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Some questions from the New Zealand v England test series

March 28, 2013

I felt disappointed for about 30 seconds after Trent Boult’s last delivery was blocked back down the wicket. Ultimately though I was pretty damn proud of not just a fine test performance but a fine series performance and we need to go back a long time to see one of those.

To celebrate over the last couple of days I surveyed the 1 follower on my imaginary twitter account on the big questions coming out of this test series. Here are the best ones and my answers.

Is Bruce Martin the answer?

If the question is who is the next mediocre New Zealand spinner that Australia would kill for then yes, Bruce Martin is the answer. Bruce Martin looks effective when batters are attacking him and completely ineffective when all they need to do is defend against him. That was a big problem in the second innings of the third test when he bowled a lot of deliveries and never really looked like taking a wicket.

A quick run down of his wickets bears this theory out – Trott out sweeping, Prior out cutting, Broad out stupid, Anderson out slogging, Finn out sweeping, Compton out driving but beaten by some turn, Bell out slogging, Root out to a non-text book shot, Pietersen out slogging. So Martin was given a lot of help – in the third test the English gave him no help and he went wicketless.

That being said the bowler can contribute a lot to making the batters want to attack them so it is important that Martin’s nine wickets aren’t just written off. I would select Vettori ahead of him but after that Martin is clearly the best so he will and should be on the tour to England. But my suspicion is he isn’t in the conversation this time next year.

Should they have enforced the follow-on?

Stats say that teams who enforce the follow on rarely lose (from memory it has only happened three times in test cricket history) although the Australians are so gun shy after being Laxmanned that they commonly refuse to enforce it. Based on stats enforce the follow on.

However, there are a couple of reasons that make me lean towards McCullum having made the right call:

–          By batting again New Zealand were dictating the course of the match and ultimately ensuring New Zealand were the only team that could have won. If England bat then a few things could have happened 1. They pull a Gabba. 2. They bat to a lead of 150-250 leaving us with a very tricky last day chase with our batting line-up and their history of collapses. 3. They collapse and we win by an innings or ten wickets or something, we aren’t fussy. With any of these options England are effectively the masters of their own destiny. Compare this to what happens when we bat again – worst case scenario we are bowled out for 150 leaving England about 400 runs to get, effectively an England win is completely off the table leaving only positive results for the Black Caps.

–          Enforcing the follow on would have led to about 250 overs of consecutive bowling by New Zealand and you would have to wonder how effective the New Zealand bowlers would have been at the end of it. With Bruce Martin not firing the biggest threat was three rested fast bowlers.

These two points alone make me believe not enforcing the follow-on was a good call.

But what about an earlier declaration? We only needed a couple more overs and we had them!

The butterfly effect would suggest that changing the initial condition (the timing of the declaration) impacts the later state but I suppose no one is here for philosophical debate.

I think the timing of the declaration was actually pretty good. It allowed for 15 overs, when the new ball had been a threat, before tea and also a few extra overs after tea where it would be doing just enough. It also put the second new ball due just before lunch on day five giving Boult and Southee ideal opportunities before and after lunch. That being said it sure looked like McCullum declared just because there was no one padded up – still I prefer to give him some credit for the advanced thinking.

Declaring two overs earlier wouldn’t have changed any of that but they were never going to declare two overs beforehand. The declaration would have been when Fulton went five overs beforehand and that does slightly change those calculations and pushes the total amount of overs we would have bowled to 150.

So I have no issues with the timing of the declaration.

Where to now for 2MP?

Seriously who knows. He has certainly bought himself a lot of time in the side so tours to England and Bangladesh are locked in and the home series against West Indies is also highly likely.

He certainly showed application – he only had one score below 40 in the entire series and now has double the number of hundreds opening the batting than McCullum had in seven times more tests. He was also involved in partnerships of 158, 56, 79, 181, 74 and 117 across the series and we have rarely got our opening batsman involved in those type of meaningful partnerships before.

Realistically he is a complete bonus to the Black Caps who would have been happy enough with his returns in the first two tests without even considering the efforts of the third test. He has some deficiencies but showed a willingness to adapt for those throughout the series and if he can continue to do that there is no reason why he can’t have a decent late career run.

Is this a turning point for the Black Caps?

