The headline above sums up how I feel about day one in Christchurch. I went to sleep with England on 38-1. Vince and Stoneman were looked a little more secure, and Trent Boult was having a breather. Perhaps both batsmen would make a hundred and England would score 400?
I knew I was kidding myself. Vince had played a few lovely strokes, which is always a tell tale sign he’s about to get out (actually, his mere presence at the crease is usually a sign he’s about to get out), and Stoneman was looking pretty ordinary too. People keep saying that Stoneman has potential but I can’t see it myself. He makes batting look such hard work sometimes. He only looks good compared to Cook, who lost his off stump to a decent ball that he made look absolutely amazing.
In many ways Vince and Cook are whatever the opposite of peas in a pod are. Vince is right handed, elegant, and looks like a million dollars … until he’s set packing. Cook is left-handed, generally horrible to watch, yet has somehow cobbled together the small matter of 12,000 test runs. Basically Vince is the best looking crap batsman of all time. And Alastair is the worst looking good batsman of all time.
It was with some trepidation that I picked up my phone in the morning to find out the score. And what a relief it was to discover we’d only lost eight wickets in a day (rather than the usual ten) and managed to score more than 58. Anything other than complete disaster makes a refreshing change these days.
Having said that, today was almost a disaster by all reports. Vince and Stoneman predictably got sod all, Root made yet another score without going on to make a biggie – it’s remarkable that he still averages 52 is test cricket with so few hundreds to his name – and Malan proved yet again that he might not be the answer at five after all. He’s a good player but he’ll need to move his feet more if he wants to be successful anywhere other than Australia and subcontinental featherbeds.
Naturally it was down to Stokes and Bairstow to rescue the team once again. The former made a decent fist of it before being strangled down the legside, and the latter proved yet again why he’s one of the few international class test players England possess. He rode his luck somewhat but his unbeaten 97 was pugnacious and good to watch … at least it looked that way from the brief highlights I’ve seen.
The problem with batting Jonny as low as 7 is that he often runs out of partners. But that wasn’t such a problem today thanks to an unexpected cameo from Mark Wood, who scored an incredibly valuable 52. Apparently it was full of attractive attacking shots and really lifted the small Barmy Army contingent’s spirits. 164-7 suddenly became 250-7. England closed on a respectable 290-8.
In normal circumstances 290-8 is a pretty average score, even after you’ve been inserted on a pitch that helped the bowlers a bit in the morning session. However, after 0-4 in the Ashes and 58 all out at Auckland, ‘respectability’ feels like a bloody triumph.
And I think that statement just about sums up the state of England’s test team.