Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 14, 2021

England vs New Zealand – The Report Cards

Joe Root and Chris Silverwood en route to Edgbaston.

England

Joe Root (97 runs at 24; one wicket at 99; one catch)

Did anything go right for him? With the “resting” policy yielding a shallow pool of talent and experience from which to pick his XI (and one can only imagine how he felt watching Sam Curran, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali et al hit-and-giggle for their counties), he made things worse with poor selections, schoolboyish field setting and little to suggest that there were plans for bowlers to attack batsmen or batsmen to build innings. That he settled to for a draw in the first Test might be excusable, but he never showed any commitment to engineer a position from which a chase could be launched. His own players, his opponents and England fans drew the obvious conclusion that he didn’t really rate the team he had chosen – perhaps the second Test gave him the bittersweet satisfaction of being proved right. At number four, he batted well below his usual level and couldn’t catch… a cold. The appalling over rate added a minus suffix to his rating. Grade: E-.

Rory Burns (238 runs at 60; one catch)

Anchored both first innings, which is pretty much all you can ask of an opening batsman and he can feel aggrieved that no teammate scored even half of his runs. His method is quirky and might never deliver consistently (though they said that about David Warner and Virender Sehwag) but he plays the swinging and seaming ball well and, in rare moments when he could relax at the crease, demonstrated that he has more shots than Alastair Cook. Grade: A-.

Dom Sibley (103 runs at 34; one catch)

It’s all still so laboured and too reminiscent of watching Graeme Smith’s closed face shovelathons (without the mountains of runs) but he twice batted over two hours and, seen in the rear view mirror, his 60 off 207 balls at Lord’s looks more like it saved a draw rather than stifled a win. Played more offside shots as the series progressed, but is still too easy to tie down. Grade: B.

Zak Crawley (21 runs at five; three catches)

The Golden Boy of 2020 keeps getting out to leaden-footed drives. The talent is obvious, but Test cricket is a cruel game in which smart campaigners can see through it to the weaknesses beneath and dredge them to the surface with malicious glee. He might be getting to that awful stage many young batsmen reach where he’s thinking so hard about the mechanics of his game that he’s forgetting the basics of leave, leave, defend, wait, wait, wait and only then attack. Grade: D.

Ollie Pope (84 runs at 28; one catch)

Who is talking to him? At 23, much of the game has come easy, especially at The Oval where the ball beats a tattoo on the middle of his bat. But someone needs to sit down with him, run the videos, and ask him about his thought processes in building innings in homes not so sweet, analysing why knocks get so far and stop. After 19 Tests, he should look much more comfortable in his own skin. Grade: C-.

Dan Lawrence (81 runs at 41; one wicket at 16)

In a two Tests series, you have to take the chance as it comes and Lawrence did that, constructing a mature 80 not out without a lot of support at the other end dealing with some high class bowling and catching. For some England fans, it was a relief to see a batsman not wrestling with an esoteric technique, a run of poor form, a temperament tilted too far towards attack, a nervousness born of over-promotion. He demonstrated perhaps the single quality most missing from England’s batting – nous. Grade: B.

James Bracey (8 runs at three; six catches)

You feel for the lad. A number three who has only recently taken on glove duties, he was asked to bat seven and keep in conditions that BJ Watling found difficult. But, for all the mitigation, a fair few club cricketers will be saying that they’d have made a better fist of it – and they would have. Grade: D-.

Olly Stone (35 runs at 18; three wickets at 32)

Never quite had the rhythm that repeatedly sends him well over 90mph ball after ball, but was often a handful despite that, getting a bit of movement and a bit of bat-jarring bounce. Probably done enough to hold his place in the fast bowling cadre with Jofra Archer and Mark Wood – the puzzle for selectors is identifying when each is at peak fitness, is running in on rails and has everything pointing the right way at release. Given that all three can look like they’re at any point on those spectrums within a single over, never mind within a match or a series, that won’t be easy. His figures would have been much better if England’s catching were not so weak. Grade: B.

