Posted by: tootingtrumpet | June 11, 2022

England vs New Zealand Second Test, Day One – The Final Over of the Day

Ball One – Leaves blow away the wisdom of the decision to bowl

New Zealand looked very much in need of a hit last week at Lord’s, but Tom Latham and Will Young have their timing sorted out in the first hour.

Curiously, the best evidence for that assertion comes in the very positive leaves made by both batsmen, feet, hands and head all aligned and the stroke consequently eschewed. It’s a cliché, but there is no more important shot for the opener than the leave – every one that is effected buys a run for the third session of the day.

Ball Two – England need a bit of assistance from the opposition to get ahead in a game, even if they win the toss

One good ball from Ben Stokes that took an edge and a brainfart from Tom Latham avoided a complete England shellacking in the opening session, especially as Stokes had won the toss. Apart from Anderson (as ever) the bowling was a little too friendly, but it was more a case of the Kiwis batting like, well, like Brendon McCullum would.

Perhaps there was just a little more freedom in their play as a result of the circumstances – 1-0 down and with a captain covidded out at short notice. All four batsmen looked to hit the four balls for four across a glassy outfield, and they seldom missed, as evinced by both the scoring rate (108-2 in 26 overs) and barely an appeal (never mind a DRS) from the hosts.

Very few captains would not have bowled (neither of the two in this match for example) but it’s so hard to read an English pitch and overheads and batting can be sometimes be very tricky indeed at this ground.

The feeling grows that England’s fragile batting and bowling attack shorn of extreme pace or hard spun slow stuff, requires the stars to align perfectly if they are to be get ahead in a game. Ben Stokes always has a magic ball in him regardless of conditions, but one wonders how many overs Anderson will have to bowl today, as he looks the only real challenge to the New Zealanders cruising at four an over, never mind protecting a slightly soft late order.

Ball Three – Gough does not see off Conway

It’s too tedious to go through the reasons why a two-dimensional image cannot depict three-dimensional reality and one feels for an umpire peering 50 yards or more to discern whether a ball has carried by an inch or less.

But Michael Gough was barely ten yards away at square leg when Matty Potts scooped up a Devon Conway pull shot and gave every impression that he felt it was clean. The soft signal was not out and the TV evidence was inconclusive so the (half) decision stood. One can understand why the on-field umpires would want to maximise the information available, but there’s also a case for responsibility lying where it’s best discharged – that would be the man close enough to read the brand stamp on the ball.

Ball Four – England go slow in fast-forward match

The halfway mark of the day arrives at 3.15pm, 25 minutes before Tea. It just isn’t good enough, partly because it shortchanges the public in these cash-short times, but mainly because it’s likely to take overs out of the day, even with the extra half hour on which to call.

England want Anderson and Stokes to bowl as many overs as possible today and four or five that go unbowled are four or five that don’t have to be delivered by the men who have presented much less of a threat.

The unvarnished and uncomfortable truth (and all captains do this so I’m not pointing the finger at Stokes specifically) is that if slowing the over rate did not offer a marginal gain, fielding sides wouldn’t do it.

Ball Five – England need a Plan B

New Zealand went after Jack Leach in a premeditated assault, the purpose of which is usually described as ‘knocking the spinner out of the attack’. Partly, that is so, but a few boundaries (and there have been plenty today) moves the field around and opens up the opportunity for risk-free singles with close catchers still up and sweepers in the deep. Mitchell and Blundell, wise old pros for all their relative inexperience at this level, tucked in for a little strike rotation – the scoreboard clicked and clicked.

The options for Stokes are limited, as a pedestrian bouncer attack from Broad revealed, but surely Joe Root’s mixed bag of off breaks, leg breaks and straight-onners would present more of a challenge. As it is, inserting the opposition and running out of ideas at 5.10pm is not a good look at all.

Ball Six – England need more from their bowlers

Jimmy Anderson and Ben Stokes looked a class or two above the captain’s other bowling options and the figures bear it out.

Anderson and Stokes aggregated 30-6-82-4, a highly satisfactory return on a pitch that offered very occasional bounce and seam. Swing was curiously present for an hour or so in the afternoon, but absented itself earlier and later.

Broad, Potts, Leach and Root combined for 57-11-220-0, which isn’t good enough. Each can cite mitigation: Broad’s lack of support on a very poor day for the slip cordon; Potts enthusiastic, but in only his second Test; Leach bowling on the first day (actually, that’s not much mitigation); and Root hardly expected to deliver much with the ball after his captain won the toss.

But one tires of the excuses really. The fans (again a full house or thereabouts) deserve more and, with English cricket’s resources, more should be forthcoming. And it’s worth mentioning that Daryl Mitchell – 81 not out today backing up his 108 at Lord’s last week – might not even be in this side were Kane Williamson fit or Ross Taylor stayed on for a last hurrah in England. He doesn’t need any excuses.


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