After long and careful consideration, I’ve decided to laugh rather than cry. England’s batting performance in the first innings at Eden Park was so farcical that it’s probably comic rather than tragic. Today was a comedy of errors … and it just about summed up the team’s miserable winter’s tale.
Although I wasn’t able to stay up all night and watch the game, the analysis elsewhere seems pretty unanimous: England looked undercooked and utterly hapless. There was a little bit of swing (albeit nothing too extravagant) yet we batted liked rabbits in the floodlights.
Ben Stokes got a very good ball but the other batsmen all played a role in their dismissals. The main problem was a complete lack of foot movement. And when they did actually move their feet, it was usually after the ball had gone past the bat.
It was like watching an Asian side play at Durham in May. Our batsmen all went after the ball with their hands and showed no technique whatsoever.
There are two ways one can respond to today’s events. We can either applaud Boult and Southee, who bowl very well in home conditions, or focus on England’s inadequacies. As this is an England blog forgive me if I focus on the latter.
We all know that England aren’t the best test team in the world but we’re certainly not 58 all out bad. Consequently, I want to know why we played so poorly today. And I think there are two obvious places to start.
Firstly, many of today’s XI have been playing white ball cricket for the last ten weeks or so. It’s incredibly hard to switch from one day mode to test mode in the blink of an eye. Meanwhile, guys like Alastair Cook (who weren’t involved in the ODIs) must be incredibly rusty. Apparently Cook was doing a spot of lambing a couple of weeks ago.
Although Kane Williamson showed that it’s possible to switch gears after a spell of limited overs cricket, the New Zealand captain hasn’t been on the road for months. What’s more, the ball stopped swinging after a few overs of New Zealand’s innings and became pretty good for batting.
The second point I’d like to make is how difficult it is for touring sides to prepare for test series these days. And perhaps that’s why away teams have such a terrible record in recent test series. England’s only preparation for this game was a low-intensity warm-up game which was more or less glorified middle-practice. Try facing a fired up Boult and Southee after that!
So yes, on one hand England definitely batted appallingly, but on the other hand what did we all expect? This England squad is weary, fed-up, probably lacking motivation, and at the same time hideously undercooked. It’s a pretty unique blend of unfortunate circumstances. Normally an undercooked side has the advantage of being fresh. But not this squad.
If you feel like putting the boot in below then please be my guest. It’s pretty hard to say anything positive about the players when you’ve been bowled out for bloody 58. However, we mustn’t lose sight of the broader factors in play here: mainly the absurd schedules designed to raise money via a surfeit of essentially meaningless white ball exhibition games.
I’m afraid it really is the same old story.