“We’ll have a bowl.”
Studying the scorecard, this looks to have been a terrible day for England and further reaffirmation of the adage that upon winning the toss you should bat nine times out of ten, and on the tenth occasion you should think about bowling and then decide to bat anyway. However, as bad as the day was, we’re not 100% convinced that Alastair Cook was wrong to elect to field. His opposing captain said that he’d have done the same – despite having been criticised for bowling first at Wellington – and on the evidence of the pitch thus far, it is not one that is going to disintegrate or change in character over the course of the next four days. And if Peter Fulton can score runs on it, then so too should the England team – even Stuart Broad.
Having said that – the sky was clear, the pitch was evenly-paced and flat and the boundaries short. From the discomfort of the cold 51allout settee, it just did not feel like a bowling day. As New Zealand will probably be far happier with a draw than England, let’s just say we’re 95% convinced Cook should have batted.
There is something frustrating about watching Fulton score runs. At times the feet and the arms seem to be playing totally different shots, as if being controlled by rival puppeteers. His decision-making when the ball is outside the off-stump is seemingly devoid of responsibility. His favoured heave to the leg side is far from graceful and at times he looks no better than
Glenn Maxwell, Mitchell Johnson, James Anderson. And yet, his maiden Test century at the age of 34 (apparently making him the joint tallest man to score a Test match hundred) was largely an easy ride. There may have been a few trademark wafts outside off and a couple of edges (that went for four through third man, natch), but there were barely two appeals in the entire day. As an opener, scores of 55, 1, 45 and 124* are pretty damn handy against this lauded attack and Fulton deserves his moment in the spotlight.
At the other end Kane Williamson impressed again. A very good player already, few outside the England dressing room will be disappointed if he progresses to his century early tomorrow.
Was this just one of those days? With the atmosphere, the ground conditions and the ball all denying any assistance to the bowlers, England just huffed and puffed all day long. The bowling was never appalling, but there were a few too many straight balls for Fulton to hit to leg (from Finn notably) and Monty Panesar occasionally served up some juicy short balls for the Kiwis to seize upon. All four of them will probably be having strong words with Cook tonight.
England will be desperate to win this match and thus the series; it would not be condescending to say that a 0-0 draw for New Zealand would be a success and the complete opposite for England. A more disciplined performance will help, but ultimately the bowlers will be hoping that conditions help them and that the wickets start to fall early.