH April 4, 2018 at 12:33 pm - Reply

    Updated ICC rankings out:

    1) Team – India still top but SA closing. Australia and England down in 4th and 5th.
    2) Batting – not too many changes although Markram appears in the top 10 for the first time. For England: Root 3rd; Bairstow 13th; Cook 16th; Stokes 25th; Ali 45th.
    3) Bowling – Philander and Cummins moved up to 3rd and 6th. For England: Anderson 2nd; Broad 12th; Stokes 29th; Ali 32nd; Woakes 33rd; TRJ (remember him?) 40th.

    • Pete Cresswell April 4, 2018 at 2:32 pm - Reply

      NZ 3rd, and ahead of Australia (the important bit) by a few hundredths of a ranking point 😀

      2) Batting- KW 4th, poor 2nd test probably cost him 3rd – he & Root are pretty close, a decent way below Smith (for now) & Kohli, Taylor 14th, then it’s a long way down to Watling, Latham, Nicholls & Raval in the low 30s/early 40s.

      3) Bowling – Boult 8, Wagner 10, Southee 13, CDG & Santner down in the 40s

  23. Hungerpang April 4, 2018 at 5:05 pm - Reply

    England failed to win because in both innings (as so often in the last 10 years) they knocked the first 5 over for not very many then couldn’t find a way through the lower order. They desperately need a good 3rd seamer. Woakes managed it for a few months until he got injured last summer, but he’s been ineffectual since. Wood is about as useful as his Test record suggests, in spite of all the “X Factor” crap from Vaughan and his ilk.

  24. SaxophoneAlex April 4, 2018 at 5:43 pm - Reply

    A Wagner epic…no, not The Ring Cycle or Tristan and Isolde, but NZ Wagner’s 7 off 103 balls. Well done to NZ for surviving. They deserve three or four match series. I doubt England would have batted out the day like this, there are only two occasions I can think of in recent years when we have survived for a draw through obdurate defensive batting. I hope Leach gets more chances, he could have taken four or five wickets in 2nd innings, if England’s catching were better. I disagreed with all the short-pitched bowling to deGrandhomme, why can’t they just try pitching it up ? Lower order batsmen tend not to play yorkers very well.
    All in all, a dreadful winter for England and I can only see things getting worse, when we reach that point beyond Anderson and Broad. Cook should go, in my opinion. The odd 200 sandwiched between endless low scores is not helping England, it’s saying something when commentators feel that Stoneman looks the more secure opener. Root is by far the best batsman, Bairstow is doing fine, but the collapse at Auckland just reminds us how brittle the batting order can be so often. Hoping Hameed has a prolific early season for Lancs, weather permitting.

  25. Cricket-Now April 4, 2018 at 5:57 pm - Reply

    Kudos to Jimmy for maintaining his fitness at this age!

  26. SimonH April 4, 2018 at 6:11 pm - Reply

    “Pakistan and India will be a challenge. The last time Pakistan were here the series was drawn and India are the form team in the world. Both have got a band of good pace bowlers. They will be difficult assignments.”

    Alternatively, Pakistan are ranked 7th, their batting since losing Younis and Misbah is a collapse waiting to happen and the time of year should negate Yasir; India haven’t won a Test series outside Asia for nearly a decade since they won 1-0 in NZ (excluding one win in WI). I expect India to put up a sterner challenge than 2014 (not difficult) and of course Bayliss shouldn’t be rude to the opposition but let’s not kid ourselves winning this summer’s Test series is Mission Impossible.

    • Cricketcricketcricket April 4, 2018 at 7:04 pm - Reply

      I agree. Winning at home isn’t anything special now. It’s away series that count more

  27. Paul April 4, 2018 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    One winter, two tours, not one single win. I don’t remember it being this bad in the 90s. I’ve always rated Stoneman and thought he should be in the side on attitude alone (similar to Vaughn and Trescothick) but h has started to look like the pressure is getting to him. How Vince gets in the side is absolutely beyond me. If the numbers 2 and 3 were performing an any sort of level then maybe we could have the bottle to address the Alister Cook issue but until that happens he will be an ever present until he decides otherwise. I would like Root, Stokes and Bairstow all in the top 6 and give Butler another go at WK. He is a special player and I don’t think Test cricket is beyond him.
    Our ability to take 20 wickets looks like it’s going to be a massive problem short/long term. Frankly I haven’t got any idea who or how that’s going to be resolved.

    • Pete Cresswell April 4, 2018 at 8:00 pm - Reply

      Buttler’s a talented slogger, and Bairstow is better than him with the gloves. Nowhere near test level

      • Silk April 4, 2018 at 9:14 pm - Reply

        If not Bairstow then Foakes, IMHO. But 5 isn’t the problem. Malan, Lawrence, Clarke, Livingstone, Northeast and Hain could all do a job at 5, and Ali might come again.

        3 is the problem. Bairstow can’t bat at 3. So I see no logic in taking the gloves away from him.

        • Pete Cresswell April 5, 2018 at 8:05 am - Reply

          I agree completely. There’s a case for putting Bairstow at 6 so he’s not constantly shepherding the tail, but he’s a 4 at the most, no higher

  28. SimonH April 5, 2018 at 8:28 am - Reply

    “The other one I’ll add in who’s impressed in the nets is Ben Foakes. He’s batting very well.”

    Is Bayliss really suggesting Foakes might play as a specialist batsman? Alternatively, if he means Foakes plays as keeper and YJB reverts to a specialist batsman, they’re left trying to fit Root, Malan and Bairstow into two berths (Nos. 4 and 5) unless one of these bats at No.3 (strong case against all of them attempting that) or they play at four man attack with Stokes as one of four bowlers. Dropping Malan is the only way this would work.

    Elsewhere, Warner has accepted his ban. You’ll be able top knock me over with a feather if none of them actually serve the full term of their ban due to “popular pressure, mature reconsideration, etc”.

  29. SimonH April 5, 2018 at 8:36 am - Reply

    Meanwhile, more importantly but not getting 1/50th of the coverage, cricket in Australia looks like it’s heading behind a paywall….

    “Sources close to free-to-air television networks have been frustrated with Cricket Australia’s negotiation style, saying the broadcasters are treated as enemies rather than as future broadcasting partners”.

    I’m shocked, shocked I say, that if you put the head of Rio Tinto in charge of your cricket, this is what starts happening.

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