Embarrassed – Day 5 At Mount Maunganui

At the end of day two at The Bay Oval, England had reduced New Zealand to 144-4 and had built a strong position. The Kiwis were still over 200 runs behind, their first four batsmen were back in the hutch (including their best player Kane Williamson), and they were facing the prospect of batting last on a surface that was showing signs of wear. Everything pointed to an eventual England victory.

Three days later England had lost by the humungous margin of an innings and 65 runs. Talk about inept. Yes New Zealand did brilliant to fight their way back into the game, and then take a decisive lead, but losing so meekly after establishing such a strong foundation is embarrassing.

In his post match analysis, Joe Root argued that analysts shouldn’t read too much into the defeat. He claimed that looking into the performance “too deeply” would be a mistake. But why? Surely tough questions must be asked after a capitulation like this.

I’m sure Joe would love everyone to say “oh well it was just a bad day at the office” because it lets him and his team off the hook. However, it simply doesn’t work this way. Supporters realise that defeats this lamentable have become a habit under Root’s captaincy. It’s not a blip; it’s a pattern. Therefore the forensic treatment is fully justified.

Now don’t get me wrong. There’s no shame in losing to a better team – especially away from home. But some of England’s dismissals yesterday were indeed shameful.

The skipper himself was culprit number one. Having battled hard for almost an hour he inexplicably tapped a short ball to gully. It was a terrible shot that revealed a totally scrambled mind. Was he dwelling on something else at the time? Who knows. But when you throw your wicket away twice in the match, both times caught behind square on the off-side, then you’ve got to expect a backlash.

The vice captain also let the team down. It’s hard to criticise Ben Stokes too much because he’s dug us out of a hole many times in the past. However, his dismissal yesterday was almost as bad. It was a nothing shot – a careless effort. It’s amazing how often shots lacking conviction ricochet back onto the stumps.

Ollie Pope was another culprit. He was obviously deceived by Wagner’s slower ball but smacking a full toss straight to cover is never a good look. I sense it was Pope’s naturally positive mindset that proved his undoing. If your default is to seek scoring opportunities then things like this can happen. However, the match situation demanded a more defensive mentality. As soon as he saw a wide full toss he should’ve thought “that’s harmless I can leave it” rather than “bingo I’m going to whack it”.

The other batsman taking some flak is Jos Buttler, who left a full delivery that cannoned into his stumps. Again it looked terrible. The only defence I can offer is that the ball swung in quite a lot and Jos was probably physically and mentally exhausted after keeping wicket for 201 overs. I bet he’s never kept wicket for anything like that period of time before. Overall he had a very rough game.

We talked about the bowling yesterday so I won’t go into that again. What’s more, my cat got extremely antsy when I compared her to England’s toothless wonders and she retaliated by crapping in my shoe; therefore I have no desire to go back there again. However, I can’t ignore Root’s controversial comments about Jofra Archer after the game.

To question Archer’s “energy and effort” live on TV was extremely strange and suggests there may be trouble ahead. Although some might agree that Jofra’s body language isn’t exactly electric on occasion, is it any surprise when he’s just bowled an insane 42 overs in a single innings? The poor bloke’s probably exhausted.

What’s more, Root’s comment that Archer needs to bowl sharper and shorter spells seems a bit rich. Jofra isn’t the captain, Joe. You are! If you want him to bowl faster then why bowl him into the ground?

England need to be very careful with their prized asset and one hopes the team management (and indeed the ECB) will learn from the Kevin Pietersen debacle. When you’ve got a special talent you need to look after him. Don’t ostracise the player or criticise him in public. Make him feel included and invested.

Archer is going to have a long cricket career but there’s nothing that obliges him to focus on Test cricket in particular. Like Pietersen he’ll no doubt look to earn as much money as possible from T20 competitions, and quite frankly he doesn’t need any of this crap. England must try to convince Archer that slogging his guts out for England in the longest form of the game is a worthwhile endeavour. Questioning his commitment is only going to lead to bad feeling and increase the chances he’ll say “sod this” sooner rather than later.

Ask yourself this. When was the last time an England player’s motivation was questioned in public? I could be wrong but I think it was indeed Kevin Pietersen who was criticised for looking ‘disengaged’ amongst other things.

