What? How?

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.

James Morgan 


  • Turns out one of those James Vince 29s before edged to slip would have been relatively useful (assuming not at expense of overton)

  • This lot couldn’t dig in to a fish supper.
    No concentration levels.
    No fight. No guts. No grit. No passion.
    I’m sure they’ll take the positives though.

    • the ECB have helped create a mollycoddled group of children that crumble the moment any pressure is applied.

    • If this is the wrong team, or the right team badly managed, then its the fault of whoever picked the team, designed the schedule and managed the team, and whoever appointed these clearly incompetent people… which is the ECB.

      To name names, Strauss, Bayliss, Farbrace, Flower and anyone else involved in selection and management are responsible

      On the other hand if this is genuinely the best we’ve got, then its the fault of the person or people responsible for developing test cricketers, for designing the system to develop test cricketers, and whoever oversaw that process…. which is the ECB.

      To name names, Flower, Graves, Harrison and anyone else involved in the Lions and the rearrangement of the domestic schedule are responsible.

      • Surely it’s the fault of the players regardless.

        Should they have picked a team, without Root, Stokes and Bairstow? Because they all made ducks.

        The determination in these parts to shift all responsibility from players to administrators is truly heroic.

  • James,

    There just can’t be an excuse for 58 all out on a pitch that wasn’t a minefield. Of course, Boult and Southee bowled well in “home conditions” as you put it but isn’t the point that England of all teams ought to be able to provide a few answers? They’re pretty much our home conditions, too, after all. The word “graft” has long since disappeared from the batting lexicon I fear – unless it is used in its derogatory meaning.

  • The finest minds at ECB Towers are on the case about how to respond. Yes, how can they take revenge on NZ? Those four home Tests they gave them in the 2010s are going to look like riches compared to what’s in store….

    Look, can’t Boult, Southee and Williamson get the message? Their role, as talented cricketers unfortunate enough to be born outside the Big Three, is to become footloose mercenaries on the T20 circuit (or failing that, Kolpaks to prop up English county cricket and cover its inability to produce talent itself). How dare they still care about Test cricket! How dare they still get motivated despite being paid about 1/8th of what England’s centrally contracted players are getting!

    Perhaps the ECB could get some Scots in the England team? They’re now free after being absolutely shafted by the ICC yesterday.

    • New Zealand is not covered under the Kolpak ruling, unlike South Africa (and a host of small Pacific Islands that breed excellent rugby players). The top NZ players do get time off to make IPL money though

  • “It’s incredibly hard to switch from one day mode to test mode in the blink of an eye.”. I dunno about this as a valid excuse the England tam have played a lot more test cricket than the Kiwis.

  • On we go, one gutless performance after another. Never mind Chaps, T20 Super Mega Franchise Smashdown is coming soon, why not remortgage your house and bring all the family

  • You are right James. It’s far more than any one thing. It’s a deep malaise. The schedule is crushing in every way which should be the first thing to be addressed. I feel somewhat debilitated by it and I’m just a supporter. It is all so dispiriting. I can’t imagine how the team must feel. Who would choose to be a test cricketer these days?

    • Given the huge financial rewards there isn’t a problem expecting them to play regularly. That’s just an excuse. You know what you sign up for and you are very very well compensated.

      Military can be away similar or longer in dangerous conditions and paid vastly less

  • Undercooked or not, we batted first and couldn’t play the swinging ball on a pitch not that different to what we play on at home. Add to that we couldn’t swing the ball under lights and well..
    Yes James it is too much white ball cricket, but hey, other nations seem to adapt OK. Yes too long a tour, but they used to be away for 6 months pre air travel and these guys are paid a lot of money The warm up games should be two 3/4 day games at least, not these 2 day let’s have a net knock abouts. Pointless.
    In my view the coach goes first because he hasn’t a bloody clue. They were all very bad today, but why the …k are they still playing Moen and 4 seamers. Anderson apart all the same? Root at 3 didn’t work and well I’ll let the rest of you carry on but heads should really roll after this.

  • The ECB memo about the need to avoid boring cricket, that losing doesn’t matter if the crowd are entertained, and that 4 days Tests are better than 5 day ones, seems to have been read by all those on the current tour.

  • Now, no one would have thought we would be this bad but..

    All the problems with the batting and bowling have been mentioned by us ‘boring people’ for a long while.. we are told we need to ‘move on’ and ‘everyone loves hitting’.

    Well, reap what you sow..

    This test team is a sign of what’s to come and it’ll only get worse over time as we just won’t produce proper players.. just these hybrid ones who are basically one day stroke makers and bowlers who grow up keeping it tight and waiting for a batter or green top to get them wickets

    • ” we are told we need to ‘move on’ and ‘everyone loves hitting’.”

