The Over: England v New Zealand: First Test, Days 2, 3 and 4

  • As I wiped the sleep from my eyes yesterday morning, made my way to my local purveyor of pork pies and scotch eggs, before settling in the pavilion with anticipation, I didn’t at any point dream that I would be making my way home at a mite past half past two. Upon arriving at my local tube stop, the supervisor at the barrier took one look at my MCC tie, gave me a quizzical look and said, “You’re back early, mate.” Why yes, I suppose I was. I think I was probably still in a stupor from what had just occurred. I’d witnessed in three hours of thrilling Test cricket more wickets than you might see in two Tests on certain asphalt freeways in the subcontinent. Some of the stats beggar belief. The fourth fastest 7+ wicket haul in Test history in terms of balls bowled; the first time since 1936 that England only used two bowlers to bowl out a team; the tenth lowest score by any team at Lord’s. At one stage, I did genuinely wonder if I’d dreamt the whole thing.

  • Stuart Broad’s performance was stunning. The only time before yesterday I’ve ever seen a bowler (in the flesh) who seemed to have an aura of total invincibility around him was when Andrew Flintoff ripped through Australia at Lord’s in 2009. Broad must have taken his pep pills in the morning because he seemed totally unstoppable. Typically, it gave journalists the chance to dig out that piece on him they’d had written for months. You know the one – ‘when he’s good, he’s fantastic, but most of the time he’s frightfully ordinary.’ The only piece I’ve seen in that vein which actually does some justice to the subject (other than my own, of course) is Jarrod Kimber’s article on Cricinfo. I’ve gone on record here to say that he is still a work in progress – still only 26, in his last 20 Tests he’s taken 86 wickets @25.26, 5 of his 8 career 5-fors and all with a strike rate of 51.9. Yes, he has ordinary patches, but for pity’s sake, cut the bloke some slack. He’s one of the best quicks in the world, end-of.
  • It’s been a strange old Test match. It’s not often at Lord’s that no one scores a century; it’s not often at Lord’s that it rags square on Day 1; it’s not often at Lord’s that ball dominates bat to the extent that it has. To the question of spin, I find it a little more than a coincidence that Lord’s will soon play host to an Australia squad who possess no one who can tweak a ball in either direction more than a few millimetres, while on the other side you’ve got a bloke in Graeme Swann who will have probably 5 victims… er… left-handers in the Aussie top 7 to bowl at.
  • As to ball dominating bat, just think for a second which you’d rather watch – a low-scoring thriller where the side batting last has a tantalising target just north of 200 to chase, or a match where only 19 wickets fall and the track is so flat that Bangladesh can score 638. Or again the IPL. Actually, you’re not allowed to choose that last option. Not unless you wish expose yourself as the precise opposite of a cricketing connoisseur.
  • I wrote back in January that New Zealand had had a real horror period in Test cricket of late. I think it’s only fair to point out that they have impressed far more than most people (including me) expected in the last couple of months. Yes, many of the frailties remain – for an example, see yesterday – but they appear to have some real potential up-and-coming. Boult, Southee, Williamson, Watling and Bracewell all look to have bright futures in the game. They’ve given England a real fright and should get plenty of credit for that. But as to everyone wondering how it is they’re so low in the world rankings, yesterday again provided the answer. Top sides win from that position, Broad and Anderson’s flawless spells excepted.
  • Can’t wait for the next one on Friday. The balance between bat and ball will be fascinating. Headingley’s been pretty flat of late but when it’s overcast, it’ll swing. Add in Joe Root (who looked in cracking touch in this match) and Jonny Bairstow on their home ground and seamers on both sides in cracking form and it’s set up nicely. Let’s just hope it doesn’t turn out to be a Leeds damp squib.

Over.

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