Ollie Robinson (42 runs at 42; seven wickets at 14; one catch)

At county level he scores useful runs, gets good batsmen out and seldom goes for very many. Wisely, he brought his county game to his single Test match and achieved similar results. Looks a perfect bowler for English pitches with a hint of nibble and might, like Glenn McGrath, have the discipline and skills to use his height to present problems when the Kookaburra seam nibbles not. A very encouraging debut in every way (except one). Grade: A.

Mark Wood (70 runs at 23; six wickets at 34)

Few will have enjoyed the return of crowds to Tests more and crowds will have enjoyed few players more than the eccentric Geordie whose comic persona should really have worn off by now – but its authenticity has ensured that it hasn’t. At 90mph+, he looks likely to rip the head or stumps off any batsman, but once he dips below, he can look a little straight up and down, though he is clearly developing his use of the crease to create angles and opportunities. As has been the case in many of the 38 Test innings in which he has bowled, you watch the spells and then check the scorecard for his rewards – and they’re not quite there, only three times taking more than three wickets in an innings in his career to date. Batted with some much welcomed élan and no little skill. Grade: B-.

Stuart Broad (11 runs at four; six wickets at 29)

At times bowled deliveries that were too good to take the edge and could easily have had a larger haul of wickets with a little luck here and there. Maintained his late career fuller length and flogged the odd bouncer from the pitch, but could look a little toothless when batsmen set up to keep him out and score at the other end. His batting is now something of a joke, which is a real shame considering what it still could be. He shows a lot of leadership and professionalism with his approach off the pitch – and not much on it. Grade: B-.

James Anderson (12 runs at 12; three wickets at 69; one catch)

His only wickets were an out of touch Kane Williamson, Tim Southee and Neil Wagner, a poor return for 77.3 overs of effort, with choice of ends, new ball in hand etc. No batsman got after him – his status and the roar he provokes from England supporters home and away quash any such thoughts in a player’s mind – but the endgame looked more in sight in this series than previously. Crudely put in the brutal logic of sport, if Anderson isn’t getting top order bats out, what is he doing? That’s a question in theory only – for now. Grade: C.

New Zealand

Kane Williamson (14 runs at seven; no wicket for 12 runs)

They say that the best strategy for successful parenting is to make yourself redundant and Kane Williamson appears to have done so, handing over batting duties to Will Young and captaincy obligations to Tom Latham without his side missing a beat. That Lord’s declaration, at the time appearing bold to the point of recklessness, now has something of Andrea Pirlo’s Euro 2012 Panenka penalty against England about it. His own players must have puffed out their chests and said – “He really does think we’re that good and they’re that bad”. And England fell for the bait by not taking the bait – hook, line and sinker. Grade: B.

Tom Latham (88 runs at 29; two catches)

He got starts without going on, but his main role in the series was to take charge of a much changed team, continue the Kane philosophy and deliver the series win. Barely three days after losing the toss, he did. Mission accomplished. Grade: A.

Devon Conway (306 runs at 77)

We’ve become familiar with the South African’s story of his going all-in with New Zealand as his last chance of making it as a Test batsman and, boy oh boy, did he look like he wanted it. Apart from being hit once or twice by Mark Wood and Ollie Robinson, he looked entirely at ease with his game, leaving, defending and attacking deliveries with uncanny judgement. Set up the Lord’s draw with an epic 200 and set up the series decider with a optimism-crushing 80. Grade: A+.

Will Young (90 runs at 45)

Stepped into Kane Williamson’s batting spikes and cruised through nearly a whole day’s play before getting a good ball that induced a tired shot. He’d done his job though. Grade: A-.

Ross Taylor (127 runs at 42; one catch)

The Grand Old Man of New Zealand cricket had almost the mirror image performance of his English counterpart. Where Jimmy Anderson looked good on the field and ordinary in the scorebook, Taylor looked ordinary on the field and good in the scorebook. He’s often done that in his later years and perhaps his true stature in New Zealand cricket and in the game more generally will only be recognised fully when memories of that bottom hand technique and crouching stance begin to fade. A great of the game will bid farewell to English soil next week – he should have had the chance to play here much more often. Grade: B+.

