I believe the phrase rhymes with clucking bell – day three in Dunedin

England 167. New Zealand 402-7

New Zealand scored 271-7 on day three. That’s not particularly good on a pitch that’s flatter than Jessica Alba’s stomach. The problem is it’s a damn sight better than 167 all out.

England threw this game away on day one – like they’ve done on their last four overseas tours. Although the bowlers did pretty well yesterday, the damage was already done.

This game was up from the moment that England’s established test match batsmen – all of whom have impressive career averages that tower over their Kiwi counterparts – played like absolute pelicans.

The only way we’re going to save this match is to bat for two days – a bit like we did in Brisbane in 2010. Yep, in case you forgot, we almost totally screwed up that game too.

Why oh why do we always hit the ground crawling rather than running?! It doesn’t even seem to matter what the standard of the opposition is. We’d lose to bloody Northants if it was the first game of a series.

Anyway, we’re duty bound to pick the bones of the dying carcass that is this match, so here goes …

The main story was Hamish Rutherford, who scored 171 not out on debut. That’s quite an achievement really. So we must have been impressed with him, right?

Well, err, no actually. This is going to sound incredibly churlish, but I didn’t particularly like what I saw. Hamish Rutherford has a good eye and times the ball really well. But does he look like a great test batsman? Not yet.

Rutherford’s technique is too village: he makes room to hit the ball through the off-side almost exclusively, and he pretty much plays the same extravagant shot through the covers whatever the ball’s line and length.

As soon as he meets a pitch with the slightest bit of movement, he’s going to come unstuck. His luck was definitely in yesterday, but I can’t see it lasting throughout his career unless he develops his game.

Rutherford looks like a prototypical slasher to me – a David Warner clone you might say – and he looks uncomfortable against the short ball too. At first I thought he batted a lot like Phil Hughes (another player who relies solely on his eye) but then I realised who he’s a dead-ringer for: Phil Mustard. Remind me how Mustard’s international career went.

Anyway, enough of mean spiritedness, the bloke got a big century and should be applauded. Shame on England’s bowlers for not figuring him out really. It was utterly depressing.

In NFL, which is the most cerebral and tactical sport in the world (only people who understand it implicitly will know this), they often say a team lost because it ‘got out-coached’. Well, that’s exactly what has happened to England in this test match.

New Zealand’s management have done their homework brilliantly – note the in-swinging yorker that disimissed KP first ball; Pietersen often looks uncomfortable when bowlers attack his stumps with full pitched bowling (probably because he’s so tall) and Dunedin isn’t the best viewing ground for batsmen (it’s like Lord’s but with more dark trees). It was a brilliant plan.

England on the other hand have looked totally unprepared and, to be frank, clueless. TMS listeners got an unexpected earful yesterday when Jonathan Agnew was heard slagging off Monty in the background (note to Aggers: make sure the mic is turned down when you’re making asides). This might have seemed a bit unnecessary but Agnew was completely right.

Having watched journeyman Bruce Martin take 4-43 in England’s first inns – predominantly by bowling slow loopy left-armers – you’d think that Monty, fresh from his exams, might have had the intelligence to do the same. Wrong! Monty seemed determined to bowl faster and faster and flatter and flatter. You’re not in India now, Monty.

When asked by Ian Ward whether fans were right to question Panesar’s lack of variation, Paul Collingwood – a man still close to the England side remember – brushed off the criticism: “that’s the way that Monty bowls, and he’s been very successful doing it … you can’t just expect him to change, he just wouldn’t be the same”.

Collingwood’s answer was as inadequate as England’s preparation for this match.

James Morgan

1 comment

  • You’re right that Panesar bowled too flat, but the pace was fine, he’s always been a fast-ish spinner, he just needed to get more loop doing it, then he might have extracted some turn from the surface.


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