New Zealand 443. England 50-2
I’m not sure whether to write from the head or the heart today. The head says “we’ll be ok in this match – we won’t win but we’ll secure a bore draw”. My heart, however, senses impending doom. Why? Because cricket is a funny old game and supporting England has always been a rollercoaster.
In 2005 we won a historic Ashes triumph. The cricketing Gods didn’t want us to get too complacent, however, so he / she / it kicked us in the nadgers immediately afterwards: we suffered a decisive defeat at the hands of Pakistan in our next series, and then got humiliated 0-5 by the rancid Aussies the following winter. Brilliant.
In 2011/12 we finally became the world’s number one team after winning the Ashes down under – the first time we’d achieved the feat since Henry VIII was England captain – and then whitewashing the DRS bashing Indians at home. The future looked bright. Or did it? We came crashing back to earth by getting whitewashed ourselves in the UAE, and then losing our number one ranking to the cricketboks – who did a great job of stitching up Kevin Pietersen in the process. Talk about rubbing our noses in it.
And now the cycle of triumph and humiliation looks set to continue: we’ve just won a historic series win in India, in which the team played bloody brilliantly. Would it surprise you one bit if we followed that up with a dismal defeat at the hands of the arguably the weakest major test playing nation? This is England we’re talking about. We suffer more extreme highs and lows than a bipolar bungee jumper.
So what can we tell you about day two at Auckland? Firstly, it’s still an ugly rugby ground. Secondly, the crowd still looks tiny in such a huge non-cricketing arena. Thirdly, the boundaries are still hideously disproportioned. And fourthly England are still in a hole.
We actually bowled quite well yesterday – albeit too short again. I’m beginning to have issues with David Saker to be honest. Apparently he likes England to bowl short of a length because it keeps the batsmen honest and prevents them from scoring quickly; by giving them nothing to drive, England exert pressure which eventually pays dividends.
I get the logic, Mr Saker, but isn’t the plan a little too elaborate? Why not just pitch the ball up, let it swing, concede a few runs, but take more wickets. It became apparent after half an hour on day one that this isn’t a fast bouncy wicket, so why persist with plan A? The Kiwis pitched the ball up in the final session yesterday and picked up two invaluable wickets; scalps that have put them in prime position to win this game.
Although we did well to dismiss the timid Kiwis for 443 in the end – with Finn taking 6-125 despite a lack rhythm off his new short run (another genius idea, Mr Saker) – the dismissals of Cook and then Trott, our two best batsmen, made it New Zealand’s day.
Root and Bairstow will need to play very well if England are going to save this game, let alone win it. Are you confident? What if I told you that the latter has only played one first class innings since August?