Root and Chris Silverwood need to sit down with Jofra pronto and thrash things out in an amicable way. And I don’t want any clash of egos or talk of team culture – i.e. the management flexing their muscles and saying “it’s our way or the highway”. A player’s needs, and what a player thinks his role should be, is important too. Why? because happy geniuses tend to be productive geniuses.

Before I sign off, I also want to mention how sad it was that Archer got racially abused by a New Zealand fan yesterday. The game doesn’t need ignorant bozos with a chip on their shoulder. I hope they find the perpetrator and ban him for life.

I’d also like to ban England batting collapses but somehow I doubt this will happen anytime soon. Our batsmen, like our bowlers, will be handicapped by the ECB’s white-ball-first domestic schedule for the foreseeable future.

James Morgan

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  • Why has Archer been singled out? Sure he did not have a good game but our primary asset the only guy who can reach 90mph is bowled into the ground, 42 overs? He was no doubt exhausted. How about Broad a man of far greater experience than Archer who looked every bit as tepid but has not been singled out.

    Is this just to try and take the attention away from the rotten captaincy of Root (and batting). To suggest that Archer needs to bowl short sharp spells from the man who makes the decisions on who bowls and when is so shocking it leads me to seriously question the man’s integrity and/or IQ!

    It smacks of KP, a guy who is a stand out in cultural background in the dressing room, a special talent, Stokes dropped a catch, Root among others batted woefully, Broad was dire with the ball so was Leach. Buttler didn’t impress but none of them called out.

    Has Root ever stood up and said as the captain the buck stops with me?

  • I really dislike the mantra that “it’s all about the Ashes”, this arrogance is an insult to all the other teams we play. Right now it’s all about NZ then SA and SL after that. Next winter it’ll all be about India and as the ECB have penalised Somerset for preparing spin friendly wickets instead of the usual roads our batters will be pretty clueless there too. Oh and don’t start me on the f****** g 100….

  • Yes – a third shocking day in a row to surrender a match that did indeed look won at the end of day 2. In addition to your comments about the dismissals of the front line batters I would add against them that Curran and Archer both managed to bat adequately, albeit with the game already lost. Of the seven members of this England team selected either solely or primarily for their batting six (Denly being the odd one out) contributed to their own downfall in this innings. As for handling Archer as a bowler I would say that unless wickets are crashing and you are looking for a quick kill he should never be asked to bowl more than five overs in any given spell and he should be given plenty of time to rest between such spells.

  • Have they learned nothing from the KP debacle? It seems not. They don’t like having a genius or outstanding person in the dressing room do they? Perhaps the little green eyed god is rearing his head again. I think Archer will be off soon he does not need this sort of crap. root should be ashamed of himself for criticising him. Sadly Joe seems to be emulating his predecessor in that nothing is every his fault. I lost respect for Cook when he did nothing in 2014 but behaved in a spineless way – Joe is now doing the same.

    He needs to grow a pair.

  • I noticed this Summer Root’s obvious anger and frustration on the field towards the end of the day in the first Ashes test as Steve Smith clung on with the tail. It really surprised me. I’ve seen plenty of captains look grim, determined, weary, even desperate in the face of adversity but not as obviously furious with the world as he seemed then. If he’s started mouthing off about his players in public it shows an extraordinary lack of maturity and someone needs to have a word ASAP.

  • Well look this England side is no way awash with talent for Test cricket. In fact they are now becoming decidedly second rate. Not all their fault, we play virtually no 4 day cricket in June, July and August and now it’s showing isn’t it. I don’t normally swear but for …. s sake why did we employ Silverwood instead of one of the World’s best coaches who was available. Apparently his “presentation” was better. Are they serious? At the very least Silverwood, Smith et all should be advising a very poor captain as to why he’s flogging Archer into the ground. I bet the guy will go white ball only in a year if this nonsense continues. Maybe the other “stars”feel threatened by his presence, just like Petersen.
    You know I have just about had enough of England International cricket and may just go neutral unless they start to take it seriously. Rant over!

    • Funny how the name Pietersen is popping up again. Get a star in the dressing room and they don’t like it.

  • I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Archer is overrated. A few good spells in the Ashes doesn’t define a player. Felling Smith at Lord’s isn’t exactly a career defining moment, but everyone jumped on the bandwagon and declared him to be the new messiah. Well Smith found him out and scored a double hundred the next time he faced him. Archer had nothing.

