Tom Latham, Henry Nicholls and Colin de Grandhomme may be New Zealand’s fresh batting stars but veterans Kane Williamson and Ross Taylor remain the key to the Kiwis ending their Test drought in Australia.
When Trevor Bayliss took over as the full-time coach of England post the 2015 World Cup, the vision mainly was to transform them into a highly-skilled limited-overs side. It didn’t take long for the partnership of Trevor Bayliss and Eoin Morgan to revolutionise the Brits into a limited-overs outfit that had never been seen before. However, under Bayliss’ auspices their performance in red-ball cricket began to suffer.
The change of guard from Bayliss from Chris Silverwood as the head coach was supposed to be a new start – along with it, a new game plan and some fresh faces came in the reckoning – but their feebleness came back to haunt them and would have disappointed the new man in charge the most.
Winning against New Zealand in their den was never going to be an easy task. But from the perspective of the tourists, it was the same old story of toiling initially only to find themselves saving the match by the end of the final day.
At the helm of all the issues lay the batsmen throwing away the upper hand they held at the end of the first day where they lost only four wickets. To rack up a total of 350 may have proved as a winning total in England where the English new-ball bowlers look threatening right from the outset.
On the contrary, to make 350 on a vastly lifeless deck from being in a commanding position spells a weary outing for the bowlers – it is a testament that England have passed the score of 400 in their first innings only twice since Root took over as captain.
The example of batting longer away from home has been stressed on multiple occasions. In retrospect, England have been on the receiving end of many marathon knocks including that of Virat Kohli, Steve Smith, Jason Holder, Shane Dowrich, and Karun Nair. However, it is astonishing to think that the Three Lions haven’t learnt much from those tough lessons.
When the advantage was spooned away with the bat, England’s bowling efforts represented a pale shadow of what it appeared at home. It reminded England of the gloomy days on the field back in Mumbai and Chennai in 2016, Perth in 2017 and Bridgetown earlier this year – with Mount Maunganui now able to be added that list of flattening durations on the park. England had variety in their attack – more than enough to chip away the Kiwi batsmen and keep them on their knees. Yes, the lifelessness of the pitch played its part – but amid that they lacked any consistency or edge in their attack.
Jack Leach didn’t find any turn but kept bowling plenty of looseners wide of off stump, Jofra Archer for all his speeds didn’t look threatening enough and Stuart Broad – for all his laborious efforts – didn’t seem to affect a dismissal. There remain questions about Sam Curran’s effectiveness when the pitch doesn’t offer lateral movement. As a result English bowlers stood on the field to grind for a staggering 201 overs, yielding only nine wickets.
And so England walked out to bat in their second innings on the fourth day, trailing by 262 runs – the inevitable didn’t look too far. They have found themselves in a position to bat out for more than a day to save the game more often than not in recent times. They couldn’t get the job done at Edgbaston or Old Trafford during the Ashes – and England wilted yet again.
Joe Root endured a similar dismissal in both innings – trying to guide the ball through the slip cordon – Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope had a go at a delivery that was meant to be left alone and Jos Buttler offered no shot to a ball that was only going to hit the stumps. Being a difficult pitch to bowl on, the Kiwi bowlers didn’t give the batsmen even a sniff.
It was the Englishmen who repeated the same mistakes as they did in the first innings. Their line-up has the technique, temperament and ability to excel in Test cricket – the likes of Curran, Archer and Pope have shown promise, but need to be given time.
The Brits took a giant step to trigger the change in the first innings – however, they tossed it aside when it mattered the most. They’ll have to start all over again in Hamilton.