New England Undone By Old Failings

Well, that was short lived, wasn’t it? For a few brief hours yesterday morning England’s bowlers seemed unplayable, their fielders leapt like salmon in a fresh stream, New Zealand’s wickets tumbled and all seemed rosy in the garden of English cricket. It was possible even to forget, for a short while, the extortionate ticket prices that had blighted this Lords Test and led to many fans being simply unable to afford to attend.

After skittling New Zealand for 132 England’s batsmen sparkled in the St Johns Wood sunshine. Zak Crawley played drives that reminded us of a young Michael Vaughan before succumbing to the same shot in all to familiar fashion for 43. If ever there was a player whose strength is also his weakness it is Crawley.
Even so, at 92-2 England’s progress seemed serene. On this Jubilee Thursday the scribes in the media centre were twitching at the fingers to proclaim King Stokes’ first day on the throne a resounding success. And then it happened….

We should have known that it would. This is English cricket and its glaringly obvious frailties will not disappear overnight. Even so, the manner of the collapse surprised even the most battle hardened of us. From a position of almost complete control England contrived to lose 5 wickets for 8 runs in 28 balls. Most of the batsmen surrendered their wickets tamely. Jonny Bairstow’s shot was particularly poor. It almost felt as if it was his maiden first class innings of the summer and he had spent the previous two months slogging sixes on the slower pitches of India……. What was that old Graham Gooch motto? “Fail to prepare, prepare to fail” Oh for more batsmen in Goochy’s mould.

Hard as it seems to believe, the events of yesterday could actually prove to be a positive for Stokes and McCullum’s new England in the long run. It is far better that the coach sees first hand what he is dealing with as soon as possible. The technical flaws of these batsmen as well as their lack of application at the crease are now laid bare to him.

England’s attitude in the field today was refreshing and it is clear to see that the new broom has already had a positive effect. Players looked energised, the captain was not afraid to set attacking field placings, catches were taken and, in Matty Potts, England look to have unearthed a gem of a fast bowler. One can only hope they are able to keep him fit.

However, bowling was never really the problem. The issues are in the batting and have been for a long time. If 90 overs had been bowled today England may well have found themselves bowled out in a single session of play for the fifth time in the five last years. New captains and coaches do not make bad batsmen good. One cannot keep picking the same players time and again and expect different results.

It almost feels as if McCullum and Stokes have chosen to go with this same group of players to give themselves a chance to personally evaluate them. Once this is done, and if many of the current crop continue to fall short, they may find their Test careers swiftly at an end. There is talent in the shires. Harry Brook can count himself unlucky not to have joined Potts in making his debut this week, especially given his weight of championship runs and the fact that he was omitted for a man who, while having made two Test hundreds in the winter, chose the rupee over Championship runs this Spring.

England may yet still win this Test. Matt Parkinson may sparkle on a Lord’s Saturday in the manner he has at Old Trafford this season, although every England cricket fan’s hearts must go out to Jack Leach for yet another misfortune. However, win or lose, the gaping holes in this side are still very evident.
It may feel easy to be dispirited after yesterday’s performance but Stokes and McCullum are on the right path. However, they have a very long road ahead of them.

Billy Crawford


  • Agreed James, but there maybe a very short Lords Saturday, and if they both bat like yesterday it could be over today.
    I’m not sure you play the same players yet again to evaluate them? We all know that’s it’s highly unlikely Lees and Crawley will survive as openers and Pope at 3 will simply destroy the lads career. Surely you pick your best side. But then the ECB do not use the County Championship as a yardstick do they.

    • I agree re Pope but he has had 20 tests, averages 28 and not delivered on his much vaunted ’promise’. Same with Crawley who has had 22 tests, averages 28 and still keeps getting out the same way. It’s too early to judge Lees properly but his inability to rotate the strike and keep the score board ticking is Sibleyesque

  • Pope and Crawley (both averages in the 20s) benefit from the ‘potential’ fallacy that helped many of their colleagues outstay their initially deserved selection. The decision to fix 4 and 6 for no good reason condemned Pope to 3, if he was to be selected at all, and also contributed to keeping Brook on the bench. I’m a YJB fan but England has to reward those that play the red ball competition and score the runs that the selectors have been bemoaning the lack of. Not only has Brook scored the runs but he looks the part. Solid defence, an ability to play the conditions and push on when needed. Sadly I think Brook will sit out the summer and that would be a lost opportunity. Talk of dropping Foakes to pack the lower middle order batting because of failings at the top, is depressing.

  • This is pretty poor fare. Test cricket is supposed to be the pinnacle of the game and yet we are presented with a good but underprepared team versus a poor one.
    On another issue I found the ECBs explanation of relatively poor ticket sales baffling. The sales were down because of the Bank holidays??!! In my world a day off work makes me more likely to attend cricket not less. Bizarre!

    • In private they’re more likely to be blaming NZ for lack of box office draw and planning more matches against Australia and India.

  • On the bright side – England’s fielding looked superb. Their catching had been the worst in the world, hadn’t it? So that’s one big piece of the puzzle hopefully sorted.

  • Did any of us really believe it would be different under a new regime?
    Act 1 – Anderson and Broad pave way for massive initiative.
    Act 2 – We let their tail wag by bowling 85mph bouncers. (Last 3 wkts almost 100 runs.)
    Act 3 – Off to a decent start on a now docile wkt before customary collapse.
    Could have written this at 11pm, New Zealand having had no match practice.
    It might seem smart arse after the event comment, but it gives me no pleasure to write it.
    Plus – A very mature display by Potts.
    Minus – He goes off after less than 10 overs with cramp! (He’ll fit right in with the rest.)
    Something is very wrong about the training of our seam bowlers these days.

