I was tired yesterday evening. So tired, in fact, that I accidentally shut my eyes at 9pm and woke up an hour later just before play had begun. I was still drowsy and half-asleep when I looked at the composition of England’s side and assumed – wrongly it turned out – that I was still dreaming.
But it wasn’t a dream. It was more like a nightmare. Five seamers? FIVE effin’ seamers?
I suppose we should’ve guessed that England would be this stupid. I speculated as much on this very blog yesterday. However, part of me never really thought they’d go through with it. I mean, Joe Root can’t be that daft can he?
And what about Chris Silverwood and the other coaches, Graham Thorpe and Paul Collingwood? I know the head coach has a lot on his mind at the moment (and we send him our sincere condolences after his family bereavement) but surely there’s enough knowledge and experience in that dressing room not to make such a boneheaded decision?
I was wrong. When it comes to English cricket never underestimate the predictability of incompetence. As Mark Butcher said powerfully on Sky’s coverage, picking five seamers is completely braindead. 5 seamers can rarely do what 4 can’t. What’s more, if you think the pitch is going to seam around that much, then you’ll knock the opposition over for a small score and the 5th paceman won’t even be required.
I really worry when England’s management team do things like this. It makes me lose confidence in them. Yes some of the locals argued that Hamilton rarely spins, but that didn’t stop the home side from including Mitchell Santner. Hmmmm.
Although this surface has plenty of grass it’s also supposed to be rather dry underneath. What are the odds on Santner spinning New Zealand to victory in the 4th innings as the ball starts to grip?!
I also feel desperately sorry for Jack Leach. It sends completely the wrong message to drop a young spinner after one poor game. Thus far Leach has been excellent in his Test career. He averages 29 (which is excellent) and he’s consistently done well in the last innings of the game. Here are his 4th innings figures for England so far: 2/61, 3/60, 5/83, 4/72, 3/37, 4/49.
Although some will argue that the injury to Ben Stokes (who pulled up lame with a sore knee after two overs) justifies the selection of 5 seamers, injuries can happen at any time to anyone. Post-rationalising bad decisions with the benefit of hindsight isn’t logical.
What’s more, if you’re suddenly reliant on a 4 man attack rather than a 5 man attack, it makes even more sense for one of your 4 to be spinner. After all, spinners can do a holding job and bowl more overs while the seamers are rotated from the other end. It’s a recipe that worked brilliantly for Andrew Strauss’s team when we briefly became world No.1. It had also worked very nicely for Australia over the years.
Sadly, having won the toss on a pitch that did a bit, England’s all-seam attack then proceeded to blow their big opportunity. It’s not quite panic stations yet but the Kiwis will be very happy with 173-3. We’ll need a host of early wickets tomorrow to stay in the game.
Tom Latham was obviously the fly in our beer. He batted extremely well and showed exactly why he averages an impressive 44 in Test cricket. He’s compact, organised, and patient. Ross Taylor also did well in conditions that generally favoured ball not bat.
As for our bowlers, Chris Woakes (who operated as the 3rd seamer not the 5th) was possibly the pick of the attack. The others tried hard but didn’t cause too many problems.
Jofra Archer remains a bit of a worry. After Joe Root questioned his effort at Mount Maunganui, one might have expected him to run in hard and bowl a hostile opening spell. Nope! His first over barely touched 135kph.
Was he simply stiff after bowling so many (too many) overs in the first Test or was he sending the captain a not so subtle message?
Talking of Joe Root, it’s clear that the skipper was again the big loser yesterday. He was obviously complicit in England’s team selection, probably got his call at the toss wrong, and one has to question his man management skills after dropping Leach and causing potential disharmony with his best fast bowler.
I feel very uncomfortable with all this. Joe is one of my favourite cricketers, I love his batting, but it’s hard not to stick the boot in when he’s scoring so few runs and making so many errors as captain. I pray he can turn things around.
Before I sign off I should quickly mention Ollie Pope’s performance behind the stumps. I think he equipped himself quite well for an emergency keeper. I just hope he can come through this experience unscathed.
Subscribe to receive new article notifications via email.