      In the past year, literally no-one has said anything of the sort to you or anyone else on this website.

  • What goes around comes around. It wasn’t that long ago that England delighted in recording the Australian score on the front of a tee shirt. Now it is New Zealand’s turn but they won’t need quite as much space as the Aussie score did. Agree with you James on the terrible lack of preparation given to visiting teams, maybe the cricket schedulers want to squeeze in as many “proper” games to maximise the dollars. Feel sorry for England, the tour just goes on and on…..

  • I think there are many different factors here but the first one for me has to come down to selection. We have played ( apart from Stokes who was always going to walk straight back into the team) the same side that got utterly hammered 4-0 by Australia. How can that make sense? Why was Wood not picked? Why is Moeen still getting picked? Why can we not recognise that our bowling attack is too similar and pedestrian? It seems to me that the hierarchy are too reluctant or scared to make the changes in the side that glaringly obvious.

    Lack of preparation I hear but it’s the same for every touring side now. Burnout is an issue but coaches need to expand touring parties and accept that rotation is necessary to avoid this.

    This batting malaise has gone on for years now but nothing seems to be done. I think it’s fair to say that Bayliss and Farbrace have done wonders with the white Ball teams but I think they are using the same approach for the test side and it’s just not working. There’s no graft, no application and no mental toughness. You cannnot play test cricket like a one day or T20 game.

    I think they should bring in a specialised test match coach and leave Bayliss at al to concentrate on the white Ball teams as they are doing a fine job. Gillespie? Alec Stewart?

    Interested to hear everyone’s views on this?

    • What does wood offer?? He does not bowl 90mph anymore after injuries.. so you get another kid 80’s bowler only less accurate…

      Moeen has never been good enough but as we see from people on here.. they love him and some even consider him a test quality batsmen !!

      Simple truth is we don’t have a test quality 1/2/3 and we over rate a few of our players. We have a lot of 5/6;7’s (Bairstow, Stokes, moeen malan, Vince and anyone else you care to add)

      When you effectively write off your top three (Vince, stoneman etc) then it’s no wonder we have to pick bits and pieces players t make up the runs.

      However, where will you get these 90mph and top order bats from?? Name a level of cricket where from 12(in any great numbers !!) enough players will learn how to play said long and hard innings with the mentality and techniques to bat long???

      County Cricket doesn’t.. white ball doesn’t… grass roots now mainly play winnlose … where will these skills be learnt ??

      • well they’re gonna have to think of something sooner or later, what with Anderson and Broad closer to retirement with each tour

    • Andy Flower for Coach. Andrew Flower (no relation) as Chair of Selectors. Mr A Flower to replace Strauss as Director of Cricket. Anders Flowersen to take over from Andy Flower as Coach of the Lions.

      Problem solved.

  • Predictable. Amusing.

    We have a side that has serious batting flaws. Answer? Pick two all-rounders, sticking one who has played no red-ball cricket in months in at 5.

    The bowling has to be a worry. Is a bowling attack containing Woakes, Ali and Overton (well as he batted) going to win many Tests outside of England. I doubt it.

    Of course, maybe it doesn’t matter. Maybe if we win the majority of our home Tests, and do well in ODIs, and field XI players in T20s (can anyone remember who won 24 hours after a T20?) the ECB will continue to make money.

    Who cares about losing Tests in NZ?

  • Fortunately I missed it as I was in New Zealand’s Fiordland with no mobile, Wi-fi or radio signal. You could say I was out of touch like England’s coach, players and selectors!

  • No excuses. Maybe the schedules a bit tough – in which case rotation of players could be the answer. Could be, if only we had sufficient players of Test standard. And the future’s looking far from rosy if the underperforming Lions, sorry, Hamsters are anything to go by.
    Fact – there’s too many people making damn good money by being part of England cricket, including quite a few players, coaches, backroom staff, and especially administrators. I would wield the axe violently.

    • However.. realistically. That would only be root, Bairstow and maybe stokes.. depending if you think he’s a test player or better whit ball player I suppose

  • Buried away in one report is the news that Stokes was given an injection (as usual they don’t say of what) in his back to be able to play.

    • So let’s risk the longterm health of our star all-rounder in case he’s needed as a 5th seamer. Words fail me.

      • They did that with Pietersen’s dodgy knees for years.
        I don’t think they really care that much about the long term health of the players. The smarter ones (Anderson, for example) work it out for themselves.

        And there is always the implicit threat to your position in the team if you take time out for chronic injuries…

  • Personally I blame it all on KP – It’s disgraceful after being surplus to requirements to Leave the Game after scoring 30,000 Plus Runs in all Forms to protect White Rhino!! (Sarcasm, by The Way LOL!!