    I believe England don’t really know how to handle Archer. He’s a kid who probably doesn’t know what is best for him either.

    Root is a poor captain, not helped by players coming and going in his team. He has been found out on too many occasions now to be considered a leader and tactician. As much as I dislike Ben Stokes, he is an immense player for England and would likely be a better captain. At least he would drag his players with his battered and bloodied body for the cause.

    Time for change at the helm I’m afraid.

  • Root needs to stop acting like a snotty teenager whose X box has been confiscated.
    These guys are well-rewarded professional cricketers. A lot of them need to grow cojones, fast.
    I think I’d rather follow the Kiwis than this bunch of losers.

  • The whole thing felt like a re-run of the 4th Ashes’ Test (only worse with Boult injured). The highlight for me came aaround 2am when Buttler and Curran were together. These are two players good for a quick fifty sometimes – but to save a Test match? When did England last save a match on day five? I can’t think of an example since Bell/Prior in NZ two tours ago (and don’t care enough to look it uo these days).

    Did Stewart really say on The Verdict (which I haven’t watched for about 3 years) that, from the NZ team, only Williamson would get into a Combined XI? If he did, should I laugh or cry? (FTR, Latham, Taylor, Watling, Boult and Wagner would also get into mine).

    I don’t want to be unkind to Silverwood after one game – but wouldn’t we rather have Kirsten teaching them how to bat for long periods? This isn’t exactly hindsight because plenty of people made this point at the time. Instead, we’ve got the guy who gives a good Powerpoint!

    On the subject of Archer jacking Tests in for white ball, I’m trying to believe some at the ECB wouldn’t be secretly happy with that.

    On Root, I noticed some of the press were quick to tweet his average as captain has fallen below 40. No “back to his best” then? What they’re not mentioning is that Root’s average of 39.7 is the best of any England batsman since he became captain (except Ben ‘Not Funky Enough’ Foakes who averages 41 in 5 Tests). Root has also made some 600 runs more than anyone else. It’s like how in KP’s “career of two halves” they never mentioned how everyone’s batting had declined more than KP’s 2012-14.

    If England lose the next match and/or Root doesn’t make runs, the captaincy becomes a real issue. Who else is there? Buttler just lost the VC and gained the gauntlets; Morgan barely plays red-ball and can’t handle short stuff; Broad needs to concentrate on being worth his place in overseas’ Tests; that leaves… . More probably, Root struggles on to SA and Giles hopes a combination of England’s good record in SA and SA’s steep decline kick the issue further down the road (although their home record is still quite strong – but only with some heavy pitch doctoring and help from ABDV). As usual, the paucity of plausible candidates is a damning indictment of how the team has been run for over a decade.

    If Boult is out of the next Test, it would be great to see Ferguson have a go in Tests (although Matt Henry is a pretty good other option).

      • Stewart has always struck me as one of those military style types that want simple solutions to complex problems. He’s one of life’s reactors rather than a thinker for whom life is black and white and who believes in things like ‘you can do anything if you try.’
        In terms of natural talent there aren’t many of this New Zealand team who are better than their English counterparts, but in terms of motivation and effectiveness there aren’t many of our side who can compete with them. Given the choice you go with effectiveness every time if you want to win.
        Under Root there’s too much negative baggage from recent years, much of it not his fault, but it’s so close to the surface that the ‘oh no not again’ syndrome is clearly evident with Root’s body language to the fore, which must be an inspiration to any opposition.

  • Trouble is Root is now averaging 28 this year. Not long ago he was one of the best 4: Kohli, Smith, Williamson. Not now though. He is too good to continue in this way. At the very least no more captaincy and ideally a spell in County Cricket. England will destroy their best batsman otherwise, like they are destroying Archer.
    I don’t know who would captain, maybe Butler or Burns, but it really has to change and quickly.

  • We can’t ban England’s batting collapses, you’d have nothing to write about!
    Spot on as ever James. Root shouldn’t be captain, he’s not very good at it and it’s ruined his batting. I’d go for Broad as a short-term fix, he’s mature enough now not to throw the ball to himself every time we need a wicket. Root’s handling of Archer (and even more so his comments) just beggar belief. Archer should have bowled no more than 25 overs on that wicket. He must be thinking to himself that he’s capable of earning 10s of millions in short-form cricket, but is suddenly facing the prospect of losing the lot through burnout and injury. No wonder his body language is down at times!
    A couple of other things:
    1) My impression over the last 10 years is that time and again England have been brilliant at knocking over the top order, only to be thwarted by the lower order. Does anyone know of any analysis of whether this is more true in the last decade, or just a false impression? Maybe I should write to Andrew Samson…
    2) England should have set out to score at 3 an over in their second innings with a view to making NZ bat again. That wouldn’t have been reckless. Scoring at 2 an over meant they had to bat about 15 more overs to survive.

