3 June 2015
What a Test! Review by our ex England cricketer
What with the KP and Colin Graves situation plus a very fresh in the mind loss to the West Indies which leveled a promising series, the England players and management could be forgiven for looking at a tough upcoming New Zealand series with a small amount of distraction.
However this was not to be seen at the first test at Lord’s, a fascinating dual played out between two very equally matched teams in front of full crowds went to the last day of five, on which, all results were possible.
This after England had slumped to 30-4 and the KP murmurings had started again. Thankfully this was short lived, Root and Stokes were outstanding but both perished in the nineties, their support acts Butler and Ali played with freedom and skill, giving England a slightly under par first innings score of 389.
New Zealand had shown their danger with the swinging new ball, Boult and Henry with 4 wickets apiece, but then set about getting close to England to stay very much in the game. Kane Williamson with a beautifully created century ensured the natural counter attacking abilities of his team mates were allowed to flourish, with Guptill, Latham, Taylor and Watling all passing fifties they were not close to England but flying past them at four and over plus and ending on 523. For England it was Wood on debut, Broad and Ali with 3 wickets apiece causing the Kiwis most trouble.
England set about their reply, first to wipe out the first innings deficit of 134 and were once again unsteady at 74-3 until Cook and Root dug in, Cook outstanding, playing the new ball with the skill only he has and Root, busy and attractive to watch but fell annoyingly short of a Lord’s Century, this time in the eighties.
Time for Stokes and what a time, a magnificent century off 92 balls with Cook going along without cause for concern, now 364-5 and all is looking up. A quick 42 from Ali and Cook finishing on 162 and silencing some stubborn doubters, thus giving England a final innings lead of 344.
The eagerly awaited New Zealand reply was in effect over within 24 overs with the Kiwis reeling on 61-5, the latest dismissal of McCullam bowled first ball by Stokes with a lethal in-swinger, worthy of a ‘delivery of the match’ award.
New Zealand fell short by 124 runs and England go to Leeds in a good frame of mind and seemingly without any annoying distraction.
With the weather forecast for Leeds threatening to play a large part in the outcome of this test match, most peoples hard earned pennies would be placed on a draw, but it wasn’t to be.
This time at the request of Cook it was New Zealands turn to bat first, once again the swinging new ball causing problems restricting the Kiwis to 144-5. Latham was grafting well, a perfect foil for the counter attacking skills of Ronchi, both ended their resistance in the eighties and New Zealand on 350 and Broad picking up the first five for of the series.
England enjoyed as larger opening partnership than they have for a while, Cook first to go for 75, then Lyth playing only his second test making a memorable 107 on his home turf.
This time it wasn’t to be for the England middle order, only a late flourish from Stuart Broad ensured a first innings dead heat at 350.
New Zealand sensed a victory at the start of the second innings, with the wicket showing signs of uneven bounce and some turn, plus some helpful England fielding and catching errors, the Kiwis amassed and unlikely 454 off of just 91 overs with four passing fifty and BJ Watling a match winning century.
There was brave talk of England being able to chase down the 454 to win, but with Cooks resistance ending at 141-6 and with very little before him, only a well made 73 from Buttler ending the England innings, it was hat’s off to New Zealand winning by a comfortable and well deserved margin of 199 runs.
A series that in my view was too short, New Zealand play their cricket hard, fair, smiles on faces, with a sense of dare and flare, without ego and a genuine respect to opposition and the game itself. By doing so they brought out the same qualities in the England camp. Refreshing and enjoyable to those like myself who can only sit, watch and admire these days.
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