    • Dodgy forecast, but it could well be all over tomorrow. They’ll lose by an innings.

    • In our time of need, a hero rises above all. The Weather will go down as one of English cricket’s greats

  • “We can either applaud Boult and Southee, who bowl very well in home conditions, or focus on England’s inadequacies.”

    Nowt wrong with a bit of navel gazing but you had it right in the former.

    When bowlers bowl well they get wickets shocker.

  • Travelling back from Australia at the moment and currently in Singapore so missed this totally. When I did read the score I was gobsmacked and then the usual creeping depression crept over me. The reason dor the depression is that I really don’t care any more

  • Sensational spell of bowling post-tea in CT by Pat Cummins.

    By the way, the ICC justify the Test Championship by saying they want fans to watch different countries to their own. I want to watch both the current series – so they schedule matches to start on the same day! I’m a cricket tragic but 15 straight hours of Test cricket is not something I want to watch.

  • When I switched the TV on at about 730 this morning and saw NZ 124-3 I thought “this game has progressed slowly – I wonder if it has rained?”
    I’ve just watched the “highlights” of England’s innings. To be fair, only Bairstow (and Anderson) weren’t got out by good balls, (or a sneaky full toss, in Ali’s case!) however poorly the rest played them.

    • So you think cook, Stokes, root, stoneman, malan were all got out by good balls and nothing to do with poor mental and technical deficiencies ??

      Shot selection?
      Attack vs defence ?

      Sure they were decent balls but these batsmen payed poor shots and root especially was trying to attack !!! Attacking a swinging ball ffs

      • Sorry, I didn’t make my point clear. Often batsmen are accused of playing “reckless, white-ball shots” in Test cricket. I didn’t think that was the case in most of these dismissals.

        I wasn’t attempting to defend their poor technique, though.

        • Root and woakes we’re trying to drive a inswinging ball.. that’s just stupid and yes.. reckless

        • And yes, sadly not only has white ball affected their ability to bat time but it means they are trying to attack when actually.. defence is required. Balls moving so just dig in until it doesn’t and is soft and then pay shots.

          It’s not rocket science but they are bred on white ball so simply don’t have the patience and want positive cricket etc et.

  • Good news that the ICC’s attempt to smuggle Zimbabwe into the World Cup and justify their status (and the millions extra Zimbabwe get over Afghanistan, Ireland et al) has blown up in their faces thanks to their throwing away a winning position against UAE. Tomorrow’s Afghanistan vs. Ireland match becomes an effective knock-out for the second WC place.

    Slightly sorry for the Zimbabwe supporters who’ve been good about attending the tournament and are not to blame for any of this. (By the way, the NZ Test crowd was officially 10k if anyone was wondering).

  • International sport should be an event that is rationed so it never becomes production line fodder, for players and punters alike. The length of this tour is ludicrous and it should be no surprise that deprived of any real R&R for months the core of this side crumbles.
    It’s a bit like gun control in the USA. Nothing will ever be done to ration supply however many are killed and the ECB will never rethink schedules whatever the results. The sheer moronic stupidity is so ingrained in the psyche.
    We are clearly better than the day suggests, but it is difficult to see anything but embarrassment on the horizon. We have been stuck in a hostile environment on the other side of the world for months and losing has become a habit. After this red ball debacle of a winter how can we expect a different spring. It’s a bit like what’s happened with the England rugby team, with a great coach, but still unable to reverse burn out. The energy levels were too low to stage a team fight back. So it is with the cricket team.
    I know a lot will see this as a pathetic excuse for the continuing debacle but it would explain a lot.

    • No. We should play more and more, take the money and when demand falls off a cliff we’ll be rich enough not to give a shit.

  • James, when did you start becoming an apologist for the ECB and this woeful England team? I don’t expect you to offer up apologies for England but be like Boycott and PUT THE BOOT IN. The truth is England were underprepared and showed a complete lack of respect for the Kiwis by literally just turning up with out any serious game time and expecting to be able to bat properly. Cook and Stoneman look like walking wickets whilst Moeen’s confidence looks shot to pieces. I excuse Stokes and Bairstow as they had to come in far too early. I hope they watched Williamson bat today so they learn to get their head down and grind out an innings but I wonder if many of them have the skills and the mindset to grind it out.

    • It seems to me we can only perform on bating friendly pitches whether home or away. If the pitch is a tad difficult we’re stuffed. We have one game plan which is to attack regardless of conditions or type of bowling attack.
      And look these guys are now very well paid so I don’t go with this long tour stuff, years ago they were away for six months and had to go by boat. Personally I wouldn’t mind 4 months paid in Australis and NZ playing cricket and most county cricketers would jump at the chance, but from a supporters point of view I agree it’s now become a monotony because there are too many pointless one day games strung out. They will have only played 7 tests in over 4 months, hardly a heavy workload.