I am not sure the Black Caps have turning points – Hobart seemed like a turning point, the Williamson draw against South Africa seemed like a turning point and then there was the Columbo turning point….

The Black Caps have steeping stones and competing across three tests with a team like England is a pretty damn good stepping stone. Usually in this sort of series we would have one or two calamitous sessions that would lose us games. We had a couple of bad sessions in Wellington but they weren’t a calamity that we couldn’t recover from and although we couldn’t bowl England out in Dunedin or in Auckland we held the ascendancy through both tests.

This is pretty decent progress and considering the young players  in crucial roles – Rutherford (23), Williamson (22), Southee (24), Watling (27), Boult (23), Wagner (27) – there is some reason to be optimistic about our longer term prospects even before you throw in other talent – Guptill (26), Latham (20), Neesham (22), Anderson (22), Milne (20), Bracewell (22) and McClenaghan (26) that will hopefully have something to add to the team over the next three or four years.

There will be some blips on the way but this is a group of players worth sticking with.

Willing to admit you were wrong about Coach Hesson and Captain McCullum?

I admit nothing.

I still maintain that Hesson’s handling of the Taylor situation was horrible and to the complete detriment of himself, Ross Taylor and the team. I also think that the whole situation has triggered off this ridiculous “culture of lies” that seems to show its head every time there is an issue. The most recent example being the fairly obvious lie by Lance Hamilton on Jeetan Patel’s flu which NZC then doubled downed on by claiming he never said it. Throw in the unnecessary mystery around the vice captain and I will reserve my judgement. He is certainly doing well in some respects but the application of some commonsense and public relations nous he could be doing much better.

McCullum’s captaincy has been good, as has his resurgent batting. Are the sum of his captaincy and batting greater than the sum of Taylor’s captaincy and batting? Not so sure and that was always my problem with the change – we needed them both firing as batters, who the captain is is secondary. Take away Rutherford and Fulton and we very may well have lost this series convincingly and we’d be going through the same old head scratching. One thing that is completely clear about McCullum is that he has the players with him and that was never something as apparent in Taylor’s captaincy.

In conclusion I am much more willing to acknowledge McCullum is doing a good job then I am Hesson. But until Ross Taylor is back averaging 42 I will not acknowledge I was wrong.

What is with Ross Taylor?

Anyone else pay attention to Ross Taylor’s body language when he took the catches of Broad and Anderson? He was happy but he sure as hell didn’t look like he felt like he was part of it and I didn’t see Tim Southee ruffle up his hair like he did for everyone else and Rosco could use a Southee hair ruffling.

The comments the next day were ill advised but based on his body language why is this a big deal? I mean he had already said it…..with his body.

It is also very hard to pass judgement on Taylor’s comments until we know the full story and with NZC’s new KGB arm secrets get locked down faster than you can say water boarding  so we might be waiting until Ross Taylor’s book before we know it all. I also imagine the fact that many media people have taken the split captaincy bullshit as gospel must be a bit frustrating too. So based on that who can have any idea whether the depth of Taylor’s hurt is reasonable or not, well other than Chris Rattue who passes more bad judgements than Pontius Pilate, for the rest of us I think we are better off not judging the guy.

Whatever is going on and whatever is being said I don’t care as long as he is scoring runs and he only looked like doing that once this series. Ultimately Mike Hesson created this mess so it is still his job to fix it and find a way to get Taylor back in touch.

You add Taylor at his best to an ever improving batting line up and we could do some real damage and though he didn’t have an impact this series it would be a mistake to think we don’t need more from him in the future considering he is only 29 and already in fifth place in our list of hundred scorers.

Is there a more unlucky bowler than Trent Boult?

I have no advanced stats to back this up but no there is not. Trent Boult is straight up the unluckiest bowler in world cricket – if there is an outside edge he will beat it, if there is a catch to be dropped it will be dropped of his bowling and if the bails don’t come off when the ball hits the stumps it will be from one of his deliveries. I already remember the Prior ball as being delivered by Boult rather than Wagner just because I have such an association issue with Trent Boult and bad luck.

He has 41 tests wickets at 30.82 but I am sure luck (and butterfly effect) withstanding he could have about 60 at 22. To see him finally grab a five wicket bag was one of the biggest delights of the summer.

