What’s going on? Day 3 at Lord’s

England 232 and 180-6. New Zealand 207

Well, it’s heart in your mouth time again. As if it could be any different supporting England.

I’m sure it isn’t like this for other international sides. If you’re Bangladeshi, you’re used to defeat. Ditto, in recent times, if you’re West Indian or, ironically enough, a Kiwi.

On the other hand, if you’re South African or Australian, you expect victory. You know that historically your team wins far more games than it loses. You might lose the odd series, but overall the team plays true to form.

England, however, are a different matter. One day we’re brilliant, the next we’re about as useful as Emile Heskey. What’s more, we always seem to do the opposite of what’s expected of us.

The tour to India was built up as mission impossible. Against all expectations we triumphed comfortably. Playing New Zealand was supposed to be a formality.

In four tests in a row now, New Zealand have competed admirably with us. With the exception of James Anderson, there doesn’t seem to be much between the sides. Yet we still, despite all evidence, claim we’ll win the Ashes easily.

On this form, making that assumption is pure folly. England are the archetypal jackal and hyde team. We can beat anyone; but we can lose to anyone. And yes, that does include the weakest Australian team in living memory.

What totally mystifies me is our total lack of either composure or confidence in this match. We look fragile. Every time we get into a good position – as we did when Root and Trott put on a century stand in the afternoon – one wicket initiates disaster.

But where does this lack of confidence come from? Is it the captain? We all know that Brendon McCullum is ten times the captain Alastair Cook is (at this stage in their careers at least), but surely England’s management have enough about them to motivate the players, and insist on the right game plan.

Thus far, however, you have to say that they don’t. When New Zealand were all over England in our first innings – mainly because they pitched the ball up and let it swing – we tweeted that England would probably bowl far too short (thus ignoring everything New Zealand had taught them). And so it came to pass.

I’m afraid that I just can’t explain such basic strategic errors. Just the same way that I can’t quite put my finger on why a far superior England side is not beating New Zealand easily.

Something isn’t right at the moment, and I don’t know what it is. We might still win this test match –we’ll need another 80 runs on Sunday to be favourites – but our cricket has been about as convincing as Graham Gooch’s hair-hat. Australia will be licking their lips.

James Morgan


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