One of the more bizarre Test matches in recent memory drifted to a draw on the final day, as all and sundry were left scratching their heads while Steve Finn casually anchored the England innings.
As England’s second innings progressed, their calamitous first became ever more inexplicable. On a pitch that Finn managed to negotiate more than 200 balls over the course of what felt like about three months, not a single batsman passed 50 on that first (real) day. England should not have been batting to save this game, they should have been in a position to set up a declaration and put pressure on their opponents. Instead they had to treat us to the spectacle of the least entertaining innings since the last Test they played.
So what did we learn from the sensation on South Island? Very little. We now know for sure that the Dunedin curator should immediately be fired, as should whoever gives England’s pre-game pep talk for the first Test on away tours. It hasn’t even really taught us if New Zealand will put up a genuine fight in the series; last year they drew with South Africa on this ground and were unceremoniously walloped in the other games. Hamish Rutherford’s 170 must be put into context as a score made on the same wicket which allowed one of England’s three number 11s to score a four hour half century, as must Nick Compton’s effort.
James Anderson and, particularly, Neil Wagner ultimately deserve the most credit. The latter got through a huge workload over the last couple of days and to come out of that pitch with 7 wickets is not to be sniffed at. Whether it was wise to bowl him so much on the final day with such a quick turnaround before Wellington is up for debate; when Australia tried that with Peter Siddle he was so tired for the next game they had to pick John Hastings. The country has never recovered.
Looking ahead to that game, New Zealand will be praying to all the Gods they can think of that they bat first next week. There will be some exceptionally stroppy fast bowlers in their dressing room if Brendon McCullum is forced to scuttle back in there and tell them to get back out there again three days after spending 170 overs dodging rogue sheep in the outfield at the University Oval. Doug Bracewell might come back in, although each of the seamers did a valiant job in this game and it would seem harsh to axe any of them. Unless one is too vegetarian to play two games in quick succession.
England will keep the same side, injury permitting, and England really will win this one. Honest.