England are about to play the first of five hundred consecutive international matches against the same opposition. Like unoriginal clichés about modes of transport, you wait five years for a series and then two come along at once. The Dame Kiri Te Kanawa Trophy might not be as prestigious as the Ashes, as hard-fought as the Basil D’Oliveira Trophy or as nostalgia-inducing as the Wisden Trophy, but there have been some good matches between the two down the years – just not enough to really constitute a classic series.
New Zealand, it is fair to say, don’t have a large pool of players to call upon – Wellington were even reduced to featuring Chris ‘Derek Pringle’ Woakes in the Plunkett Shield recently (stop press: England are also reduced to featuring Chris ‘Derek Pringle’ Woakes in their Test squad). Although previously-banished ex-captain Ross Taylor has been included in the limited overs squads, with Danny V definitely injured, assumed dead, and Tim Southee possibly injured, assumed living it up with a load of hot chicks, the home side will start as clear second favourites.
So we might not have great expectations for the forthcoming series, but let’s put on our nostalgia caps and look backwards to some memorable moments from the four most-recent England tours of New Zealand.
England won the series 2-1, thanks in part to Andrew Strauss saving his Test match bacon with 177 in Napier and Tim Ambrose square-cutting his way to a century at Wellington. However the player of the series was Ryan Sidebottom, who took 24 wickets at 17.08. Ten of these wickets came in the first Test (an otherwise largely awful defeat) at Hamilton, which included a second-innings hat-trick (Stephen Fleming, Mathew Sinclair and Jacob Oram). The long-haired hater from Huddersfield didn’t have the longest international career (despite hanging around the limited overs side for far too long) but for a short period of time, mostly it must be said against not very good opposition, he was a remarkably good swing bowler and this series was his zenith.
Despite being a series that fits nicely into the story of Duncan Fletcher’s team rising from ignominy to brilliance (the core of the team included Graham Thorpe, Nasser Hussain and Andy Caddick; Andrew Flintoff and Michael Vaughan were its rising stars), this series doesn’t really linger in one’s memory. It was drawn 1-1 and the only stand-out highlight was the first game at Christchurch. It looked to be a low-scoring shoot out, with England dismissed for 228 and New Zealand 147 (Matthew Hoggard taking 7/63). In their second innings, the tourists were 106/5 when Mark Ramprakash fell. But then Thorpe and Flintoff began to go slightly mad. The Surrey batsman’s double hundred came from 231 balls, the third-fastest in Test history, whilst Flintoff’s maiden Test half-century became his maiden Test hundred. The declaration came with a lead of 549.
England won by 98 runs, but that’s barely the story. Nathan Astle, a batsman with fairly limited pedigree, went even madder than Thorpe, blasting his way to 222 from 168 balls. 168 balls. New Zealand needed a miracle if they were to chase their target – they failed, but there was a miracle of sorts nonetheless.
Absolutely nothing of note happened in this series that England won 2-0, apart from Nick Knight averaging 14.00 across his three Tests. But he did have lovely hair.
Although this series had several special moments, such as Alec Stewart scoring a couple of hundreds and Phil Tufnell taking 11 wickets at Christchurch, it is etched in our memory solely for the horrific injury that effectively ended David Lawrence’s career. It was, and still is, the most sickening injury we’ve seen in cricket. Seriously, the sound of that crack echoing around the stadium haunts us to this day.
So when we said there had been lots of memorable moments, we were actually fibbing. For tours that don’t occur very often and which are generally heaps of fun for players and spectators alike, the outstanding memories are a terrible knee injury, a couple of freak double-centuries and the dark days of Ryan Sidebottom looking world-class. Let’s hope that 2013 brings more sunshine, close matches and performances of cricketing brilliance. Otherwise, we’ll be left trying to shoehorn references to Flight of the Conchords into every article we do.