Facepalm – Day 3 at Mount Maunganui

Four wickets fell on day one at The Bay Oval. Ten wickets fell on day two – including the dismissal of Kane Williamson when a ball leapt alarmingly off a length from nowhere. The ball was swinging a bit too. So how many wickets fell on day 3?

Two. Just two miserable wickets. And one of those was a miracle catch by debutant Dom Sibley. Sigh.

It’s all so disappointing. I really thought England were going to win this game from their overnight position. They dominated day one. They were on top at the end of day two. And although nobody really knew how this Mount Maunganui pitch would behave later in the game, I thought it was safe to assume that batting would get harder not easier.

I was wrong. Watching England flounder in the field on day 3 was all too familiar and depressing. The bowlers had faces longer than Seabiscuit. Joe Root looked lost. And the luck went against us too. It was exactly the type of experience the selectors were hoping to avoid when they picked the tour party. At 394-6 the Kiwis are now strong favourites.

However, although it would be easy to put the boot in today, I don’t think we can blame anyone in particular. England picked the best attack available to them.

Jofra Archer was supposed to provide the pace and X-factor we’ve desperately needed on tours in the past, Sam Curran was supposed to provide that crucial left-arm variation, Broad was supposed to provide the height and nous, Leach was supposed to provide control and the odd wicket, and Ben Stokes was supposed to be our golden arm capable of creating wickets from nowhere.

The logic was sound. The problem was that they all had bad days. And the fielding was a bit loose too.

Archer had a day to forget I’m afraid. Because his international career has started so well I think we forget that he’s still a young man with relatively little first class cricket. He’s still learning and we can’t expect him to deliver every time.

The same might be said of Sam Curran. He floated the ball up there and encouraged it to swing but this time it rarely did. And when he did get the odd delivery to curve back into the right hander the batsmen always seemed to keep it out somehow. But that’s just how it goes sometimes. Swing can be ephemeral and mysterious.

Jack Leach bowled ok but there was precious little turn; therefore it’s hard to fault him too much. Finger spinners need the ball to grip but there was precious little evidence of that. And when he did land the occasion ball in the rough it turned too much and missed both the outside / inside edges and the stumps. It was just one of those days.

As for Ben Stokes he bowled well but was underused by Root. I don’t really know why. Some of the decisions Root made today were odd.

The only bowler I’d really question is Stuart Broad. I’ve said it before (in fact I’ve said it for about five years) and I’ll say it again. When he’s in rhythm, and his legs are pumping, and he’s bowling above 85 mph then he’s world class. But when he’s down at 80mph, out of rhythm, and the pitch offers very little bounce, he’s quite innocuous.

Sadly Stuart kept it tight today but his pace was down and he never looked like taking a wicket. Root should have opened up (and given the second new ball to) Archer and Curran if he wanted the latter to find some swing. Instead the opportunity was somewhat wasted on Broad whilst Archer was injudiciously left to wait.

Overall we can’t fault the bowler’s effort though. BJ Watling batted brilliantly – what a fine cricketer he is – and we can’t ignore just how flat this pitch proved. It really was a bowlers graveyard.

I don’t know about you but I hate pitches like these. It just creates turgid cricket. The Kookaburra ball doesn’t help either.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind a bit of attritional cricket sometimes. But low scoring games only captivate if there’s something in the surface for the bowlers – whether it’s turn, inconsistent bounce, or reverse swing. Unfortunately the ball that dismissed Williamson turned out to be an aberration.

So where does the game go from here? Sod’s law dictates that New Zealand will extend their lead tomorrow by another hundred, England will be under huge pressure in the second innings, and then – and only then – will the pitch start to misbehave.

However, if this fatalistic prediction comes to pass then the team will only have themselves to blame. Had England batted well on the second morning, and turned 241-4 into 450+, then the game would’ve been safe(ish) and the teams would be level pegging.

Instead it was New Zealand’s middle-order that took the game by the scruff of the neck. They’ve turned 141-4 (let alone 241-4) into a big score. And now it will be England struggling with scoreboard pressure tomorrow.

Plus ça change.

James Morgan

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  • I suppose we’ve got to look on it as an opportunity for the batsmen to bat the time they’ve been picked to do, but it’s going to need something pretty special from at least a couple of them to get anything out of this now.
    Feel sorry for Archer, as he’s been singled out as our talisman by the media and in a 2 innings match rarely seems to be able to find form in both. At least these 2 tests aren’t included in the new test ratings. The rest of them, including Broad, don’t yet have reputations to be relied on. Even Root’s captaincy seems to be increasingly questioned. He’s certainly not a charismatic leader with a dominant personality, which doesn’t help him when things are not happening.
    Fair play to New Zealand though, no wonder they don’t get rolled over at home. After all prior to this test they were favourites for the series. One day we’ll have 5 decent days to win a test, but perhaps not quite yet.

  • On why Stokes bowled so little, I’ve suspected he’s been carrying an injury (probably foot, possibly ankle) for some time. He hasn’t bowled long spells in overseas’ Tests for some time (see the last three Tests in India where he virtually disappeared).

    The BBC has a headline about “England got their tactics wrong”. Not a headline we saw very much when Flower/Moores/Strauss/Cook were in charge when it was never faulty tactics but always something else. What a surprise that the faulty tactics in question were bowling too short and nice to see it was former coach Ramprakash who was getting that into the public domain. Not the most promising start for new coach Silverwood – if Root asked him for some ideas and Silverwood said “I’v got nothing” then Root better leave that out of the end of tour report! Last time that happened, it didn’t send too well for the captain.

    The other two Tests going on are home massacres for Big Three teams. How exciting….

  • A measured response to this day’s cricket. Surfaces like this one do the red ball game few favours – runs come slowly and wickets except when the ball decides to swing hardly come at all. It is a little reminiscent of the MCG in 2017-18 when 10 days might well not have been enough to produce a result, never mind the actual 5.

    • Test crixket does not need fast scoring at all! It needs wickets that offer up something and high quality spin and pace like fire .

      These teams are bowling slow, have no spin really and barring the odd batter, all the batters are very bang average

  • There are days when the bowling unit doesn’t fire and the conditions are unhelpful but a good captain should come into his own and try and make opportunities.
    I watched the highlights and thought the ground fielding and returns from the deep were poor. Really no excuse for that and asses should be kicked. Lack lustre all round.

  • Really shouldn’t bowling so much short stuff on a placid wicket. But we are pretty hopeless abroad aren’t we. Seem to have made sensible changes too of the batting order, but the bowling seems t lack penetration to me. Why is Archer not bowling 4/5 overs flat out? Leach keeps it tight but isn’t a wicket taker at this level and Broad…sorry largely ineffective overseas. Root should step down as captain, has done the job too long and is simply not good enough.

  • I did think England were overly in congratulatory mode when they got 350, from 241-4 they should have gotten 400 atleast, but the batsmen threw their wickets away. Watling showed them how it’s done.

    Root’s been Captain for 34 test now, and he shows zero signs of improving. I’m been saying for a while that England need to find another captain, he is rather uninspiring in the field.

  • Many people saying on the BBC thread to give Stokes the captaincy. No don’t ruin him as well like they’ve bugered up Root. To be honest, Burns has proved to be a decent County captain for Surrey, and failing that, if we insist on playing Broad abroad, as a senior player give it to him at least in the short term.


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