Welcome to the twilight zone – day 3 at Auckland

New Zealand 443 & 35-3. England 204.

This is probably the most bizarre test match I’ve ever seen. Absolutely nothing makes sense.

The pitch is an absolute belter; yet scoring rates have barely reached two runs per over. At one point yesterday England were 115-5 off 65 overs; in their second innings New Zealand are 35-3 off 23 overs. What’s more, the boundaries are extremely short on certain sides of the ground. It should be a boundary fest (like the ODIs from Auckland were) but instead it’s like Chris Tavare is batting at both ends, for both sides.

Even more amazing is that England – the number two ranked test playing nation, a team which just beat India comprehensively away from home – is being dominated by the eighth ranked nation; a team barely above Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in the rankings.

Who would have bet on England beating India but losing in New Zealand? The bookies would have laughed at them and let them name their odds. Yet this now looks like the most likely outcome.

England’s batting yesterday was equally perplexing. The Kiwis attack is about as potent as a can of alcohol-free pear cider, yet England batted like they were facing hand grenades in no-man’s land.

Why the timidity? Matt Prior was the only batsman who played Bruce Martin like an orthodox left-arm spinner. The others treated him as if he was an amalgamation of Shane Warne and Murali.

It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that England’s batting effort was absolutely pathetic. It was about as masculine as a bar of Dove soap.

From the moment all the experts inexplicably misread this pitch before the start of day one, and Alastair Cook bafflingly chose to bowl first, this test match has been a complete and utter conundrum. A riddle wrapped up in mystery. What happens next is anyone’s guess.

James Morgan


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