Any love for John Buchanan?

Peter Fulton, Hamish Rutherford and Bruce Martin worked out pretty well didn’t they? The selection pie in action. Can’t he at least get a little shout out? No? Ok, tough crowd, moving on.

We got some help from the pitches though right?

The pitches flattered our batsman for sure but by the same token they flattered the English as well and remember we took 45 English wickets while they only took 38 of ours.

I also don’t buy into criticism of the wickets for being too flat leading to boring contests. I will tell you want is boring day five of a test when the game has been over for two days – I have seen a few of those and they are dead boring.

As the home side it is our right to determine what sort of wickets are produced and with a shaky batting line-up of course it was best for us to produce flattish wickets that minimise the impact Anderson, Finn and Broad could have. Coupled with the fact the last thing NZC needed was 46 all out debacles, getting some cash from 5th day gates is nice and the hot dry weather the pitches were actually pretty good.

Test cricket should come down to the last session of day five and every test could have come down to just that. David Saker needs to shut-up.

Is this going to impact the Ashes?

It might muddy the waters a bit although England has another two tests against us to right the ship. Truth is we are probably an equal if not better team than Australia right now anyway. Apart from Clarke and maybe James Pattinson what other Australian would you really want to be a Black Cap? Waiting. Anyone? Nope.

At our best we probably offer a reasonably good level of preparation for England that will be fairly similar to what they encounter against Australia. So in that respect this series probably hasn’t hurt them that much.

If I saw any chinks in England it is that their depth seems to be paper thin. Joe Root never really asserted himself in the tests, Jonny Bairstow is completely out of touch and I like Graham Onions but is he really England fourth best seamer? They really need a guy like Chris Tremlett back in the frame. The biggest plus from the series is that Neil Compton is now locked in for an opening berth for at least the home leg of the Ashes.

Of course the Australians are just coming off a soul destroying 4-0 smacking from India which although a long way from the green grass of England still must have damaged their psyches.

We will get a better sense of where England is at on our return tour but right now a fully fit England look at least a game or two better than Australia.

Who is on the plane to England?

I think most selections are pretty straight forward. The eleven from this series plus Bracewell and Guptill leaving two slots available. With Vettori not a chance I wouldn’t take an extra spinner instead giving that spot to Luke Ronchi as back-up wicketkeeper, though I acknowledge that it will actually go to Tom Latham. The last spot goes to a bowler and after his noballathon in Queenstown Mark Gillespie gifts that place to Ian Butler.
Finally terrible news about Jesse Ryder today. I have got nothing else to say until more information comes to hand. If there is anything positive to come out of this it is stuff’s message of support page where you can see messages from people as varied as Kevin Pietersen, Nick Willis and SiNFuL AnGeLxx and where else could you find that? Thanks to twitter we are all in this together.


From → Cricket, General

  1. adrian permalink

    Some real interesting stuff here. But how many runs did you think we needed in the bank? The declaration was left way too late in my view. When Hesson and Cumming called the shots for Otago, there were some terribly late declarations. You have to give yourself the best chance to win. I felt they leaned on the conservative side far too often. I know it was McCullum’s declaration to make, but it felt like the hand of Hesson. Otago, by the way, achieved some fairly disappointing first-class results during his reign. They were not often beaten, but they didn’t win many games either. Just a thought.

  2. Taking all emotion of Peter Fulton going for his second hundred in the match I think 400 should have been enough runs while 350 seems like it would have been a little bit too aggressive and they only used six overs going from a 350 to 400 lead anyway, in hindsight six overs is a lot but when you are talking the difference between 133 overs and 127 overs it doesn’t feel like much.
    400 would have been the fifth highest successful run chase in history and I don’t think England would have pulled it off though needing about 3 an over they would have been interested. The Black Caps brought that lead up in the 47th over and proceeded to bat on for ten more overs after this. The timing might not have been quite as good as the immediate declaration would have led to tea and time for the English to get ready and teams prefer to get a couple of shots with the new ball. It also would have left Fulton on 88 not out which would have been very controversial, especially if we hadn’t won.
    It was a conservative declaration and you know better than me the history of Hesson at Otago but I really believe the dropped catches and the ineffectiveness and continued use of Bruce Martin were the things that really cost us.

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