  • Same old same old. Even Ladbrokes weren’t offering anything tempting on an innings defeat.
    Alec Stewart’s comments saying he expected us to bat out the day show what planet he lives on.
    It’s clear to anyone with 2 brain cells to rub together that Root, our best batsman, is no captain. His scrambled thinking on the field and comments off it show a tired mind devoid of inspiration.
    I know we can’t change anything major mid tour, but for the team and his own sake he should step down and then we can be spared these embarrassingly inept post match interviews.
    I know this won’t solve all our problems, many of which go back a long time before Root, but it’s a declaration of intent to do something about our inability to be consistently competitive, before the baggage starts to infect the new boys as well.
    I’ve long been an advocate of the Aussie ‘pick the team first then pick your captain’. With the parlous state of red ball cricket in this country there’s no obvious candidate amongst the county captains.
    Not sure about Broad, bowlers rarely make good captains, but in the short term he is certainly an option.

  • Just for the record this is the fourth time in 3 years that we have scored 350 or more in the first innings of an away test and lost by an innings. Last two tests in India plus Perth. We came close in Sydney too but only scored 346. Not quite sure whether to blame the batting (can’t play long innings on flat pitches) or bowling (toothless on flat pitches). Or both.

  • Can I give the example of Henry Nicholls as a source of hope for England?This last year he has been, statistically, one of the best batsmen in the world, he’s in the Top 10 for rankings (ranked higher than Root now), yet never gets mentioned when talking about the best batsmen going around, and certainly Alec Stewart would never think of including him in his ‘Top combined XI’. He’s low key excellence.

    The thing about Nicholls though is he was a long term project. Took a while to get going and cement his place, got a lot of criticism, but the coach, selectors, Captain and team obviously knew what they wanted and were prepared to be patient. and it paid off

    The current English test team have a lot of players in that ‘development’ space by the looks of it, but it looks like the making of a really good team. You’ve got the right players now, you just need them to find confidence and form. Which might come from how they are managed, so Selectors, Coach and Captain are the key. Good to see specialists, not a team of all rounders. I hope they are trusted and given time to become self-assured at the crease.

  • Just a few facts to counter what I feel is a growing “he can’t captain for toffee” narrative about Root (and no, I’m not arguing he’s a great captain – merely not as hopeless as prevailing opinion suggests):

    1) Root has 17 wins as captain, which puts him equal sixth with Hussain on the England all-time list. Everyone above him was captain in more games (usually many more) except Brearley.
    2) Root’s win/loss ratio of 1.2 is better than Cook, Hussain, Gooch, Atherton, Greig, Stewart, Gatting and Gower.

    • I think you’d need to look at the opposition to see how valid this argument is (I#m not saying it’s wrong, just that it needs looking at). Gooch, Gatting and Gower, for example, all captained against the 1980’s West Indians, who were quite tough to beat.

      • The thing that worries me about the present set up, led by Root, are the embarrassing post match interviews, which seem to be in denial as to the significance of what’s just taken place and how it fits in to a depressingly familiar patterns, which this set up seems unable to address. Whoever comes in they seem to get drawn into this. Surely we have to look at motivation here. It’s too simple to blame the demise of county cricket. As I see it it’s not about technique as much as judgment. None of our players can be relied upon to resist their stroke playing instincts for long. To me it’s a legacy of the Bayliss ‘entertainment’ era. Test cricket is a unique format with different qualities required to succeed. I’m sure the players realise this, but they don’t seem to be able to make the adjustment in their heads. As soon as things start to go wrong there’s seems to be no psychological strength there to reverse it.

  • Joe’s comments about Archer are really poor and quite frankly Archer has already quit one country when he felt he was treated badly. I doubt he’s going to head off after an off remark but he strikes me as a professional cricketer not an England cricketer and will if he gets blamed every time he has an off game.


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