Newest Review: ... be big enough for England. Nice to see young O'Brien impress again with 4-74, a guy that would do well in County Cricket... New Zealand ... more
Blackballing the Blackcaps...
Member Name: thedevilinme
Advantages: Series win
Disadvantages: Twenty bloody twenty!
With Twenty20 still dominating the cricket world with the announcement of this Champions League series in India or Dubai in October its teams like New Zealand who are feeling the defections the most. They have lost their best player in Shane Bond-a 50% win ratio when he plays- and also the services of other experienced players like Fleming. Money is so tight for Blackcaps cricket that they have recently disbanded their World Cup winning women's side. So going into a summer series against an improving England that had just beat them on their own patch it didn't look like things would improve soon. I'm afraid NZ cricket is going the way of West Indies cricket. If you're best bowler is playing county cricket for Hampshire whilst your test team is getting hammered in a test series then you need a series rethink of where your national sport is going.
It was a very poor and almost unrecognizable New Zealand team that sneaked into England for the summer series in May, the Indian Twenty20 biting big chunks out of their set up, many retiring early to cash in on the lucrative leagues. When the tour began only half the starting eleven were in England with five more turning up three days before the traditional opening Lords test, many players, rather appropriately, still playing Twenty20 shots in the first innings on the opening day, keeper McCullum's 97 particularly wild.
Mathew Hoggard was again left out of the eleven; Peter Moore's preferring the inconsistent Jamie Anderson in inclement conditions. The two are very similar and need favorable bowling conditions to be effective, Andersen the correct choice with four wickets. But it was England cricketer of the year in Ryan Sidebottom who mopped up the innings with 4 wickets for five runs in 6 overs. 277 all-out wasn't great from New Zealand.
It was great to see Michael Vaughan get his first hundred for while and a captains innings too, guiding the team away from the usual middle-order collapse to that 319 score, Strauss and Cook also bagging 50s. Captain Vettori was again the best bowler with 5 wickets.
NZ played out the draw with ease, the fifth test in a row on this ground, the money men at Lords repeatedly preparing flat pitches for five days takings. With prices of twenty quid on the final day for adults it's not cheap to see cricket at headquarters.
Monty was again ineffective, Oram easily matching Vaughan's ton for his first at Lords, Howe getting a fifty as the series rolled onto Manchester. Because NZ are so poor on paper the bookies were surprisingly still offering a price on a draw on the Friday night, which I gobbled up at the even price with that rain forecast. The lucrative Lords crowds were grumbling by Saturday close as the umpires tried to squeeze ten overs into the soggy day so the ECB had to offer only 50% refunds, a trick they are well versed in. But only 8.5 overs occurred and we a got our money back.
Old Trafford, Manchester
With the immediate IPL threat all but passed it was the retrospective next IPL series on the England players mind as they went into test two, the cool wind that violently swirled around Old Trafford for the four days required as chilling as those winds of change gusting around the English season to cater for India television. There were now confirmed offers of two million pounds over five years for Freddie and Pietersen to play for the Bangalore franchise and it was clearly playing on the latter's mind. KP has averaged just 30 in the last year and his bat is no longer scaring the opposition. With just one year to go until the Ashes series this has to be resolved.
There's equal confusion for Old Trafford these days. The cricket hotbed and regional centre fore the sport and third oldest test match ground in the world has been dropped from the test rota for the next three years. In fact 80% of all England international cricket will now be played south of Birmingham next year as the corporate dollar eats up the calendar. The absurd awarding of the first Ashes test to Cardiff s new ground is causing huge ructions in Manchester. It such a great atmosphere here and its usually a good chance of a win for England in most series, a move that could cost us the Ashes next year.
New Zealand batted first in test two, a brilliant innings by young Chris Taylor wowing the crowd with 156, including 5x6s and 17x4s, ably supported by an equally young Howe with his solid 60. The highlight of the innings was the perfume ball that crashed into Flynn's helmet, finding enough of gap to remove two of his front teeth, one chopper actually falling on the bail!
381 all out first up was good stuff by NZ and with ragged England bowling again on show a series win was still on the cards for either side after the drawn first test. Panasar and Anderson were again slapped around and NZ increasingly fancied their chances against these two throughout the series.