Henry Nicholls (105 runs at 45; one catch)

Though never at his most fluent, he looked the classy operator he is these days until he got out having worn one on the helmet from Mark Wood at Edgbaston. Grade: B+.

Tom Blundell (34 runs at 34; eight catches)

BJ Watling handed over the gloves temporarily (injury permitting) for one Test before doing so permanently at the end of the World Test Championship Final. Nobody noticed – a testament to both men and their captain. Grade: B+.

BJ Watling (16 runs at 16; three catches)

Possibly hampered by the injury that ruled him out at Edgbaston, he was less than his immaculate best at Lord’s behind the wickets and out of sorts in front of them. Big last hurrah coming up for one the decade’s most underrated players. Grade: C.

Daryl Mitchell (Six runs at six; no wicket for 23 runs; three catches)

Never really got into the one Test he played – probably needed more competitive opponents to shine. Caught very well – as his team do. Grade: C.

Mitchell Santner (No runs at zero; no wicket for 68 runs)

Brought an injured finger into the Lord’s match and could not affect it, which will not have done his chances of selection this week any good at all. Grade: D.

Colin de Grandhomme (Nine runs at nine; no wicket for 36 runs; one catch)

He looks a bit like one of the fancy dress merchants has jumped from the Hollies Stand in full kit and demanded a bowl, but batsman can’t rotate strike from his classic New Zealandish dibbly-dobblers and he gives Neil Wagner a chance to recharge those extraordinary batteries of his. Solved the mystery of the whereabouts of Dennis Lillee’s hair after it went missing fifty years ago. Grade: C+.

Kyle Jamieson (Nine runs at nine; three wickets at 38; one catch)

The big man came with a big reputation and largely confirmed it, swinging and seaming it both ways with a horrible yorker and bat-jarring lifter for variation. He’s not as good as Joel Garner – at least not yet. Grade: B-.

Neil Wagner (35 runs at 18; seven wickets at 28)

What an absolutely terrific guy to have in the side. Though he seldom went to the short stuff that has brought over half his Test wickets, he was still a threat, with just enough curving just far enough into the right-handers to make the one that holds its line a wicket-taker. Worth so much more than his figures suggest, Grade: A-.

Matt Henry (12 runs at 12; six wickets at 19)

No longer the tearaway he once was, the experienced pro was far too clever for England at Edgbaston where five of his six wickets were of top four batsmen. Yet another Kiwi quietly delivering the job description. Grade: A.

Ajaz Patel (20 runs at 20; four wickets at 15)

Championed relentlessly by Simon Doull, Yorkshire fans must have wondered if it were the same player as the one who played with little success for the White Rose. But England’s batsmen have shown that they can be troubled by flight and variations as much as spin, and Patel, with about the least energetic bowling action in Test cricket (or any cricket) lulled them into errors and he got his rewards. Grade: B+.

Tim Southee (Eight runs at eight; seven wickets at 11; one catch)

Everyone knows what’s coming – the ones that offer to go out followed by the one that offers to go in on a length you can’t quite push forward to and a line you can’t quite leave. The old stager (it sounds strange saying that of 32 year-old Southee, but he’s been around so long) took candy from babies as he helped himself to six first innings wickets at Lord’s and contemplated a tougher challenge to come. Grade: A.

Trent Boult (12 runs not out; six wickets at 20)

Bubbles, no warm-ups, quarantine? Boult shrugged off such concerns and got his inswinger going at fullish length and pushed the odd one across and helped himself to six wickets in what often looked a bit of a mismatch. England’s brains trust must have looked on and marvelled that such feats were possible – England’s fans were just aghast. Grade: A.


Responses

  1. It is, I fear, very telling that in a series were England were poor, their one ‘world class’ batsman gets the lowest ranking of them all. His batting would be helped by relieving him of the captaincy. The problem is who would replace him?
    As for the team, Stokes was missed, I find myself bemused by the notion that Buttler would have made much difference, and astounded at Aggers’ suggestion that Crawley should move up to open.

    • I’m no great fan of Buttler, but he’s been around the block and would have added a bit of weight to a very light team (in every sense).

      I’d go for Tom Abell, but probably not until The Ashes is done.


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