Tuesday, 28 May 2013

England v New Zealand Series review

England have beaten New Zealand in the 2nd test at Headingley by 247 runs which gave them a 2-0 series victory, more than making up for the three drawn test matches on the tour of New Zealand in February/March.

Whilst the margin of victory is huge, and came at just after 3.30pm on the fifth day with more than a session to spare - there does however remain an element of fortune in this England victory as they beat the rain, that started falling during the post-match ceremonies.

England's decision on the 3rd day to bat again rather than enforce the following on having gained a 180 run lead left many pundits and ex-internationals somewhat perplexed.  This was not helped by the play of Jonathan Trott who scored a measly 11 runs off 69 balls that stymied the initial effort of captain Alastair Cook who raced to 80 odd by the close of play.

On the fourth morning, Cook completed his 25th Test century before being out for 130.  Trott succumb for 76 before the young Yorkshire pair of Joe Root and Jonny Bairstow both hit at more than a run a ball for 28 and 26 not out respectively, to set New Zealand an unrealistic target of 468 to win and England to get 10 wickets in over a day and a half.

Cook's reluctance to enforce the follow-on was mirrored by his safety first field positions for his bowlers who had a huge score to defend but a weak batting line up to attack.  Graeme Swann aiming for the footmarks left by the Kiwi left arm seamers, Trent Boult and Neil Wagner, had not a lot of men round the bat especially versus the right handers who would struggle in spin from that particular rough.

Swann ended up with 10 wickets in the match, the first English spinner to take 10 in a match at Headingley (traditionally a seamer's wicket) since Derek Underwood in 1975.  Swann like Underwood though is a special talent that England must hope is fully fit after his elbow operation, unlike most other departments Swann is indispensable to the team as a specialist spinner and genuine match winner if the conditions suit him.

Cook's lack of ruthlessness could be interpreted as a weakness, would England have batted again if they were facing Australia and they had them on the rack as they so obviously had New Zealand.  Many Kiwis were laughing at the situation on the fifth morning as the game should have been completed.
England under Andy Flower have form in this over recent years when Andrew Strauss captained, England would be in the ascendancy but then bat again to apply 'scoreboard pressure' as Flower loves to entone and then dismiss the chasing side in the fourth innings.

Luckily England are in the position to field four bowlers who can take 20 wickets between them at this moment in time - Anderson's swing is threatening with the new ball, but wanes after that; Stuart Broad looks resurgent; Swann can do so much with his varying flight and speed yet one question must remain over Steven Finn who although taking wickets is still struggling with his run-up and his length of delivery, on the last day he bowled far too short to Tim Southee who dismissed him for two huge 6's.

Finn was bowling to a field of a deep backward square leg and deep mid-wicket, instead of doing what he did to Doug Brownlie on Monday by bowling an unplayable ball that Brownlie attempted to duck out of the way, yet could only glove a looping catch to Bell running in from gully. Finn was bowling with fire on Monday, on Tuesday he was like the weather a bit damp and not impressive - Finn must work on his consistency.

Another possible reason for England batting again was that it gave Nick Compton a chance to gain some valuable time and runs at the top of the order to cement his place at the top of the line-up before the Ashes start in July.

However, Compton's second single digit score of the match, 7 off 45 was quite a grind to watch and instead of giving England an answer, there are now more questions for England to ponder. Joe Root's continued impressive start to his Test career including his maiden Test century on Saturday at his home ground, means England have to give serious consideration to promoting Root to open the innings especially with the returning Kevin Pietersen likely to go straight back to his position of 4 in the order.

This is a shame for Compton who had endured a baptism of fire in India but scored some useful runs with Cook, then he answered the critics again in New Zealand by scoring two centuries, now he must return to Somerset and play some four day cricket and get some time at the crease and get his confidence back.

Compton was a victim of joining the inner circle of Team England, having gone on two tours he was not allowed to bat as much with Somerset as he would have liked, although he did score 105* at home to Warwickshire on 25th-28th April - yet he also had two ducks.

Whereas Root played week in, week out for Yorkshire and made some huge scores (182, 236, 179 for England Lions v New Zealand).  Root's confidence was sky high resulting in scoring 243 runs, averaging 60.75; Compton in contrast scored 39 runs averaging 9.75 runs.

Compton may be a better batsmen to replace Ian Bell in the middle of the order, as he is used to doing for the Taunton side.  Whereas, Root who has a great technique for someone so young and plays the ball so late, would be better suited to open the batting as he has done for his county side.

However, lets remain buoyant England have won the series convincingly and head for the Champions Trophy in good spirits, another good showing in that competition will bode well for the A-word series in July.  England will start favourites, more so because their order can score heavy runs against an Australian bowling line-up that has to prove it can take 20 wickets in a match, a fact that England's four pronged attack can.

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