After Strauss (the only England bat with a current average over 40 in 2008) got out for 60 after England were sitting comfortable at 111-1, England collapsed miserably to the seasoned spin of Vettori, again claiming 5 wickets in an innings (the 15th time for him in tests), and new boy O'Brien's pitching in with his seam to tumble us to 202 all-out, England very close to having to follow on at one shaky point. Either way NZ were in the box seat at this point and that England batting rotting away under those central contracts. I think it's about time to shake up that top six and let someone like Owis Shah or David Sales in their to see an increase of performance.
But NZ are not the strongest batting side either, Monty Panasr enjoying the bounce and third day ware on the wicket to cause abject panic with his career best figures of 6-37 ,sending NZ from 50-1 to 114 all-out with his 100th test wicket. 16 wickets going down in a day usually means the pitch inspectors are called in county cricket. But here it was just poor batting in windy and dull conditions. Rain is normal in cricket but not high winds. From being on the back foot the game was suddenly quite close, England chasing the huge ask of a record 294 to win on this ground with plenty of time left. But for some reason it wasn't a problem, the returning Strauss with a defiant hundred setting up a surprise 6 wicket win, Andrew really pushing on from his sabbatical now that Flintoff, Hoggard and co are no longer in the team to tease him. For me the northern posse cold-shouldered him in the team and now we are seeing the old Strauss back and kicking, and perhaps a future England captain, now that Vaughan's batting is creaking. Make no mistake though this was an impressive win for England and Monty again delivered at Old Trafford with 25 of his 104 test wickets now on this ground.
NZ 123 & 232.
An innings and 8 run win.
England chose to bat and immediately collapsed, only Strauss-rested and refreshed-scoring runs after the threat of losing his central contract. The other bats like Bell, Cook and Collinwood are in the comfort zone now and collecting 0s like Beckhams next pay rise. I suspect two of these to be dropped for the next test series.
Like in Dunedin in the winter, England looked to Pietersen and Ambrose to repeat their match saving partnership, which they did, KP blasting one of his best test tons, and his second only score over 50 for 18 innings, Keeper Ambrose earning an excellent fifty for a match saving (and eventually winning) 164 partnership. With Broad shaping up as a potentional Flintoff replacement at number 8, here crafting a superb 64 to pad the innings out, you have to say we do have a potential Ashes winning weapon their in the young and roar pace-bowler. 364 all-out provide to be big enough for England. Nice to see young O'Brien impress again with 4-74, a guy that would do well in County Cricket...
New Zealand looked out on their feet by now and have home in mind, skittled for 123 by young Anderson, really getting the swing going at Trent Bridge, on for all ten at one point, his figures of 7-43 his best test figures by far. The Blackcaps didn't really fair much better second time up, only the experience of McCullum and Oram earning 50s, this time Sidebottom going through them with his devilish guile, length and swing bagging 6.65. What a find he has been. An innings and 8 run victory suggest NZ are going down the pan fast.
There's a theory going around that the new stands at Trent Bridge some how aid the swing bowlers, the wind swirling around the structures and creating mini vortexes that may upset the ball in the air. Nott's and now England have taken tons of wickets with swing this year, little known Greg Petterson having ball there with 20 wickets for the home county. It's not the first time I have heard this and I believe it's the same at the towering bowl at the MCG.
Although England are now third in the world in the test rankings after two easy series wins over NZ this team isn't that great yet. Clearly we aren't dropping guys that need to be dropped in the batting because we fear losing them to the IPL, which is our weakness right now. The Aussies top six usually score two tons an innings against teams like NZ. Straus was dropped and learnt from that-no ones infallible. No ones safe. Bell and Colly need resting as they are in the central contract comfort zone, like I say, maybe Shah or even David Sales worth a try.
But on the whole the job was done and Coach Moore's can move on to South Africa, a far tougher test that will probably lift the guy's performance. The bowling is stronger after this series and with Jones and Flintoff coming back to fitness and some new bats in there to freshen things up the middle order it should make for an interesting series.
Summary: Perfunctory win for England.