    • Exactly. After Act 3a (Stuart Broad throwing his wicket away in spite of having a half-decent batsman at the other end), Acts 4 and 5 were similarly predictable:
      4: England make inroads with the new ball – I’ve never done or seen an analysis, but they must surely be right up there with the best in the world over the last decade for removing the top 4 or 5?
      5: Big NZ partnership that virtually takes the game away as bowlers flag.
      I predict
      Act 6: New ball wickets bring ray of hope before tail wags to set England 350
      Act 7: England reach 100 or so for 2 then fold in about another 25 overs to lose by 150-200 – not helped by a team that seems to include 4 number 11s.

      • Act 8. ECB refund first day punters up to £24 each based on 12 overs not bowled by 6.30pm. Oh yes at £165 for the top price ticket it’s just over £2 an over. Some hope! But why do they stop at 6.30 on a perfect evening? These snobs need to realise there is a cost of living crisis and come into the real world. And I note T20 crowds at the Oval and other grounds are down considerably as well.

  • I agree great start by England but an all too predictable finish. Batting Pope at 3 was always going to a problem because it is 3 places too high and playing YJB, after he had played IPL for the last 2 months was always taking a chance. However, I hope they prove me wrong in the 2nd innings and put on a decent batting display.
    I like what I saw with Matthew Potts but a word of caution, a year ago, we saw Ollie Robinson bowl beautifully for England but now he can’t stay fit for 1 day so lets hope Potts is able to stay fit and learns from chastening days like today.

  • The media reporting has been predictably dire. The first day was blamed on too much “zest”. Repeated close-ups on TV of Stokes and McCullum mysteriously stopped.

    In reality, it was same old same old. A juiced up pitch offered a ton of seam movement for Anderson and Broad helped by under-strength and under-cooked opposition. However if the opposition have decent seamers themselves they can do even more damage to England’s batting given all its manifest problems.

    Lees has to go for Compton. Crawley and Pope have to bat in their proper places or not play. The tail suddenly looks very long (almost Mullally-Tufnell-Giddins). Poor Foakes (who kept much better than in WI) found himself stranded with the tail and got out to a horrible shot that’ll be used as an excuse to dump him.

    The sooner people see through Key’s bluster the better. As it is, the ECB are laughing that 30k people will fork out all that money to watch this garbage.

    • Crawley’s place IS opening though–that’s where he’s batted for Kent for almost all of his career and for England for two-thirds of his test career. His problem is that he’s not good enough, not that he’s in the wrong place–as a county average of 32 with two hundreds in 55 matches, largely in division 2, suggests.

      I can see the logic behind putting Pope at three, even if he hasn’t played there before–namely that he has a county average that exceeds anybody else’s in the country by miles, but that he hasn’t converted that to test runs batting him at six–which has rather been the opposite problem, that he’s being hidden a bit. But if he doesn’t score runs there this summer, then that’s the last we should see of him for a while.

      I think playing people “in position” is sometimes a little overegged–after all, Root was an opener before he played for England, Malan (who’d hardly if ever played at no. 3 before) did as well as almost anyone else in the Ashes and James Vince, who did it in the previous away Ashes and WAS a no. 3, was generally very poor as a test no. 3.

      I’m not too bothered about Brook not playing.. His time will probably come, and after all, Bairstow had two centuries in his previous four tests and Brook’s f-c average was 27 before this season started. (That’s also my main reservation about Compton, although I suspect his time will come before the end of the summer–he’s essentially had five good months, some of it in a VERY poor f-c competition, in a career lasting several years. I’m also sort of wondering why if he’s that good Notts didn’t pick him over Hameed, who hasn’t set the test world alight, or Slater, who’s nowhere near the test team).

    • Sorry, that should be four hundreds in 55 matches–but he has got as many f-c centuries in five years as his fellow Kent opener has in the last five months…plus Compton’s just taken another one of this NZ attack.

  • Some of you folks are so committed to your preferred narrative that you can no longer respond reasonably to events as they unfold.

    • I don’t think that England having flaky batting is exactly a “preferred narrative”–it’s a statistical fact! And what’s the “events as they unfold”?–leaving aside that all these comments except mine were made before England’s second innings really got going. That Root is an exceptionally good batter? I think we knew that anyway–and, despite the England win, the rest of the top six got 186 runs in the game for ten times out.

      • I was referring to the bellyaching about the ECB as the preferred narrative. Complaining about the administration seems to have overtaken the game itself as the #1 obsession for several posters.

        Take old mate James, for example, proclaiming on Twitter that he no longer supports “the brand”, whatever the hell that means. Does anyone go to the cricket or turn on the TV to “support the brand”?

      • Ah I’m not on Twitter so I was going on what’s been posted under–and in–this post, where I can see very little reference to the ECB. I don’t know how much anyone watches cricket to support the brand (I know that I don’t!), but in this increasingly corporatised world of international sport–very much not limited to either England or cricket–it seems to me to be how boards are trying to sell themselves and their “product”, so that comment might be relevant in that respect.

        As for complainig about the ECB in relation to England cricket, I would have thought that’s pretty much simply the definition of a system. Systemic problems are part of a system and the people ultimately responsible for them are the people in charge of the system. And that’s true of every cricket-playing country–no-one currently follows the 19th century model of random organisation of international cricket or administration of national cricket. So whilst there might be elements that are beyond the cricket boadr’s control, are ultimately down to the players themselves (or coaches) or are simply coincidence, other things may be solvable by the presiding board taking different decisions. Isn’t the “bellyaching” in that tweet simply referring to those things?


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