Here’s a post for your thoughts and comments on the second day’s play, as it progresses, plus more of your reaction to day one. I must stress that other websites are available.
Unfortunately, resources at TFT are a little scant today, but I’ll update and expand this post later today, including a look at Andrew Strauss’s interview on TMS.
But a few quick thoughts. Yesterday’s batting performance by England was an extension – and on a greater scale – of the pattern they established in the West Indies. Strength, depth and confidence in the middle order; flimsy fragility in the top order. England have alternate layers of balsa wood and mahogany. Alastair Cook was dismissed to a shot of which he’s unlikely to be proud.
New Zealand, to me, seemed rather under-prepared. Having virtually just got off the plane from the West Indies, England could have been jaded – but Root, Stokes, Buttler and Moeen, at least, seem to be still in the groove off the back of a three-test series. We’ll see later whether that also applies to the bowlers.
Anyway, must dash, I’m afraid. But more later.
New Zealand are proceeding very comfortably at 263-2, trailing now by 126, with Kane Williamson 66* and Ross Taylor 37*. They’re batting fluently and with brio. Both the pitch and England look flat, especially the latter. According to Shane Warne on Sky, Alastair Cook is “just letting the game happen”.
Earlier, in the afternoon session, England bowled reasonably well without ever looking very penetrative. Can this attack bowl out Australia (and of course, New Zealand before them) when conditions offer little swing? And how do England work their way through a batting line-up when Anderson doesn’t fire? On debut, Mark Wood has looked nippy and aggressive, although less so since tea.
Earlier, England’s tail failed to wag, as they subsided from an overnight 354-7 to 389 all out. England lost their last four wickets for 35 runs.
But as play continues let’s have a look at Andrew Strauss’s interviews yesterday. On Test Match Special, he had the following to say about his decision to extend the ban on Kevin Pietersen.
It is a funny situation. When I decided to take this on, the Kevin Pietersen issue was one that needed clearing up. I thought it was important we had some clarity on it and the players weren’t involved in the decision. It was an ECB one. You have to go with what you think is best. I am a believer in the idea that the environment of a team helps them to perform.
I am not apportioning blame but it has happened. In order to create that environment in the short term this is the decision we have made. Who knows what the future holds. For the time being it is right for this England team to continue the development they have made in the last 12 months. There are some good players in that middle order.
To date, Strauss is proving every bit as fluent in evasive waffle as his predecessor, the Dark Lord Downton. Does he honestly believe that he has “cleared up” and brought “some clarity” to the issue? His position is that Pietersen is still excluded, not forever but for an unspecified period of time in the short to medium term. He has not explained when or why things could change or why it might be acceptable to recall Pietersen in the future but not now.
The only reason he can provide for opposing Pietersen is a vague reference, made in previous interviews, to “massive trust issues”, without explaining what they are or how they would impact on team performance, He has cleared up and clarified nothing whatsoever.
In this exchange he also introduced the idea that Pietersen is being kept out in order to create a team environment conducive to progress. This rhetoric is similar to Downton’s in the past. It was Strauss’s duty to explain exactly what this means, and he failed to fulfil it. In what way, precisely, would Pietersen’s presence inhibit the development of an effective environment, whatever that nebulous term itself means. During the TMS interview, he was not asked these questions.
Is this ECB code for ‘Pietersen would air his views if he disagreed with Cook, and this sets a bad example to younger players, of whom we expect total doctrinal obedience’? And does Strauss also believe that, after all that’s happened, Pietersen – who is so desperate to return to England he forfeited a £250,000 paycheque – wouldn’t knuckle down and act in a disciplined way?
By alluding to” good players in that middle order” Strauss probably meant to imply there is no place available for Pietersen anyway. But this is irrelevant. No one asked for Pietersen to walk straight back into the side. All that was asked was he be treated in the same manner as any other player, and be eligible for selection.
Another detail: as Nigel posted on our comments board:
[Strauss also made a] rather breathtaking remark to Agnew: “Let’s not make this about personalities..” Can anyone explain how the Pietersen affair isn’t about personalities?
Strauss also told the BBC that the new England coach may not start work until after the Ashes, which implies that (a) they want Jason Gillespie and (b) he will take the job but (c) not until he completes the current county season with Yorkshire.
Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph’s Nick Hoult reported today that Gillespie has had “positive talks” with Strauss and “will accept the England job if offered”.
Gillespie had been concerned over the scope of the coach’s role after Strauss made a number of key decisions on his first day in the job as director of cricket last week. He appointed Alastair Cook as Test captain, Eoin Morgan in charge of the one-day side and in effect sacked Kevin Pietersen for the second time.
Gillespie said earlier this week he would “take some persuading” to leave Yorkshire but has been assured by Strauss he will have full control over the team and the power to make changes as he sees fit.
The new coach is going to be given the opportunity and space to do his job as he should be. He is not going to be a whipping boy for me or anyone else.
He has to run the show as he sees fit and have a good close working relationship with the captain. I have got to help him to do what he needs to do. I am there to help and support him and look a bit more strategically and long term in our planning. If we have that situation we can co-exist quite happily.
“I am not going to be one of those guys always knocking on the dressing room door telling him he has to do this and that. It has got to be his show to run. I am going to get out of the way, allow him to do his job and the captain to do the job.
Which is as it should be, but at least Strauss has realised as much. A key point here is allowing the captain to do his job, just as much as the coach. I can’t help feeling that in recent years, and especially under Cook’s premiership, too much of the captain’s role has seeped into the coach’s brief. There’s already been discussion during this test match about the credit due to Paul Farbrace, the acting coach, for switching Ben Stokes to six in the batting order. Isn’t the captain, not the coach, supposed to decide who bats where?,
Regardless, the identity of the Peter Moores’s replacement now appears virtually certain. Barring mishap, the ECB will appoint as their new coach Jason Gillespie – the candidate many of us on this side of the fence said should have got the job in April last year, instead of Moores, whom every right-minded person knew would be a disaster (again). If only the ECB had used some common sense and hired the Australian at that first opportunity, thus sparing us an entire year of agony.
Oh well. Being, as we are, ignoramus know-nothings, how could we possible have judged what was right for English cricket?
Despite the utter obviousness of hiring Gillespie, the ECB have still engaged a head-hunting firm to line up candidates for the job. The short-list also includes Gary Kirsten, Trevor Bayliss and Tom Moody. Clearly, only an expensive specialist agency could possibly have had the knowledge and imagination to identify those four individuals.
Meanwhile, it’s time for another game of England’s new summer pastime: ECB Corporate Bullshit Bingo. Here are some more quotes from yesterday’s Strauss interviews. Eyes down.
We want to get the right man to ensure his philosophies co-exist with mine and then we will move forward together to try and take English cricket to the right place.
A number of people are interested and there are a number of really good candidates out there. It is up to me to decide who is the right person to take English cricket forward.
Have you got the message yet? IT’S TIME TO MOVE FORWARD.
On Sky Sports at tea, David Gower interviewed Derek Brewer, chief executive of the only private club in the United Kingdom which exercises control over a public asset: the MCC. The piece focused on exciting redevelopment plans for the Warner Stand, for which seats are only available for members’ guests. Sadly, Gower did not ask Brewer why tickets for this test, at Lord’s, are fifty eight per cent more expensive than equivalent seats for the second New Zealand test, at Headingley – as we discussed on Wednesday.