Swing Comes To The Rescue: Day 2 at Mount Maunganui

Well, the day didn’t quite go as planned but England are still in a great position in the first Test. With New Zealand 144-4, and crucially still 209 behind, I’d expect us to push on and win the game from here.

Yes this is a bold prediction. And talk of an England win could well prove premature. But when an innocuous looking delivery from Sam Curran leapt at Kane Williamson from nowhere late in the evening session, took the edge of his bat, and was taken wide at slip, New Zealand’s hearts must have sunk.

If the pitch deteriorates (as seems likely) then any kind of England lead, or even parity on first innings, leaves the Kiwis with a huge problem. Would you fancy facing Jofra Archer on a surface with inconsistent bounce? Good luck with that fellas. Our spearhead has already smashed Henry Nicholls on the helmet once. I can’t see too many Kiwi batsmen getting forward enthusiastically in these circumstances.

Although the pitch is still good for batting at present, it’s worth pointing out that ten wickets fell today for approximately 250 runs. The run rate has also remained below 3; therefore an England lead of around 70 might be worth about 100 in normal circumstances.

However, it wasn’t really inconsistent bounce that undermined the batsmen on day two. England lost their last six wickets in the morning session for just 112 runs due to bad batting. And New Zealand’s batsmen were mostly undermined by a ball that unexpectedly swung. I think we all know by now that England’s attack is a completely different proposition when there’s movement through the air.

First let’s talk about England’s batting woes in the morning. It wasn’t pretty I’m afraid. Having got themselves into a strong position on day one we rather gave it away. There were rash strokes by Stokes and Pope, both of whom will be really disappointed with their dismissals, and then Sam Curran played all around a ball that moved back into him a smidge.

When Jofra Archer edged Boult to slip – we keep hearing he can bat but thus far he’s looked like a genuine tail-ender – 241-4 overnight had suddenly become 295-8. All the hard work of day one had unravelled faster than a political manifesto in the face of a legitimate fact checking operation. England only scraped up to 353 thanks to some lusty hitting from Buttler and some typically stubborn resistance from everyone’s favourite bespectacled pin-up Jack Leach.

At the time it looked like we’d blown it. And when Kane Williamson reached a largely untroubled fifty the die looked cast. However, that ball from Curran completely changed the complexion of the day. With Taylor also back in the pavilion after swatting a Stokes long-hop needless to deep midwicket, and Nicholls shaken up by that aforementioned blow to the head, England’s tails were up.

It was particularly enjoyable seeing young Curran bowl well. His left-arm angle does indeed provide useful variation and he’s learning all the time. He’s not quick – I claim my prize for stating the bleedin’ obvious here – but he does have some skill. What’s more, when the ball swings he can be dangerous.

There will be huge pressure on Nicholls and BJ Watling tomorrow morning. If England can dismiss these fine batsmen quickly then I’d expect us to romp home quite comfortably. On the other hand a big partnership will keep New Zealand firmly in the game.

Fortunately I sense that England have just enough firepower in their attack to get the job done. Leach will play a crucial role, of course, but if the ball keeps swinging and / or the bounce becomes more erratic, then the odds of an England victory could get very short very quickly.

Do I sense a rare victory overseas? It would be the perfect way to start the Chris Silverwood era.

James Morgan

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  • Good post. England are clearly in the box seats with signs already appearing of the ball misbehaving. I think in view of what is already happening with this pitch a fourth innings target of even 250, would probably be beyond New Zealand, while I suspect that a fairy offering England 300 to defend would find itself missing a hand. Barring an epic collapse starting at 10PM our time the question of the follow-on will not arise, but I would expect that England would in any case decline to enforce it.

  • How often do the modern day England batted solidly in both innings of a test?
    This is what I mean by them taking baggage around with them. Even if some of the players are new the history of the team they’re playing for is anything but consistent.
    We certainly have the attack to trouble what without Williamson looks little more than a decent county line up. Can’t believe Boult will be as innocuous in our second innings though.
    Still it’s a good test for our ‘new’ set up. Goughie would have given Pope and Stokes some stick over their dismissals, exactly what he was saying we mustn’t do, surrender initiative with injudicous strokes.
    From what I’ve seen I should say anything over a 200 lead should be a challenging total for them.
    Nice to see Curran looking something like a test bowler, even if the conditions helped, but I still feel he’s short of that half a yard of pace that would make the world of difference. Shame about his batting, again!
    If Leach, who has no pretensions to all rounder status can knuckle down consistently, why not the tail.

    • I think you’re a little too disparaging about New Zealand’s batting. Yes Williamson is THE class act but the others are very useful. Tom Latham averages 44 in test cricket with 10 hundreds, Ross Taylor averages 47 with 18 hundreds, Henry Nicholls averages 44 with 5 hundreds, BJ Watling averages 39 with 7 hundreds, and De Grandhomme averages 39. That’s quite a lot better than most Test batting lineups these days. Perhaps I was too quick to write them off!

      • Umm, it’s better than England’s batting by a long way.. world class Bairstow is what.. avg 33.. world class stokes… 35 ish …

    • As a BlackCaps fan, I guess all I can say is: “Thank-you, gentlemen”. Fate will not be tempted like that :)

      • Indeed! Well played guys. I’m usually a pessimistic sod so optimism doesn’t come naturally to me. I should’ve trusted my gut :-) BJ Watling was brilliant.


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