      • I don’t know that difficult pitches is the issue. Unless everything with more life than an ODI pitch is classed as difficult.

        England didn’t excatly cover themselves glory on the Australian leg which was by and large played on pretty flat wickets. (exceedingly so at the MCG)

        • Well Steve it’s s bit of a worry if we can’t even play on flat wickets, don’t like fast bowling, have problems with the swinging ball and are hopeless against spin! Mmmm…

    • Hi Dave. I think that’s the first time in nine years (the length of time TFT has been going) that I’ve ever been called an apologist for the ECB! Now I know how Paul Newman and Co feel :-)

      I’m not trying to make excuses for the players. They were simply dreadful. However, I do think the schedule is something of a mitigating factor. If us supporters are tired and fed up with this hideously long tour, then I imagine the players must be beside themselves! By the way, the schedule argument is meant to be a criticism of the ECB (and ICC etc) as they’re the ones who are responsible for this mess.

    • You’re joking right ??

      Stokes and Bairstow keep being held up as test quality top six batters… I’m sorry but If that’s true then they should be able to cope with some swing at 135kph..

      Maybe, just maybe, we yet again over rate our players and actually, they are only good when it’s not moving and it’s a road they can just hit on ???

  • Ben Stokes got a good ball? I hope the wacky backy wasn’t too expensive as it seems to be producing unfortunate hallucinations. :) Stokes got a ball which was a good length and angled in without swing or cut……and he still managed to play inside it. Of all the dismissals Stoneman may have received the toughest delivery as the ball swung one way and seamed the other, albeit not hugely. And Woakes got a nice swinger, left arm over pitching off and taking middle and off….but his bat and pad should have been closer. But the Stokes ball did less than any other than Moeen’s, which must rank as club second team dismissal of the year.

  • I’ve read all the comments and agree with a lot of them but we can’t get away from the fact that we have an appalling, shocking away record which needs addressing pretty quickly. A lot of cracks are papered over because we have a team that will win test series at home pretty regularly but the side won’t win away from home ever without a top class spinner and some genuine pace.

  • Well done Afghanistan, sorry for Ireland, another excellent day’s Test cricket in the SA/Aus series and the first of the English press corps comes out in favour of a supremo.

    At least Ronay isn’t an ECB stooge and he doesn’t advocate Andy Flower for the job (although his summary of Flower’s time as coach is decidedly weird). Keep an eye on this supremo thing, it could have legs….

  • I’ve had enough, I’m afraid. I just don’t care about the England team anymore. I’m enjoying SA v Oz, I’m looking forward to the start of the county season and I shall support the rhino and any other worthwhile creatures with balls.

  • From the Cricinfo summary of the WC qualifying:
    “The ICC’s decision to cut the number of teams in the World Cup from 14 to 10 had already caused disgruntlement among lower-ranked teams and Associates”.

    “Disgruntlement”? How about fury and despair! Those feelings are not only shared by “lower-ranked teams and Associates” but by anyone with a sense of the game’s overall well-being or just a basic sense of justice.

    As for “the ICC’s decision”, let’s be clear it was Giles Clarke who was the key player. Clarke was “hell bent” on a ten-team WC according to an unnamed ICC source quoted by Tim Wigmore. Several boards went public with their opposition to the idea (from memory I think Australia, NZ and SA). Anyone remember that Damian Collins and his wonderful select committee were going to investigate Clarke? Two years since that promise and the insufferable Collins seems to have filed it down the memory hole.

  • What’s a “leadership group”?

    If Australia were trying to get the ball to reverse swing (I can’t see what else they might have been doing), they were singularly crap at it. Not a single wicket fell to swing (Elgar poked at a wide one, Markram and Amla got balls that stopped on them, FDP fell to spin, Bavuma to bounce) and I didn’t see a ball deviate off the straight. The ball wasn’t changed.

    It’s a pity all the people with opinions about this don’t have as much to say about the truly great spells of fast bowling in this match by Cummins and Morkel or the batting of Elgar, ABDV and Markram. Of course that would necessitate actually watching the match rather than looking at a couple of tweets and then engaging in 50% score settling and 50% virtue signalling.

    • Ive watched every ball.. sure they’ve bowled well but you simply can’t ignore the sledging and this cheating. Especially as boof was caught sending the sub out to tell Bancroft to hide it..

      Really should be sackings and very very long bans

      Cricket really is falling apart

    • I hate the expression ‘virtue signalling’. But more than that I hate cheats. And that’s what the Aussies are – a bunch of bloody cheats.


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